Elementary School to be abolished due to Commercialization

The Laoag Central Elementary School for its more than 80 years of existence, has become a historical landmark of the City of Laoag as a bastion of education,".

Heritage advocates refuse to throw in the towel on the conversion of Laoag's heritage school to a shopping center even as the mall project appears to be a done deal.

The conversion of the Laoag Central Elementary School, housing historic Gabaldon buildings, to a mall has caught the attention of conservation advocates who saw the project as another heritage disaster similar to the fate of other structures and buildings with historical significance.

The other Gabaldon structure within the lot is the school's Home Economics building.

Laoag is also home to another Gabaldon schoolhouse, the Gabaldon Elementary School named after Representative Isauro Gabaldon who authored Act 1801 of the National Assembly for the construction of elementary schools around the country during the American period.

The school is found in the middle of the commercial district in downtown Laoag.

The city government started public hearings for the school's relocation in June last year following negotiations by city officials with a developer for the mall project.

Expectedly, the project was met with stiff opposition from small businessmen and the school's Parent-Teachers Community Association.

The city's business community raised the fear that the presence of a giant mall would dominate the competition, which would eventually render small business operators bankrupt.

The school's PTCA on the other hand lamented that Laoag's historical landmark will be deleted from the city's landscape in the name of commercialization.

The Department of Education and the Heritage Conservation Society have embarked on a project to restore historic schoolbuildings through the heritage schoolhouse restoration program.

"(The school) is not in its original state. FariƱas obtained a certification from the National Historical Institute that the LCES is not among the seven sites declared as national shrine and national historical landmark in Ilocos Norte.

He said benefits and drawbacks were carefully weighed in before the city government and the Catholic Church decided to push the school's relocation.

The mall project is covered by a 25-year lease agreement entered into by the city government, the Catholic Church and Pampanga-based mall developer Bellagio Holdings, Inc. Under the agreement, the school will be relocated to a 5-hectare lot fronting the Laoag Bishop's residence at the city's northern section and away from the city's nerve center.

The mall developer agreed to bear the cost of acquiring the lot and building the school and later donate the properties to the city government. The school will also be provided with shuttle buses whose operation will be borne by the city government.

(PIA Laoag)

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