Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preserve Ker & Co. as Heritage Site

DON’T turn Ker & Co. into a parking lot.

Heritage conservationists strongly urge the city government to forego the P35-million proposal turning the Iloilo office of the oldest British trading company in the country as the new city hall’s parking space.
“What an expensive parking lot! Not just in pesos, but in its true value to the Ilonggos, which is inestimable,” said Dr. Kristin G. Treñas, president of Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC).

“It is like tearing off a whole chapter from our story as a people,” Treñas lamented.

View Ker and Company Ltd. in a larger map
The 3,063-square meter of has been eyed by the administration of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog as parking space for the seven-story city hall that did not incorporate a parking space in its blueprint, but needs one to comply with the National Building Code.

Some P35 million will be set aside for the purchase of the property with the request pending with the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Councilor Perla Zulueta said if the parking lot project pushes through, a slot for small cars would cost P294,000 without even considering the development cost yet. The parking spaces for big-sized cars would cost P350,000 per slot

The Mabilog administration disclosed that not all of the 3,063-square meter will be utilized. The 19th century structure would be preserved and may be turned into a museum.

“A few months ago, the mayor wanted to retain Ker & Co. Now, he’s resorting to its acquisition,” said cultural worker and blogger Bernardo Arellano III on the mayor’s flip-flopping decision.

Heritage conservationists disclosed that they are not necessarily against putting heritage structures into better use.

“There are many possibilities for re-use,” said renowned architect Augusto Villalon.

However, they are puzzled with the proposal for a parking space and a museum all in one lot.

“Although there is a plan to use the heritage building as an extension office and a museum, it is not entirely clear,” said Arellano.

Villalon, also the founding chairman of the Heritage Conservation Society, said he “would be glad to assist in any way” into other forms of preservation.

Ker & Co. entered Iloilo in the middle of the 19th century when the port of Iloilo opened its doors to international trade. It was Ker & Co. that exported Iloilo and Negros sugar directly to the world market with the help of British Vice-Consul Nicholas Loney.

Over the years, Ker & Co. engaged as distributor of various goods. It also was an insurance and shipping agent. At one point, it represented Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp.

The article was originally published on 17 May 2011 at The Daily Guardian Iloilo. Written By Tara Yap

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