The Philippines’ rich history dates long before our colonial history. Three centuries of Spanish colonization, along with a relatively long period of American and Japanese occupation, left marks forever embedded in our country and our people. Their influences are manifested in our customs, traditions, and structures and are now symbols of our vivid past.

 

In the name of modernization, however, some of these symbols are now being neglected. Our heritage sites and centuries-old architecture are left to go down in history as rubble. Some are even torn down to make way for high-rise condominiums and other commercial establishments. This blatant disregard for important landmarks shows how little we care about our history as a nation.

 

But thanks to advocates like Prof. Ivan Henares, who push for the preservation of these historical jewels, future generations have a chance to learn about our cultural heritage.

 

As a young kid, the traveler, senior lecturer, and heritage advocate would spend his summer walking around the town of San Fernando, Pampanga. He remembers walking to an old cathedral with his grandmother and being deeply fascinated with the Abad Santos House, home of World War II martyr and socialist leader Pedro Abad Santos. The home was demolished later on despite being a historical structure. This incident ignited Prof. Henares’ desire to protect our heritage; thus, starting his life-long advocacy.

 

His first stint as a conservationist happened during his undergraduate years in Ateneo. In 2001, he initiated the “Preserving Heritage for Progress Program” in San Fernando, Pampanga. The program hoped to promote the city’s architectural heritage through protection and conservation. Many ancestral homes were on the verge of being torn down, and he convinced local officials and stakeholders to preserve these heritage houses.

 

Prof. Henares also organized the 2012 ICOMOS International Conference on Cultural Tourism, which brought experts in the field of tourism from around the world to Vigan, Ilocos Sur to open discussions on the best cultural tourism practices with our local keyplayers.

 

He has also continuously organized the annual Heritage Conservation Summit that aims to give light to heritage conservation issues in many towns and cities in the country.

 

A staunch leader of the heritage conservation advocacy, he has created many cultural tourism programs for local communities, including indigenous groups in the Philippines. He has championed Philippine heritage by pushing for the national laws and local legislation educating Filipinos on the importance of preserving our heritage.

 

He recognizes the potential of heritage as an economic catalyst through cultural tourism, and he urgesthe Philippine government to create policies to protect our historical markers both for their historical and economic significance.

 

Using the power of social media, he has reached wider audiences and provided a fresh perspective on this advocacy through his blog, Ivan About Town, where he documents his travels all over the country and the world while still promoting local cultural heritage. He also uses his influence as an educator to teach heritage and cultural awareness to his students, whom he hopes to spread this advocacy in their own ways. As the current president of the Heritage Conservation Society of the Philippines, he has established school-level chapters of the organization and deliveredlectures on conservation for young Filipinos.

 

Due to his passion for heritage conservation, Prof. Henares’ peers nominated him to be among The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM). JCI Philippines, together with Gerry Roxas Foundation, recognized the significance of the work he does and granted the award to the young advocate in 2012.

 

henares Image from Ivan Henares’ blog

“I do my share to make sure the next generation of Filipinos will know who they are as a people, and to see and experience their own cultural heritage is enough reward to me,” Prof. Henares said in an interview with Spot.ph. “Preserving heritage also means preserving the charm and character of our old towns and cities, making them better places to live in, and not just nondescript communities that have been homogenized in the name of progress.”

 

Aside from the TOYM award, he was named Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Youth Leadership in recognition forhis leadership in raising cultural awareness in Pampanga in 2001. In 2006, he also received The Outstanding Fernandino Award for Preservation of Heritage and Promotion of the Arts He was also selected to be a young ambassador of goodwill at the 29th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) in 2002 and the China-ASEAN Youth Camp on the same year. He was the Philippine fellow to the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit by Asia Society, which selects ten promising nation leaders every year in 2008.

 

For those wanting to follow Prof. Henares’ example of influencing social change, the Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines has once again started its search for the next global leaders. For the first time in its 58-year history, nominations can now be done online. If you know an exceptional young man or woman who has contributed significantly to the welfare of the country, you can head over at http://toym2015.org/ to nominate.

 

 

Featured image from Ugnayan.com