Using technology to preserve, spread heritage

Gabii sa Kabilin or Night of Heritage offered Cebuanos last Friday the opportunity to visit museums and heritage areas until midnight. The yearly activity was started in 2006 by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (Rafi) and patterned after the Long Night of Museums in Germany.

This year, however, the event had a tech twist – Rafi, Smart Communications Inc. and staged a QR (quick response) code hunt that brought teams to the different heritage areas in the city. (Disclosure: My wife and I run and are deeply involved in all the projects mentioned in this article.)

The QR Code hunt gathered teams of journalists, bloggers, students, runners, police and tech workers. They had to scan QR codes to decipher tasks they were required to do in heritage areas — learn how to offer flowers to the Buddha, sing Matud Nila, weave puso, find a painting, among other things. They then had to perform the tasks and upload photos as well as post in social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

Participants said they enjoyed the event and described the contest as “educational.” The winning teams took home Nokia Lumia units and portable Wi-Fi devices.

The QR code hunt was held to highlight an ongoing project to tag Cebu’s tourism and heritage sites with special markers that contain QR codes. When scanned, the markers trigger the download of information about a heritage or tourism site. In certain areas, the markers trigger the download of a video tour.

Also on Friday, Sun.Star Superbalita and Smart made available the e-book version of its 2009 compilation of Cebuano folklore called “Matud Pa Sa Lola Ni Noy Kulas.” The e-book, which can be downloaded at, can be read on smartphones, tablets and e-readers.

SCANNING. Teammates Albert Padin and Paul Villacorta scan the QR code at the pit stop in Cebu Normal University to decipher the instructions for the next task. The two would win first runner up and take home a Lumia phone and a pocket Wi-Fi each. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

Last Saturday, we continued with the technology-heritage mash-up in Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. Cebuano heritage group Hamiling Binilin or Hambin and Smart opened an exhibit of American-era photos of Cebu. The exhibit had a QR-code twist — photos had an attached QR code marker that, when scanned, triggers the loading of a video of a Hambin member talking about the photo.

It was fun to watch people scanning QR codes for the first time and finding the idea of connecting printed photographs with digital content “magical.”

Hambin president Boboi Costas said the technology allows for the “quick delivery of relevant historical information.”

The exhibit will move to schools in June and would run for a year. Hambin members are confident that with new technology, they would be able to engage the youth on historical information.

We are working to integrate Hambin’s efforts in our QR code project to allow people to view the old photos on their actual locations in Cebu via mobile phones and tablets.

I have been actively involved in projects that take advantage of the latest technology to deliver information since the past year and I share the excitement of the tech community on the new possibilities brought about by tech advances, especially mobile.

Although QR codes are great in triggering delivery of information, NFC or near field communication as well as augmented reality offer richer possibilities for connecting real life to digital content.

New technologies now allow content producers to put a digital layer of information on real life. Gadgets like Google Googles are cool ways to take advantage of this layer but the primary delivery will be through people’s main “computer,” the mobile phone.

QR CODE CAPTIONS. These American-era photos of Cebu come with QR codes that, when scanned, trigger the download of videos of HAMBIN members talking about the historical significance of the photographs. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

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