Heritage conservation as a livelihood opportunity: Three years after the Bohol earthquake

For a community to be able to stand again on their own feet—this is the goal of any organization committed to the recovery of disaster-stricken areas.

The devastating earthquake (7.2 in the Richter scale) that struck Central Visayas in October 2013 resulted in massive losses—property, livelihood, and lives. The earthquake also destroyed many centuries-old structures, including churches, which are an important part of Visayan culture.

One of the structures that suffered significant damage was the Dauis Church Watchtower, considered a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum, and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Ayala Foundation made the commitment to restore this important structure. Since the foundation believes in the importance of sustainable solutions for the needs of its program communities, it partnered with Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, the Diocese of Tagbilaran, the provincial government of Bohol, and the municipal government of Dauis for a skills program in heritage conservation.

Twenty-nine Boholanos underwent an intensive 12-month course in traditional masonry, where part of their on-the-job training was the restoration of the Dauis Church Watchtower.

In April 2015, the trainees completed their program, and part of their graduation ceremonies was the ceremonial turnover of the newly restored watchtower to the parish of the Assumption of Our Lady Shrine in Dauis, Bohol.

The intervention, however, did not stop with the graduation of the trainees and the turnover of the watchtower. Ayala Foundation helped the trainees in preparing themselves for the establishment of a cooperative. Once they gain legal status as a multipurpose cooperative, they could begin taking on other conservation projects in the region—not only could they help in the restoration of our country’s built heritage, they also now have a source of income.

Earlier this year the Bohol Heritage Conservation Marketing Cooperative was officially recognized as a cooperative. It is now being run by the graduates of the training program, under the leadership of Ms. Virgilia Perfecio, who chairs the cooperative’s board of directors.

Recently Ayala Foundation handed over a P50,000 grant, which covers support for initial paid-up capital and operating requirements.

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