Documenting the Philippines’ Cultural Heritage

1:34 pm PHT

Below is the speech I gave as President of Wikimedia Philippines during the Awarding Ceremonies of Wiki Loves Monuments Philippines 2012 held last night, October 20, 2012, at the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati.

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

They say that a picture paints a thousand words. Well, as cliché as it may sound, no writer can explain a complicated concept better than a well-done illustration. No amount of words can describe the the location of a place better than a well-crafted map. And no length of flowery language can adequately show the beauty of arts and culture than exciting videos, lively music, and colorful photos.

For instance, the Miag-ao Church, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines, has a beautiful relief facade that is quite hard to describe. Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

The central feature of the bas-relief facade is a large coconut tree which reaches almost to the apex. On the church’s facade the coconut tree appears as the “tree of life” to which St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus on his shoulder is clinging to. The lesser facades feature the daily life of Miagaowanons during the time. Also depicted are other native flora and fauna, as well as native dresses.

While that description can use some improvement, I think we can all agree that even for someone gifted with a vivid imagination, he would be hard-pressed to picture how exactly the bas-relief that adorns the front of this Baroque church looks like by just reading the article.

© 2011, User:Alienscream / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Even though Wikipedia has become the world’s largest and most popular reference work—thanks to you, the editors that create and maintain the articles, and the readers that patronize this wonderful project—its articles lack illustrations, images, and photos to show what mere words cannot explain. And for cultural heritage sites in the Philippines, we actually lack both: photos and articles.

So in Wikimedia Philippines, we organize projects to build up Wikipedia and its sister projects in the country so that the whole world can learn of the unique blend of Eastern and Western culture that has made the Philippines what it is today. We hold Open Web Day events and workshops in colleges and universities to teach students how to contribute and write articles for Wikipedia. And on the visual side, we hold photo contests like Wikipedia Takes Manila, which was held in 2011, and Wiki Loves Monuments, for which we are having the Awarding Ceremonies tonight.

Wiki Loves Monuments is a worldwide photo contest aimed at generating photos of world heritage and cultural monuments and where all pictures are released under open copyright licenses. The annual contest started in 2009 in the Netherlands, became a Europe-wide competition last year, and is now a worldwide event in 2012. In fact, the Guinness World Records has recently awarded last year’s event as the largest photography competition in the world. Well, they would now have to update their records since this year is even bigger! 15,000 users from 36 countries and territories have uploaded more than 361,000 photographs.

I am particularly pleased with the turnout in the Philippines. 2,300 entries totaling more than 7.4 GB of data were submitted by 319 participants. This makes our country the 15th highest by number of participants, and we have uploaded more photographs than countries like Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, and Denmark.

But, more than the prizes, the numbers, and the world records, we hope to encourage more Filipinos to help in documenting our cultural heritage. We need more photographs and articles in Wikipedia. And as we aim to show through Wiki Loves Monuments, you don’t need to be a skilled writer to contribute to Wikipedia. Just go out, visit our cultural sites in the country, take photos, upload them, and let the whole world see that it really is more fun in the Philippines.

Thank you very much and good luck to all the finalists!

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