Ilocos Norte provincial board blocks demolition of Laoag heritage school
by Cristina Arzadon
Laoag City (12 February) -- The proposed demolition of a heritage edifice has continued heating up debates among local leaders who are divided on converting the school to a mall and whether to consider the school building as a "Gabaldon" design and needs preservation.
The proposed mall construction has also pitted officials of the city government against provincial capitol leaders who are opposed to the city's demolition of the Laoag Central Elementary School housing a two-storey Gabaldon-type buiding.
Last Monday (February 9), the Ilocos Norte provincial board has passed an ordinance calling for a one-year moratorium on the demolition and conversion of heritage structures within the province. The prohibition covers the LCES.
During a public hearing before its passage, city officials led by Laoag Mayor Michael Fariñas questioned the board for including the LCES and other structures located within the city without consulting them.
Fariñas also questioned the board for its supposed insidious action on deliberating and passing a measure at a time when the city government has a standing plan to demolish the school.
"Why only now that the province is moving to declare (the school) a historical landmark," Fariñas asked the board.
But board member Kristian Ablan, son of Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan, Jr., said it has been a provincial policy to protect heritage sites.
"The ordinance was filed because of the threat (over the school's demolition). As provincial dads, we have to take up the cudgels and move to protect it," he said.
"Will the city officials wake up and come to their senses that the edifice is of historical import to the province," he added.
Fariñas, however, said he is in possession of records to show that the Laoag school is not a Gabaldon-type building and it does not need preservation.
"It is unfortunate and painful that despite our explanations (on the status of the LCES), the board went on to pass the ordinance," he said.
Fariñas, however, said the school's demolition will take off even if it will take a longer process.
Architect Reynaldo Inovero of the National Historical Institute, who was present during the hearing, said that the LCES is consistent with the character of a Gabaldon schoolhouse.
"The LCES is a rare two-storey Gabaldon building that was designed for tropical countries…… it has wooden sidings, swing-out windows with capiz panels, an elevated ground floor for additional ventilation," he said.
Inovero added the Laoag school building is a typical structure from the American colonial era.
The city government acquired the school lot from the Roman Catholic Church through a donation executed in 1924.
The mall project, signed in December last year, is covered by a 25-year lease agreement executed by the city government, the Laoag Diocese represented by Bishop Sergio Utleg and mall developer Bellagio Holdings, Inc.
Under the agreement, the school will be relocated to a 5-hectare lot fronting the Laoag Bishop's residence at the city's northern section.The mall developer will bear the cost of acquiring the lot and building the school and later donate the properties to the city government. It will also pay monthly rentals to the city and church.The proposed school site will house three separate buildings with 24 classroom units and complete education facilities from library, music room, auditorium, computer room and facilities for nursery and kindergarten.The school will also be provided with shuttle buses whose operation will be borne by the city government. (PIA Laoag) [top]