WATCHTOWER. Built in 1776, the 243-year-old structure stands “within the compound” of a diocese-ran private school in Maasin City. Maasin City Mayor Nacional Mercado said the decision to tear down the old “tower” is up to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). (Photo courtesy of Ana Baja Maasin Facebook page)

In Maasin City

TACLOBAN CITY—Residents and netizens have expressed dismay on a plan to remove a centuries-old structure in Maasin City.
City Mayor Nacional Mercado said that while he is not authorized to approve the plan of the Diocese of Maasin to remove the 243-year old structure located within the compound of a private Catholic school, he agreed that “if the structure will fall under cultural heritage structure then I think it must be respected.”
“The letter was legitimate. We received it last October (2018) and endorsed it to Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP). When SP turned down their request, we advised them to write to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). It is now for the diocese to write a letter request to NHCP,” Mercado said.
However, the mayor appealed to the public who criticized the plan to “just let the NHCP decide on this matter since this is under their jurisdiction.”
According to the letter, the request to remove the structure is to give way for the construction of the additional building to accommodate the growing population of the said school.
It said that the old structure “is not capable of holding the weight of the intended new building at the said area and would just compromise the strength and safety of the said new building” based on the suggestion of its structural engineer.
Residents from the city have expressed their opposition to the cutting of the more than 200 years old structure.
“I hope that the diocese won’t pursue this. I hope they won’t request further. But rather, save it, take good care of it, and use it to teach this generation more about Maasin, its history and culture,” said Amelia Fe Mancera, a cultural worker from the city.
“It’s ironic. While many towns and cities all over the country are fighting tooth and nail in order to preserve their historic structures, here we are in Maasin, planning to destroy ours,” added Sondra Demeterio, an overseas Filipino worker from the city.
She cited how other places in the country takes pride in their Spanish colonial era watchtowers and turn them into tourist attractions like in La Union, Dauis, and Dalaguete, among others.
The structure in Maasin City was built in 1776 by the Augustinian fathers.
As of press time, Leyte Samar Daily Express has yet to get a reply on its email and text inquiry from the diocese over the said issue.