Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Revisiting Baclayon

Sustainable tourism does not only preserve and restore our heritage but at the same time safeguards the environment and provides opportunities to the local community through workshops, entrepreneurial activities and employment as well. It is a hand- in hand process between the local government, the community and some concerned and passionate citizens of the country. 

Baclayon, one of the oldest town in Bohol and probably in the Philippines epitomizes how sustainable development projects turned its cultural heritage, man- made structures and natural wonders into an attraction that would make its visitors stay in the town longer, thus providing more income generating avenues and the preservation of their unique heritage as well. Baclayon is a heritage town located at the eastern part of Tagbilaran City. As one of the leading tourist destination in Bohol, the town boasts of The Baclayon Church (The Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) as the oldest Catholic stone church in the Philippines constructed during the Spanish occupation in the late 15th century. The area where the Baclayon Church now stands was home to Spanish Jesuit missionaries when they arrived in the Philippines. There are also more than 67 ancestral houses near the vicinity of the church which were constructed as early as 1853. But while standing through the test of time, some threats to the preservation of these cultural heritages arise.
The ancestral houses in Baclayon were once threatened due to a road- widening project; Baclayon’s pipe organ which is the third oldest pipe organ in the country has also fallen into disrepair. To answer the call the involvement of the local municipal government headed by Honourable Mayor Alvin Uy and the passionate Bea Zobel Jr, and Joel Uichico of the private sector came to action.

Development Projects

The Baclayon Ancestral Homes Association or BAHANDI was conceptualized to save the ancestral houses from demolition.  It is an organization in partnership of the Ayala foundation devoted to the revitalization of heritage resources for the benefit of the community. There are bed and breakfast accommodations as well as homestay programs which provides a place where one can work and live with a Boholano family and helps to understand deeper the Boholano lifestyle and culture.
The restoration of Baclayon’s pipe organ by Diego Cara Organbuilders, Inc. in 2008 involved extensive repairs on the pipes, wind chest, manual keyboard, pedal and other accessories. The organ can mimic the sound of birds through the little pajarillo pipes making it one of the few rare and historic pipe organs in the world. Through the restoration, Boholans will once again hear the unique sound the defined the liturgical music in the province during the Spanish period.
Another Gem of Baclayon is the small island of Pamilacan of Pamilacan nestled in the heart of Bohol Sea. The sea is said to be a breeding ground for manta rays, whale sharks, and bryde’s whale. Before, the people used to hunt these animals practicing unsustainable fishing practices. Through the inolvement of Mr. Joel Uichico, Bes Zobel Jr. and the local government, effective empowering alternatives were established.  The residents were offered micro financing packages, and some of the activities offered were food preparation and massage training for the fishermen’s wives and the conversion of small fishing boats to general purpose tourism boats.

Now people have more reasons to stay a day or two in Baclayon. A tourism center was built to provide a coordinating node for tourism initiatives. Baclayon will not only be visited for its cultural heritage sites but now its visitors will have other choices like the adventure trails, heritage walks, and marine exploration. Make My Trip was there to try the ATV rides, and the crew had a great time!
Thank you very much to the Baclayon Municipal Tourism Activity Center, the Ayala Foundation for the information, and BEZO Recreation and Aquatic Activities of Bohol.

One of the articles I wrote for the Bohol Sunday Post. Information care of the Ayala Heriage foundation.

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