Often, and especially in tourism, we’ve noticed how smaller Asian countries show the way in smart innovations and ideas that make you go ‘wow’. Something of this sort happened, a few days back, when we came across a fantastic initiative in The Philippines called Philippine Heritage Map: Inventory of Cultural Properties and Historic Events.
Curious, we began to navigate the site, only to discover the depth, vision and insight that had gone into curating and preparing such a wonderful repository of information for the world to see and marvel. It blew our mind. This online treasure has given Filipino sites and history a new lease of life by including all its heritage structures and historic events. ‘We aim to promote and protect the unique cultural heritage though a showcase of significant Philippine architecture, historic districts, towns and cities,’ read the text on the home page. A fine job was on display, of keeping the first-time visitor glued into the whole canvas. From its art deco villages, its heritage precincts, to its indigenous and Spanish influences, it felt like the ideal ticket to a heritage trail across The Philippines.
We were doubly impressed when we learnt that the site was crowd-sourced and maintained by local stakeholders, arms of the government, and volunteers. The intent was to ensure that the country’s cultural heritage was showcased in the most accurate manner. A collaborative, grassroots-based network was set up to ensure that there was involvement at a 360-degree-level. the entire population was on the job, clearly.
We were reminded of our meeting with internationally acclaimed architect and town planner Augusto Villalón who had visited Mumbai to inspect and validate the proposal meant to nominate Mumbai’s Victorian and Art Deco ensemble along with the Oval Maidan for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. During our chat, the Filippino told us how the local population was most protective of their heritage and worked in sync with authorities to ensure sites and monuments were preserved. It made sense now, as to how this exhaustive online resource was possible.
India needs such a constructive, solid network to wake up our sleeping giant-like machinery. Imagine our historic cities and districts being equipped with such interactive, user-friendly maps to play guide to tourists? At a time when technology is taking huge strides every day, we cannot afford to be left behind, especially with an impression-driven industry like tourism, of which heritage forms an integral part. It’s high time that we showcased our true treasures to the world, one click at a time.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day