The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the competent body tasked with institutionalising and implementing programmes for cultural heritage collaborates closely with the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Unit, established within the NCCA, undertakes coordination and day-to-day operations and the NCCA-Intangible Heritage Committee, created in 2001, plans and formulates policies and safeguarding measures. This Unit has an annual budget for inventorying, research, documentation and promotion of intangible cultural heritage and implementing safeguarding projects for elements inscribed on the Representative List initiated by the NCCA, local governments and educational institutions in cooperation with practitioners, community members, etc. Non governmental organisations usually act as intermediary groups that provide services and activities to assist grassroots community, sectoral or issue-based membership organisations known as ‘People’s Organizations’. As for legislation the National Cultural Heritage Act (Republic Act
No. 10066) was adopted in 2010 and incorporates intangible cultural heritage into the law’s scope of protection, conservation and promotion, according to the five domains defined in the 2003 Convention.
Although there is no institution currently conducting training in management of intangible cultural heritage, the NCCA has experience in formulating action plans (in collaboration with stakeholders, government and educational institutions) which include management of intangible cultural heritage but these are specific only to inscribed elements. However, one of the objectives for creating the Unit is to provide technical assistance and training to strengthen communities and institutions in intangible cultural heritage. This should be realized once the Unit becomes fully operational, with additional human and financial resources.
The Unit organizes a team to undertake the in situ documentation of various elements of intangible cultural heritage. This research and/or documentation includes actual and social processes, both prior to and even as consequences of an event. Only those elements still performed in their proper sociocultural contexts are documented and, as a general rule, activities should not be staged for the purposes of documentation. Local experts, practitioners, community members (mostly elders) and teachers not only provide information but also help to validate existing data. The Unit has produced books and other information materials based on research studies and documentation conducted, and these are mainly donated to cultural and educational institutions and public libraries nationwide. It has created a specialised library housing a collection of published and unpublished ethnographic, archaeological, cultural etc. materials on the Philippines which researchers, students and others can use free of charge. The NCCA also operates a Portal Cultural Databank (including both inventories described below), which can only be accessed internally with control and confidentiality.
There are currently two inventories of Philippine cultural heritage as follows, both managed and maintained by the NCCA. (1) The Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP): based on registries submitted by local government units and national cultural agencies covering both tangible and intangible heritage but it is not yet fully operational. Descriptions of properties submitted include: its name (in English and local languages), ethnolinguistic group and subgroup, category (tangible or intangible), location, significance, function/use, ownership, collector and informant. Whether a cultural property is associated with one or more ethnolinguistic groups is also noted. Since local governments will maintain and update their own registries, local experts, community elders, teachers, etc. are expected to be involved as key informants. The information provided is transferred to the PRECUP database which will be a valuable reference material for the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory. (2) The Philippine Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory: contains only elements of intangible cultural heritage, regardless of whether they are endangered, still being practised, no longer practised but still remembered in the community. It is indeed deemed important to record even those that are no longer practised in order to have a record of their heritage for present and future generations. However, viability will be taken into account for elements to be nominated to the lists of the 2003 Convention. The inventory fiches are more detailed than those for the PRECUP, including the domain(s), name of the community, date/frequency, responsible national bodies, persons directly participating, resource persons, coordinating bodies, history/development etc. Entries are continuously updated and validated based on new data gathered through field and library researches.
The Unit implements a policy promoting the importance of intangible cultural heritage in all levels of society, horizontally across the different ethnolinguistic groups and vertically across different economic levels, differentially according to specific cultural orientations. A pilot project has been started with a provincial unit and is almost complete, to be rolled out province-by-province in a long-term programme. The main objective is to make communities more involved and aware of the existence and practice of elements of intangible cultural heritage and to engage community members in their practice and effective safeguarding.
Significant efforts have been directed at the dissemination of information through publication and promotional work to make the public aware of the significance of intangible cultural heritage, including in nation building, and the urgent importance of its safeguarding.
Formal and informal education in intangible cultural heritage is undertaken by NCAA through the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT), an extra-curricular learning concept that ensures that young people and adults in the community are given equal opportunity to learn the indigenous knowledge and skills, otherwise not integrated into the school curriculum. People’s Organizations and Local Government Units organize the SLTs while NCCA provides funding assistance. In view of limited financial resources and access to them, NCCA has collaborated with the Department of Education (DepED) on the ‘Cultural Education Programme’, including: an enhanced ‘Special Programme for the Arts’ curriculum and production of instructional and resource materials; mainstreaming indigenous knowledge systems, skills and practices into the formal education system through an appropriate SLT model; and organising cultural enrichment activities for students, teachers, and educational administrators in both formal and non-formal systems. Non-formal and formal transmissions of intangible cultural heritage are further ensured through the ‘National Living Treasures Programme’ operating since 1993.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, the NCCA has collaborated with the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP) – the category 2 centre established in the Republic of Korea – in a number of projects, for instance the preparation of a Status Report on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding in the Philippines in 2010. Recently the Philippines has collaborated with the Republic of Korea, Cambodia, and Viet Nam for the preparation of a multinational nomination of tugging rituals and games for possible inscription on the Representative List. In 2011, the NCCA signed a MoU with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH) of the Republic of Korea that includes, inter alia, exchanges of experts in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in danger of deterioration and disappearance, encouraging the exchange of information and expanding opportunities for performers to give performances in each other’s country. In 2011, the Unit hosted a research fellow from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage within the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties of Tokyo, Japan.
Two elements from the Philippines are covered by the report and were inscribed on the Representative List in 2008, namely: Hudhud chants of the Ifugao and Darangen epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao. Both elements were originally proclaimed as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, respectively in 2001 and 2005.