The Galing Pook Awards was launched on October 21, 1993, as a pioneering program that searches for and recognizes innovative practices by local government units (LGUs). LGU finalists with outstanding initiatives are carefully selected and winners are recognized in a very prestigious ceremony.
The awardees of Galing Pook are chosen from a national search of local governance programs, evaluated through a multilevel rigorous screening process based on positive results and impact, promotion of people’s participation and empowerment, innovation, transferability and sustainability and efficiency of program service delivery.
Models of good governance
Beyond the awards, winning programs become models of good governance promoted for adoption in other communities. They provide useful insights to find innovative solutions to common problems. More importantly they affirm the community and the local government’s commitment to good governance.
The City of Biñan was named one of the 10 winners of the 2022 Galing Pook Awards for its “Balik-Biñan Project: Tourism Development Through Heritage Conservation.”
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos, who was chairman of the Board of Judges of the Galing Pook Foundation, noted that as one of the “historically rich local government units in the country,” Biñan actively conserves and preserves its cultural identity through the Balik- Biñan Project.
“The city government incorporates its cultural identity in the city government’s core project such as education, health, agriculture, housing and infrastructure development, peace and order and economic development, thereby building sustainable programs, projects and activities for the community,” Abalos said.
History is a vital tool
He added that Biñan ensures that history is a vital tool to understand the present and craft better programs and policies for the future.
“To preserve the local history and traditions, culture-based governance became one of the top priorities of the city. It became the forefront of the revitalization efforts to the historically and culturally rich old Biñan,” Abalos noted.
Abalos also mentioned that the project builds a solid identity for the community thereby encouraging people’s participation.
“The project also helps build a solid identity for the community and an urge for the community to be truly proud of their roots and of the community where they belong, Abalos added.
During his presentation before the panel of judges, Dimaguila pointed out that one of his top priorities in governance was “to preserve Biñan’s local history and culture and conserving heritage.” This, he said, brought about the birth of “Balik-Biñan: Tourism Development Through Heritage Conservation.”
Launched in 2016, Dimaguila elaborated that the project opened the doors to many culture-related activities and gave birth to seven major programs. These seven major programs were:
- The conversion of the old municipal building into the Sentrong Pangkultura ng Biñan;
- The restoration of the Historic Alberto Mansion;
- The revival of the Biñan Heritage District;
- The Conduct of Local Cultural Mapping Project;
- The production of tourism and culture publications, songs and videos;
- Culture-based governance training for city and barangay officials; and
- The crafting of the 10-year City Tourism Development Plan.
Solid community identity
“Balik-Biñan envisions to build a solid identity for the community, thereby having a city that is aware of its cultural, historical and artistic heritage towards sustainable tourism. Our residents have to be aware. If they are aware, they will start learning. Once they learn, they will start to love. If they love, giving importance and safeguarding shall surely follow,” he said.
Since the project’s inception, Dimaguila cited that the developments in Biñan’s plaza also prospered. These include the public market, the heritage houses, cultural center, church, monuments and other structures.
“In fact, the city’s histo-cultural attractions in the area have drawn thousands of visitors over the year. There has also been a marked increase in the number of registered businesses when we started the project,” he said.
“Above anything else, our efforts at heritage conservation have opened up ideas for us to be proud of our heritage, change our customs, to love our city more, remember the true Filipinos and explore our identity,” Dimaguila added.
The project is supported by the Biñan Culture, History, Arts and Tourism Council which are made up of general stakeholders such as the Department of Education, local historical and heritage societies, local museums, private sector, barangays, youth sector, nongovernment organizations and other concerned offices.
If there is one project that helped foster strong community involvement among Biñanenses, Dimaguila said that would be the ten-year battle to restore the Historic Alberto Mansion.
“The people power to support my pronouncement to exercise expropriation proceedings to save the crumbling local heritage gem is quite overwhelming. It was clear to the Biñanenses that this battle was a shared responsibility,” he said.
The project has also ignited a bandwagon effect as the owners of ancestral houses and commercial buildings have been inspired to restore and bring back the old façade of their structures to complement the restored appearance of the structures within the plaza.
The continuity of this project is guaranteed, Dimaguila said, because of the establishment of Biñan City Culture, History, Arts and Tourism Office (BCHATO) as a permanent department for its tourism and cultural affairs.
“Not all LGUs in the Philippines have a department of tourism. In our case, since it is a department, the continuity in the essence of organization and budget are guaranteed regardless of the change in administration. Politics should not affect art and cultural programs,” he said.
Dimaguila reiterated that cultural regeneration was essential to his successful administration since “the formulation of a tourism development plan rooted in our heritage conservation initiatives standardize the documentation of the town’s heroes, customs, crafting of cultural ordinances and preservation and promotion of our local heritage.”
“We were also invited from all over the country on various fora by different institutions to share our best practices in culture-based governance. There were numerous LGUs too that have visited us in Biñan for benchmarking purposes,” he said.
Thanks to the Balik-Biñan Project, Biñan today cannot “only be seen as a booming industrial city but rather an old town living in a progressive city, where the past can co-exist with the present.”
“Being a Galing Pook finalist advanced Balik-Biñan to a new stage of influencing and challenging neighboring communities to truly understand history and culture in all its diversity – to learn from its traditions, values and knowledge to further the developments in our country in general,” Dimaguila said.