Preserve and persevere: Seeking into The Heritage Collective

Hope is not all lost for our beloved historical edifices in the metro, as The Heritage Collective makes it their sacred duty to fight for our cultural legacy

In the tapestry of time, heritage is intricately woven into the fabric of Philippine history. It defines the places we live in and shapes the character of society at present and for generations to come. However, even in today’s age, where information is so readily available, the stories of our past often remain hidden from public view. It is here that local heritage takes center stage—the front lines that preserve and champion our rich history, ensuring that its essence lives on.

The Heritage Collective, an independent heritage consultancy firm, is committed to preserving and showcasing local heritage. Former project manager at the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property Stephen Pamorada (AB-PHM, ‘15) founded and heads The Heritage Collective. Echoing the organization’s tagline, Stephen states their mission: embarking on projects, ventures, and experiences for the love of Philippine heritage.

Into the collective

The organization started out in May 2016 as a souvenir shop that featured local arts and culture brands, situated at the 95-year-old First United Building along Escolta Street. However, in 2021, the souvenir shop was closed due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stephen took the unfortunate circumstances as a way to recalibrate the organization into an online-based consulting agency on heritage.

The Heritage Collective specializes in the concept of heritage tourism, especially in Manila, by focusing on giving tours in heritage-rich locations that typically do not have tours, such as in San Nicolas, Escolta, and Quiapo. 

“And it’s not just tourism for tourism’s sake,” Stephen stresses. Their night tours and their recurring “Night at the Museums” event that encourages museums to stay open later at night serves two purposes: it enables people to attend tours and visit museums after work hours; and it lobbies the government to ensure that the localities are safe, well-cleaned, and well-lit at night.

As many heritage sites suffer from neglect and face the threat of demolition, the organization empowers local communities and individuals to actively advocate for the preservation of these sites in their localities. “We try to coordinate with them and empower them in terms of writing to the government,” Stephen explains about urging citizens to speak up on heritage issues and threats in their area. 

While mostly focused in Manila, Stephen also partners with local heritage organizations in other localities such as in Laguna, Tayabas, and Balayan for them to organize heritage tours as well. He hopes that by doing so, “people from [the] area will rise up to become local heritage champions.” In the absence of people with experience in heritage preservation, The Heritage Collective steps in to bridge that gap by equipping communities with the technical expertise to protect their local heritage sites themselves.

Taking a stand

While The Heritage Collective continues to reach general audiences, it grapples with its fair share of challenges. Stephen states that one of the difficulties faced by organizations that support preservation efforts is the lack of technical expertise among advocates for heritage. Being an advocate goes beyond just taking pictures of historic buildings and spreading them on social media—one has to be knowledgeable about what needs to be done, such as researching and imparting factual information, calling out the government and holding them accountable, and doing groundwork on heritage preservation and protection. 

Furthermore, Stephen opines, “[Even] if you are not [an] onset heritage advocate [that] does the real work on heritage, at least you are equipped.” And that’s where his organization comes into play: to fill the information gap in the country’s culture and history through consultancy services, as well as equipping and ultimately empowering people to take a stand on heritage issues. 

Another common misconception about heritage supporters, Stephen observes, is that they are conservatives who are constantly opposed to modernization and infrastructure development. But Stephen staunchly believes in the concept of heritage-driven development, stating that heritage and development are not mutually exclusive concepts but rather interdependent ideas. Improving a heritage site does not diminish its significance but rather just furthers, preserves, and develops it into something that would transcend for future generations to appreciate.  

He also shares that most people think of heritage conservation as an elitist advocacy, since some stewards of preservation efforts are members of well-off families who own ancestral houses. But in his eyes, heritage is for all and comes from everyone. “Heritage is people, in the sense [that] we are culture bearers,” he asserts. “Culture is a way of life. Everyone of us has a way of life.” Heritage and traditions are represented not just through historic structures or buildings, but also through festivals, culinary heritage, and intangible customs practiced and embodied by all.

To love is to preserve

The Philippines, in all its glory, is a country whose rich cultural heritage deserves utmost recognition and appreciation from both its locals and tourists alike. “It should always be ingrained in all of us that [our] heritage is our responsibility,” he accentuates. He encourages people to reach out to proper government agencies that can help in heritage preservation and report cultural sites that are not properly taken care of.

Parallel to his belief, Stephen mentions that it is also The Heritage Collective’s vision to aid in advising individuals on protecting tangible and intangible aspects of our heritage. This serves as their own means and efforts to get ordinary Filipino citizens—especially the younger generations—to participate in the advocacy. After all, this is how he imagines the true essence of heritage to be, by declaring that “the very essence of heritage is passing on something to the next generation.”

 Preserving heritage is only one of the numerous missions Filipinos should prioritize as the country moves forward into the unknown future. This is because one’s heritage is an amalgamation of bits and pieces of timeless relics and traditions that ultimately make up a person’s cultural identity. If heritage is no longer being remembered and celebrated, a portion of the Filipino identity will forever be a lost remnant of the past. This reality motivates people and organizations such as Stephen and The Heritage Collective to continue advocating for the preservation of the country’s heritage despite the endless uphill battles and hindrances that may come their way.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

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