List of Endangered Sites

Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Municipality of Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

The town of Santa Maria lies on a narrow, flat plain between the sea and the central mountain range of Ilocos Sur province on the island of Luzon. In the sixteenth century, when Spanish Augustianians first settled in the area, Santa Maria was a mere visita, or mission outpost. By the mid-eighteenth century, Santa Maria had become one of the most successful of the Augustinian missions in the Philippines, and construction of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción began in 1765.

A stairway of 85 steps leads up a hill from the edge of town to the church, which is perched like a citadel and fortified by a retaining wall of stone. Its elevated setting is unusual for Spanish colonial churches of the period, which were usually sited in plazas. Flanked by two cylindrical columns, the church’s exposed brick façade—once covered in limestone—opens into a nave flooded by natural light. A massive octagonal bell tower, added in 1810, stands nearby.

Serious structural damage to the retaining walls has led to partial collapse and portends further crises. Preservation efforts hope to address the issues of the church structure, and equally importantly wish to engage the local community in the stewardship of this important religious and historic heritage site.

San Sebastian Basilica
City of Manila

The Gothic Revival, all-steel basilica of San Sebastian towers over the congested cityscape of Manila. After earthquakes in 1645, 1762, and 1863 destroyed the first three stone and brick churches erected on this site, Don Genaro Palacios, the Director of Public Works for the Spanish Insular government, recommended a new church be built of steel. Within the church’s apple-green and white façade, flanked by massive spires, all interior surfaces are faux-finished to simulate jasper and marble. Trompe l’oeil of statuary and other iconography, painted by the Academy of Lorenzo Rocha, adorn its walls. Thirtyfour stained glass windows shower the vast nave with rich, warm hues.

Since its completion in 1891, San Sebastian has continued to play a significant religious and social role as the community parish and through its involvement in outreach programs. The innovative steel construction remains unique, its interior largely untouched by later restorations. Persistent leaks, corrosion, and material loss threaten the Basilica, but its most pervasive threat remains invisible: the structural bracing within cavity walls is severely deteriorating, potentially rendering the stability and continued functionality of San Sebastian precarious.

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Province of Ifugao

Cascading down the eastern flank of the Cordillera Central mountain range in the heart of Luzon, hundreds of manmade terraces stand testament to the cooperative spirit and ingenuity of a people who settled and thrived in this rugged environment. Facing limited land and soil resources, these early inhabitants developed four terrace complexes during the sixteenth century for the cultivation of rice. Today, these structures are still heralded as some of the world’s best examples of soil conservation technology. For the indigenous Ifugao peoples who maintained them throughout the centuries, the terraces symbolize the survival of their distinctive cultural legacy.

This majestic cultural landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995, and in 2001 it was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to physical deterioration and loss of the site’s cultural underpinnings. The terraces continue to face decreasing use and are now threatened by wide-scale abandonment. The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras underscore the challenge of conserving a once-dynamic environment that has lost both its primary function for agricultural productivity and the people who have traditionally maintained it as they leave the region to pursue other employment opportunities. These situations require innovative approaches to preserve the community as well as the historic landscape and related man-made structures.

Source: 2010 World Monuments Watch