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5 April 2014

WASHINGTON, DC—A group of Filipino and American volunteers is partnering with groups in the Philippines to restore centuries-old churches in Bohol that were damaged or destroyed by the powerful earthquake that shook the island-province last year.

The Bohol Restoration Group, Inc. (BRG) was created with the support of the Philippine Embassy as a response to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the province and neighboring Cebu on 15 October 2013 and Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Central Visayas three weeks later.

The group aims to restore three heritage churches—Our Lady of the Immaculate Church in Baclayon, which was built in 1717; Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Dauis, built in 1697; and the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Loay, built in 1795.

“The work of the BRG is proof that the human spirit is unshakable,” the Embassy said in expressing its appreciation to the Filipino and American volunteers who have been working on the project since October.

“The BRG’s volunteerism and desire to restore important heritage sites mean a lot not only to the Boholanos affected by the earthquake but also to Filipinos and non-Filipinos who have visited these churches,” the Embassy said.

BRG members have visited Bohol to assess the damage of the churches. They have met with Tagbilaran Diocese Bishop Leonardo Medroso and representatives of local governments, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the National Museum.

What started out as a small group of volunteers from the Filipino-American community has grown into an enthusiastic group of over 50 Filipino and American volunteers with various skills and expertise, which includes a team of architects, technical and heritage restoration experts even and seismic engineers.

Some of the American volunteers were involved in the restoration of the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument that were damaged by the earthquake that shook Washington, D.C. in 2011.

Volunteers came from various groups and firms such as Quinn Evans, Nixon Peabody, the National Cathedral, LeuterioThomas, the American Institute of Architects, Ecotektonica, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, McEnearney Associates, AmPhil Services and MRC3 Media.

"The BRG is fortunate to have great experts and committed individuals provide their tremendous knowledge and vision in restoring and preserving damaged historical churches in Bohol," said Margaret Lacson-Ecarma, Executive Director of the Bohol Restoration Group, Inc.

"On behalf of BRG, we are happy and ready to collaborate with our Bohol counterparts in optimizing our assets that we can share through technical assistance and donor support," she said.

The BRG is looking to establish long-term partnerships with other groups in the Philippines and the United States including local government units and parishes, according to BRG Board Chair Mike Brown.

"We appreciate the opportunity to lead efforts from Washington and help our Filipino friends restore these important world heritage sites,” said Brown.

“Through our educational and cultural missions, backed by an exceptionally-qualified team of all-volunteer Filipino and American experts, we intend to establish a long-term relationship based on integrity of dedicated people, programs, and grant capital to Bohol in helping preserve the cultural heritage of the Philippines' heritage capital," Brown added.

Aside from damaging the heritage sites, the 15 Octoberearthquake that hit Bohol claimed the lives of 222 individuals and left 976 injured and eight missing. Over 73,000 structures were reported damaged and 14,500 totally destroyed. ###