The Province of Albay received twin accolades recently—the National Cultural Treasure and the Man and the Biosphere Reserve—attesting to its rich cultural and natural attributes.
Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga town, Bicol’s iconic image, has been declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure (NCT), the country’s highest designation for a cultural property.
An NCT is defined as “a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value, which is significant and important to the country.” It is distinct and of a higher category than a national cultural property.
The Cagsawa Ruins is what remains of the old Cagsawa community when the near perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano erupted early morning on Feb. 1, 1814. The eruption claimed over 1,200 lives and buried under rocks, sand and ash the entire village, including an old baroque church where some 200 parishioners ran for safety.
Recorded accounts of the eruption said columns of rocks and stones shot high into the air and killed fleeing residents and set residences on fire as the volcanic debris fell down to earth. A recorded incident indicates that the parish priest of Cagsawa ordered the ringing of the church bells to warn the local people of the eruption.
“The National Museum’s declaration as such of a cultural asset is an important step toward higher level designations. National cultural treasures are priority assets for protection, preservation and promotion by the state,” said the governor of Albay.
Meanwhile, Albay was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as a Man and the Biosphere Reserve at the 4th World Congress on Biosphere Reserve (4WCBR) held in Lima, Peru.
The province is home to some 800 flora and fauna species of which 137 are endemic. Some of these are vulnerable species and included in the IUCN Red List, such as the Philippine brown deer, Luzon bleeding heart, Philippine eagle-owl, Philippine warty pig and giant golden-crowned flying fox.
Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere Programme recognizes communities that use sound scientific methods to support sustainable development.
“Being designated as a biosphere reserve brings prestige to the province, which aims to achieve a sustainable balance between conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development and maintaining associated cultural values. It is also considered beneficial to the tourism industry, contributing to the growth of the local economy and alleviate poverty,” said the city government of the province.
The award echoes the province’s awareness of environmental threats and impacts to the natural ecosystems and the social and economic costs they may bring.
In a related development, he cited that the Mt. Mayon Volcano National Park (MMVNP) was tentatively listed among the most promising candidates for the Unesco World Heritage List. The Park shelters 156 floral species belonging to 36 families and 83 species of trees, including a nearly extinct specie, the pitcher plant nepenthes ventricosa.
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