By: Tara Yap

THE CHAIRPERSON of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) is urging respect for the historical and cultural significance of Jaro Plaza.

Dr. Maria Serena Diokno said heritage zones including plazas that are deemed important in the evolving story of peoples and nations ought to be protected and respected.

The Jaro Plaza, renamed as Graciano Lopez Jaena Park, is once again in the limelight as it will host the upcoming Christmas celebration of Iloilo City known as “A Fair in December.”

Jaro village chiefs were earlier bickering over the plaza’s management as it has become an income-generating affair that makes the plaza a one-stop shop where ukay-ukay stalls, karaoke bars, and carinderias can be found.  This will last until the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candles) on February 2, 2012.

Diokno said that plazas and parks can host such events for the public, but only for a short period of time.

However, Diokno emphasized that there are provisions in Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 that protect heritage sites and structures.

Sec. 48 stipulates that it is prohibited to destroy, demolish, mutilate, or damage a heritage site.

Diokno has strongly urged officials to follow proper guidelines and not desecrate the plaza for commercial purposes.

The plaza has a statue of Graciano Lopez Jaena, the Ilonggo journalist who was the first editor of the La Solidaridad. Along with national hero Jose Rizal and Marcelo del Pilar, Lopez Jaena was instrumental in the Reform Movement that sparked the 1898 Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonization.

The plaza is also where the Jaro Belfry is located.  It is one of the few belfries in the country standing apart from the church.

Aside from hosting the “Affair in December” next month, the plaza is also where the wreath-laying program is held for the annual commemoration of Graciano Lopez Jaena Day on December 18.

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