SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)


The strength of the heritage zone rested mainly on its physical attributes such as the relative compactness of the site with human scale buildings, clear segmentation of the end points with the church as the terminus, well-preserved island with intact monuments and elements, the presence of Fule-Malvar Mansion as an urban jewel. Based on the on-line survey, many highlighted the configuration and lay-out of the plaza surrounded by magisterial structures and the great march of the colonial lamp posts. This compactness of the city center was a strength that dialogues with the nearby lakes, evident of the strong relation of culture and nature.

Further, it afforded an opportunity to interpret the significant values of the city center- its historical, touristic and educational values. Notwithstanding, the life cycle of the downtown was punctuated by the memorable festivals along the main street such as the Coco Festival and the nationally popular Holy Week procession of carosas and santos. All these attributes conjured a strong sense of place to locals and nearby residents. Also the support of the LGU, the Tourism sector and the local United architects of the Philippines to the heritage movement provided facility for efficient and effective management of the site. The whole city is beautifully positioned against a backdrop of lakes, volcanoes, and mountains.


The weaknesses which could be turned around into limitations also delved on physical attributes brought by unregulated development. In the physical attributes, the American colonial street was barely left with heritage houses. Unrestricted proliferation of fastfood and retail outlets narrowed the streets compounded by peddlers, hawkers, wanton parking, sidewalk vendors, signages and poorly maintained buildings. All these elements  reflect the traffic congestion worsened by noise and visual pollution. Based on the on-line survey, the physical blight was due to the incoherent appearance of the business structures and constant traffic congestion that conjure visual, physical and noise pollution.

All these physical aberrations were due to the weak management and organization on the downtown main street such as lack of maintenance, cleanliness, orderliness, absence of laws on heritage and historic zoning. Corollary to this management concern, the situation was exacerbated by low budget allocation to tourism and conservation along with the herculean task to convince the business establishments to appreciate heritage. In this local city, it was difficult to locate local heritage advocates because of the inadequate education and interpretation of the values of the site i.e. no available historical data, no accessible information on culture and arts, especially among students and youth.


The heritage zone project also opened opportunities to the community. With its physical attributes, there was a wide room for development particularly for heritage interpretation on the interplay of the urban center and the seven (7) lakes and the potential of meaningful businesses along the street which could be a model for good practice  worth emulating by other urban heritage sites. As a pedestrian hub, tourism was potential program for as long as the physical structures were complemented by intangibles such as cuisines and festivals. With the imminent upgrade of the heritage zone, a new breed of businesses and activities could evolve which would provide economic opportunities and financing that can propel economic development. This scenario is envisage by the fact that local government and socio-civic organizations have been wholeheartedly supportive to tourism, espousing the principles of history, arts culture and heritage;

the openness to continuous training such as the cultural mapping activity of the NCCA; the constant pursuit for branding and positioning; the development of innovative products and packages that eventually redound to more business incubations for the city. This scenario would ramify to better education opportunities and sense of belonging and pride for the youth.


The heritage zone project also experienced threats and risks.  In its physical make up, the site was vulnerable to natural calamities such as typhoons and earthquakes notwithstanding the nature of the seven (7) lakes as volcanic craters. The development pressures mounted on the fabric of the city whereby scale could easily go out-of-hand. The tendency was towards the proliferation of modern structures and the prevalence of many big boxes of food and retail shops that the experience of the tourist becomes generic.

On the occasion that a guideline would be adopted, the threat  would be the poor interpretation of the designs that everything would be superficial aesthetics and selfie magnets, devoid of historical content and reference. Perceived social threats concerned the eventuality of conflagration in the downtown area which happened in the 1930s. In terms of management, the biggest threat was the sudden change of government which might not be sympathetic to the sustainability programs and projects of the heritage zone; the peoples low interest and indifference to the program; the lack of cooperation among business establishments to the  to the government-initiated effort. Realistically, a grave threat would be the myopic understanding and reaction of the people on a heritage zone project in the midst of a covid19 pandemic when priority should be on health and not on tourism.