What we could lose in the fire that hit the National Archives

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The fire at the Juan Luna Building in Binondo, Manila.(The Philippine Star. Photo by Kriz Joh Rosales)

The Juan Luna Building caught fire on the morning of May 28, 2018. Affected by the blaze is the National Archives of the Philippines, housed in the almost-century old structure.

Those who understand the value of history also know what the nation stands to lose should its most vital records end in ashes.

Not just another fire

The fire began around past midnight at the nearby Land Management Bureau. By eight in the morning, the fire had spread to the Juan Luna building.

Concerned citizens have also checked up on the safety of the various historical documents believed to be part of the national archives.

A prevailing point of discussion is the storing of important publications in vaults and digitization of documents.

The Juan Luna building of the National Archives is among several offices where they store the documents and records. Reports say that documents were recovered from the fire.

An explanation of how the tragedy could have been averted has also surfaced in the public sphere.

Brought to life by RA 9470, the National Archives of the Philippines was formed in 2007 with the purpose of collecting and safekeeping important documents and other primary sources of historical knowledge.

Among the documents stored in the National Archives office affected by the blaze in Binondo: part of the 1798 report recommending the division of Ilocos into two provinces (Photo from National Archives website)

 

RA 9470 traces its legislative genealogy to the 1898 Treaty of Paris itself, which stipulated the cession of documents by the Spanish to the Americans through the establishment of the Office of Archives.

Included in the archives is at least 60 million documents and records from the Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations, the oldest dating back to as early as the 16th century.

The archive contains sources of knowledge about early Philippines such as  research findings, laws, maps, and land grants.

The building where the archive was housed, the Juan Luna E-services building, by its own right is regarded as a living artifact.

Originally known as the First National City Bank, the building was constructed in the 1920s and is known for its distinct architecture that sets it apart from other buildings in the area.

One Twitter user compiled some facts about the Juan Luna building and the historical significance of the area it is situated in.

Calle Analogue, as the street where it can be found was once known, was also the location of Kapitan Tiago’s abode in Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo.

As of this writing, there has been no assessment of the damage to the affected property.

History in ashes

Filipino heritage safekeeping efforts have seen difficult times in recent years.

In March 2016, the University of the Philippines Diliman Faculty Center burnt down after a ten-hour blaze. Archival records and heaps of research work by students and faculty are believed to have been lost in the blaze.

Before renewed public interest in recent years, even the National Museum struggled to preserve its relevance to the public.

Facade of the Manila Metropolitan Theater. (Photo by Karla Mae Brazil)

The Manila Metropolitan Theater, once regarded as the center of arts and culture in the country, fell into deterioration for the past few decades until efforts to restore it to its former glory began in early 2016.