Baguio declares Burnham Park heritage area

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The City Council, during last Monday’s regular session, declared the 34-hectare Burnham Park as a heritage park and for a historical marker to be installed in the area by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

In a resolution, city legislators stated that in line with the city government’s policy to extend full support for heritage site preservation as well as full recognition of its historical significance, it is of utmost importance that Burnham Park be declared a heritage park and to allow the installation of a historical marker in the area by the concerned government agency.

The council anchored its decision on Section 5, Article 3 of Republic Act (RA) 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, that states for purposes of protecting a cultural property against exploitation, modification or demolition, certain works, including structures dating at least 50 years old, it shall be considered important cultural property, unless declared otherwise by the pertinent cultural agency.

Earlier, the city government adopted a policy of enlivening culture, arts, crafts and heritage where full government support will be extended to its partners in the arts, culture, creative and heritage conservation sectors befitting the city’s being declared by the United Nations as the only city in the country granted membership in the UN Creative Cities Network.

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The council stipulated that the city will maintain constant engagement and active involvement with the aforesaid sectors to encourage appropriate activities meant to enliven the cultural scene and strengthen harmonizing efforts of varied indigenous and traditional cultural practices as well as commit support for heritage sites preservation.

Burnham Park is a historic urban park right in the heart of the city designed by American urban planner Arch. Daniel Burnham as influenced by the City Beautiful Movement and that the area occupied by the same was reserved for park purposes on August 6, 1925 through Proclamation No. 64 of Governor-General Leonard Wood.

Before the Americans set foot in Baguio, the area where Burnham Park is now located was a wide open space which was referred to as Kafagway. Since its inauguration, Burnham Park served as a breathing space and center for public congregation in the city. It served as the venue for local and international gatherings such as the Baguio Carnival in 1915, Baguio Carnival and Exposition in 1923 and Political Mass of Poe John Paul II in 1981.

In 2015, the NHCP recognized the national historical significance of Burnham Park where it proposed to install a historical marker at Burnham Park subject to the conformity of the local government.

Further, the NHCP claimed the park is considered an important cultural property because of its more than 50 years of existence pursuant to the provisions of RA 10066.

Pending before the House of Representatives is a proposed bill that seeks to declare Burnham Park as a national heritage park and appropriating funds for its sustainable conservation and development. The bill recognizes Burnham Parks contribution in the progress and prosperity of the city for over a century now.

The council asserted the need to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the people of the city for the benefit of the next generations.

By Dexter A. See
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis

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