Speech: Press Conference on the Philippine Participation at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale

April 27, 2016

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Press Conference on the Philippine Participation at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale
27 April 2016 | DFA Building, Pasay City

It is with pride and honor that I stand here today to announce that the Philippines will be part of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale for the very first time in our architecture history, a milestone that has been made possible by the support of government agencies, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and my office. The Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board are also key partners in this undertaking.

It is our vision that the historical participation, with our own National Pavilion, will set a precedent when it comes to the support that the government can provide to Philippine arts and culture.

We must no longer put arts and culture, as well as heritage preservation, on the hindquarters of our nation building, because in truth, we are ready to let the world hear our truths and our visions.

The theme of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, “Reporting From the Front,” underscores the importance of the people’s viewpoint in the process of building the cities and communities of present and future generations.

My keen interest in the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale stems from my work and advocacies, both as a legislator and as the United Nations Global Champion for Resilience.

The earth’s vital signs—characterized by rising sea levels and more intense droughts and heat waves—require a new way of designing and building homes, infrastructure, facilities and structures. The world is faced with the biggest environmental challenge our generation has ever seen. Architects need to find relevance in these realities.

Building better is an axiom. When homes and infrastructure are destroyed, people say we need to build better; but building homes and cities is not about having second chances. We have seen hundreds of thousands of lives lost due to severe weather disturbances, flooding and tsunamis—showing us all that the kind of homes and facilities we build, and where we build them, can mean survival or death.

This underscores the important role of architecture. Today’s realities demand a new understanding that transcends the conventional notion that architecture merely means planning, designing and constructing structures.

Architecture needs to respond to human needs. Building is not only about creating new structures all the time. It is also about revitalizing communities and connecting the present with the past. Cities and its architecture, in a way, shape our personal narrative while allowing us to connect as a community.

Our heritage, both tangible and intangible, is constantly under threat of extinction. We have already lost some of our historic structures from natural catastrophes and long years of neglect. With every instance in which our built heritage has been toppled down and turned to rubble, we lose a part of our identity and that unifying element that binds us as a nation.

As we offer the world a glimpse of our built heritage through Muhon,we initiate a dialogue on the progress of our architecture and issues on preservation and conservation of our heritage.

I have always envisioned the Philippines to be part of the global art conversation, to make the Venice Biennale a venue to promote the country’s diplomatic agenda through cultural diplomacy.

Our historic first participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale comes at the heels of the Philippines’ successful re-entry to the 56th Venice Art Biennale in 2015. By our participation in these important events, we hope to lend our voice with the rest of the world as we seek to create a sustainable future for all.

Thank you.