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Photo of Antonio J. Montalvan IIPresident Arroyo's House A National Heritage?
By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Photo: House of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Iligan CityHouse of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Iligan City. In the foreground is a statue of former president Diosdado Macapagal and his daughter Gloria, but he never lived here.










The National Historical Institute (NHI) is circumventing its own regulations when it declared president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's house in Iligan City as a "national heritage site".

First of all, former president Diosdado Macapagal never lived there. And even if this historicity is identified with him, it has not been 50 years yet since his death. Second, if it is historical because GMA lived there for three years in her childhood, then the more recent it even is. Besides, the person is still living. Perhaps 50 years from now, the equations would have changed. But to do that at the time of her incumbency, that would be politics.

I went through the process of securing four national historical markers for
Cagayan de Oro. The requirements are submission of pertinent documentation
that will prove the historicity of the place. Together with that, they ask for your draft of the text for the marker. Then you wait for the decision. The deliberations take place in the board of directors of the NHI, where I was at one time nominated to, to represent Mindanao, but another person (a non-Mindanawon but who is based in Davao City) with the surname of Gloria was appointed by Malacañang.

I would not therefore know what criteria for deliberation was used by the NHI board. But I would suppose that in analyzing the hermeneutics of documents, they check and re-check dates and names and places. In other words, it is just like a historian looking for primary sources.

As far as I know about the Macaraeg-Macapagal ancestral house, the house
was owned by the Macaraegs, the parents of Eva Macapagal, and not Diosdado
Macapagal. The old man Macaraeg was assigned to Mindanao as a highways
engineer and decided to build his home in Iligan like many other migrants to Mindanao. When Gloria was a young girl and her father not quite president yet, she was sent for by her maternal lola to live with them. She did for three years. So, the house is related more to her than to the late president Macapagal. I do not see the historicity in that, unless probably if I wore spectacles for 3D political dimensions.

In the naming of streets, there is an NHI guideline that says that a period of 50 years must lapse before a street is named after the historical value or association of that name. I would transpose that in the case of erecting historical markers, that's why I said the value of that house can be judged 50 years after GMA's last day in office, whenever that will be, sooner (as most people dream of) or later.

At any rate, compare that to the historicity of two places that I plan to apply on for national historical markers:

  • Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan -- the first university in Mindanao and the first Jesuit university in the Philippines. Would this pose a problem to historicity?
  • The airfield used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur (when he departed for Australia during the Second World War) and Presidents Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña. This place is now part of Del Monte Golf Course. This was the last piece of Filipino soil (and Mindanao at that) that Quezon would ever see, for he came back in a coffin.

Compare the discursive values in history of these two with that of the Macaraeg-Macapagal ancestral house. Which ones would have bearings on national identity and consciousness?


Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, December 14, 2005. Originally posted in the HCA online forum. Updated February 7, 2006 with a photo taken and contributed by Bobby Timonera.
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