As the nation prepares for the grand celebration in 2021, the Archdiocese of Cebu and the country’s leading telecommunications firms PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are working together on a series of activities spanning a period of two years to celebrate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
Cebu, as the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines, is set to host various activities, highlighted by the launch of the partnership of the Archdiocese of Cebu, PLDT and Smart, as well as the unveiling of the Panaw sa Pagtuo (Journey of Faith) Mobile Exhibit App and a digital series featuring 21 historical videos leading to 2021.
“PLDT and Smart are one with the Church in its church heritage conservation efforts and initiatives. By providing connectivity during this very important milestone in our country’s history, we are able to help spread and amplify these efforts so these can reach those who are in distant places. In this time of the pandemic when in-person activities showcasing these initiatives are not possible, digital platforms offer a more practical and far-reaching solution,” says Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, AVP/Center Head, PLDT-Smart Communications Group.
The 500 Years of Christianity – Archdiocese of Cebu Celebrations will maximize social media activities in this time of the pandemic. “There will be webinars, video documentaries and on-line talk shows that will be posted starting September 26, 2020 until March 2021 through our FB page: 500 Years of Christianity-Archdiocese of Cebu. Our sincerest gratitude to PLDT-Smart for being our partner in staging these activities,” says Fr. Mhar Balili, 500 Years of Christianity Celebration Chairperson.
Digital exhibit and tours
The Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, together with PLDT and Smart and Cebu tech company Innopub Media created the Panaw sa Pagtuo mobile exhibit application that would facilitate an interactive digital experience featuring Cebu’s heritage churches.
“It is an interactive exhibit on your mobile device, providing extensive information on the churches, their history, and unique features. We made the app available earlier, to allow people to explore ahead and read about all the heritage churches in Cebu,” shares Max Limpag, co-founder of InnoPub Media.
The mobile app was originally meant to accompany a physical traveling exhibit which works as an interactive version of exhibit brochures. With travel restrictions still in place, staging a physical travelling exhibit was moved to a later date.
Apart from the app reinventing the entire experience, Fr. Brian Brigoli, Chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, hopes that it will be a tool that will contribute to heritage appreciation and awareness among a wider audience especially the youth.
“This project is a call for more people to join the heritage advocacy. The more people are aware, the more they are empowered. The more they understand, the more they are for heritage conservation,” says Fr. Brigoli. “With this platform, they can access information at the most convenient way possible. Of course, this will not demerit the fact that people still need to go the heritage sites. The physical experience being in the place cannot be surrogated by digitization efforts, but at least this could be their go-to travel companion while they’re enjoying the travel experience,” he adds.
In this day and age of digitization, digital tours have been slowly embraced by different tourism sectors and have become more popular amid the pandemic. With community quarantines in effect, digital tours have become a way to satisfy every hungry traveler’s dream of experiencing the outside world amid lockdown. The group has also created a video series titled “Gasa: 21 Historical Snippets to 2021”, a digital tour highlighting the beautiful heritage churches, museums, and cemeteries in Cebu.
“The video series allows viewers to actualize a tour and to visualize experiences that are kilometers away. Apart from showcasing these beautiful sites, this is also an education campaign that offers both ecclesiastical and historical information,” shares Atty. Paredes
Church heritage conservation goes digital
For close to a decade, PLDT-Smart, through its Digital Tourism program, has been at the forefront in providing digital solutions to local government units, public-private tourism organizations, as well as the church.
The Digital Tourism program taps mobile technology to provide travelers with timely, relevant, and verified information that promotes accurate tourism on iconic physical structures and locations using one of the most ubiquitous tools of today—the smartphone.
With PLDT-Smart’s long-standing partnership with InnoPub Media, they have produced free mobile applications that work as digital brochures to a location and interactive tourism markers that use QR (Quick-Response) codes and NFC to deliver information about a site or structure.
As a run-up to the most awaited celebration of 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines, apart from the mobile application and video series, PLDT and Smart have also unveiled interactive QR code markers at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church in Bantayan, at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, and in heritage churches in Carcar, Argao, Dalaguete, Sibonga, and Boljoon, among other areas in Cebu.
“With the help of digital solutions, heritage conservation goes beyond the traditional. These digitization efforts provide enduring value to church heritage’s historical and ecclesiastical information that is made accessible to everyone especially to future generations,” says Fr. Brigoli.