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This School Not Only Helps Rebuild Old Structures but the Future of the Youth as Well

Wood carvings ready for painting, handcrafted by the creative hands of Escuela Taller’s roster of talents

 

It all started with the two problems of Spain: one, the rehabilitation of their cultural infrastructures and, two, youth unemployment. In the early 1980s, to address these issues, they found a solution by establishing Escuela Taller, a vocational school specializing in construction skills like masonry, carpentry and painting, among others. A success across the globe, it has found a home in our country in a place where a significant part of our past was played, making it an apt location to preserve our own heritage. Escuela Taller in Intramuros rests not idly but actively, taking part in restoring and rebuilding old sites, national edifices and, most importantly, the lives of their students.

The students polish their creations

 

Escuela Taller’s work is as much of preserving culture as their pupil’s overall being. Beginning with all the right tools—education, execution and commitment—they bring forth what is lost.

Building the Future

Escuela Taller admits kids of special cases, prioritizing those from indigent families, whose lives seemed almost irreparable, giving them hope to start anew. With the help of local parishes or government units, they search for a select few to grant them the scholarship that will change their track to a better life. And they, too, will become the Heritage Protectors, a status that this training center promotes. “The main advocacy is for the youth to become heritage protectors. In fact, that’s what we want to call them; we don’t want to call them trainees anymore. This is going to be what they will do in the future. This is part of the context where heritage should really be grass-rooted; it should be with the participation of the community,” says Dir. Arch. Tina Bulaong. It’s like hitting two birds with one- stone, helping both causes with just one shot. With the many projects that Escuela Taller has lined up, there are a lot of opportunities for practical training and culture orientation at the same time.

Wall painting made by a student

Some of their projects include the construction of a conservation laboratory in the branch that they will be opening this year, the restoration of Dawit Watch Tower and the Maribuhok De Pablo, both in Bohol, and the San Agustin Church and the old Malate Church, to name a few. With the assistance of private institutions, Escuela Taller is able to fund and proceed with these rehabilitation efforts. What’s great is their resources are local, from Bulacan to Cebu and other parts of the country. It’s always busy at Escuela Taller because ‘heritage protectors’ are in training all the time.

After their stint at Escuela Taller, the graduates give back to the community. Some find their ideal jobs to sustain their new life; others come back and continue the legacy. This marks how the institution has transformed their lives; like a long-standing edifice, they show us that something can be done to restart and renew.

The Restoration of Malate Church

Malate Church stands revitalized after more than five years of restoration. The exterior walls were polished, using adobe stone, which enabled the structure to breathe and allowed moisture to dry out, thus avoiding future deterioration. The front door, an 80-year-old fraction of the church, was restored using a local hardwood, which was carved and honed by their talented carvers.

The restored walls of Malate Church by Escuela Taller

Patterned after the Philippine Baroque style, with the Moorish influence seen in the twisted columns, the traditional way of conservation remains. They considered the maintenance of the original parts so as to retain the rough look of the church, especially since there are sensitivities to consider. This 2010 project was done by November 2015, then paved the way to the interiors. With almost 50 Escuela Taller workers with the same goal, Malate Church is close to achieving its once grand stance.

Stained glass windows inside the Malate Church

Photographs by Vyn Radovan