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Rediscovering the Classic Architectures of Manila

"A people's relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother." -John Henrik Clarke-


       Manila is a 445 year old city. It was established by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi as the Spanish City of Manila on June 24, 1571. With this age comes with architectures that are reminders of the past, proofs that it had flourished in the bygone era. It was called “Pearl of the Orient” because of its beauty. Neoclassical buildings are still present in Manila which caught every one's eye. These are what make Manila different from all cities in the Metro. It's rich in heritage and culture.

       As I walked around Manila, there are buildings that caught my attention. Its beauty amazes me and I could not pass by without taking a picture of it. Although Manila also boasts modern architectures, the beauty if these classic buildings are unmatched. It's so regal. More than its physical beauty, what interests me the most are the history behind it.

Below are my top 5 favorite old buildings.

1. Manila City Hall




       First  on my list is the Manila City Hall, located in Ermita, Manila. Its the home of the city's government officials. During 1901 it was made up of Oregon-pine which covered one third of the area used by the current building. After 31 years of occupancy, City Engineer Santiago Artiaga suggested to reinforce the floor of the weakened structure supporting the session hall used by the municipal board and avoid the accommodation of too many people along the corridors and in the hallway.

       In 1941, right before the destruction of Manila, a City Hall of a national capital was constructed. This was designed by Antonio Toledo, the same architect who built the Finance Building and Old Legislative Building which are both adjacent to the new City Hall. It was immediately destroyed by the war in February 1945. With the aid of the United States Army and the city government, the new 8,422 square meter-City Hall was built which included around 200 rooms and uniform windows on all of the facade. It added an east wing which accommodated other offices.

      The clock tower, also designed by Antonio Toledo which was completed during the 1930s is the largest clock tower in the Philippines. It stands out during nighttime when the whole of the tower lights up. Every hour, they rung the bell three times continued by a melody. It has now become the icon for the city of Manila.

    Manila City Hall  looks like a coffin when viewed from the top. It is said that the shape is not actually a casket or coffin. Manila City Hall was intentionally designed to resemble a shield of the Knights Templar when viewed from an aerial standpoint. This symbolizes the fact that the country is under the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The city hall has been a favorite subject of horror documentaries and investigations during Halloween because of this.

2. Manila Central Post Office



       Just when I thought that writing a snail mail is more personal and romantic than writing an email, it's amazing to found out that the Post Office building itself is even more beautiful. Its grandeur is timeless. Located at Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila, this neoclassical structure was designed by Juan M. Arellano.

      The Philippine postal system has a history spanning over 250 years. The first post office was established in the city of Manila in 1767. It was organized under a new postal district of Spain in 1779, encompassing Manila and the entire Philippine archipelago. In 1783, the postal service was organized in the Philippines-overseas mail from the Philippines was conveyed to Europe by Spanish ships via eastbound routes through Mexico. Later on, the postal district was re-established on December 5, 1837. After a year, Manila became known as a leading center of postal services within Asia. Spain joined the Universal Postal Union in 1875, which was announced in the Philippines two years later.

    The Manila Central Post Office Building, the center of the Philippine postal services and the headquarters of then-Bureau of Posts, was completed in 1926. It was destroyed during World War II (1945) but was rebuilt in 1946, after the war.

    The Manila Central Post Office was designed by two American architects and a Filipino namely: Ralph Doane, Tomas Mapua, and Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano. The Post Office Building was considered as the grandest building during its time, and is now considered as one of the dominating landmarks in Metro Manila.

   With the overhaul of the Philippine bureaucracy in 1987, the Bureau of Post was renamed the Postal Service Office (PSO) by the virtue of Executive Order No. 125 issued by then-President Corazon Aquino on April 13, 1987. It was also that order which placed PSO under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). On April 2, 1992, by virtue of the Republic Act No.7354 issued by then-President Fidel V. Ramos, PSO became a government owned and controlled corporation named as the Philippine Postal Corporation of more commonly known today as PHLPost.

3. National Museum


       Just beside the Manila City Hall lies another architectural wonder, the National Museum of the Philippines located at Padre Burgos Avenue, Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila. It was established in October 29, 1901 as government institution in the Philippines and serves as an educational, scientific and cultural institution in preserving the various permanent national collections featuring the ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological and visual artistry of the Philippines. Since 1998, the National Museum has been the regulatory and enforcement agency of the National Government in the restoring and safeguarding of important cultural properties, sites and reservations throughout the Philippines. The National Museum operates the National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, and National Planetarium, all located in the vicinity of Rizal Park.

So if you're up to a cultural exploration, you can start it here.

4. Don Roman S. Santos Building



       Along the historic Escolta Street in Binondo, Manila, Philippines, lies another Neoclassical architecture called Don Roman S. Santos Building. It fronts Plaza Lacson (formerly Plaza Goiti) which leads to directly to Carriedo Street or to Rizal Avenue. It was built in 1894 and expanded in 1957. The site has been the original offices for Monte de Piedad Savings Bank from 1894 to 1937. It then became an American Red Cross-operated hospital from 1945 to 1947 after which housed Prudential Bank and South Supermart. Since 2005, the ground floor serves a branch for the Bank of the Philippine Islands, a major bank of the country.

5. Regina Building


       The pre-war business districts of Binondo and Sta. Cruz boast a number of beautiful office buildings. One of these buildings is the famed Regina Building along the famed Escolta which is knows as the Queen of Streets.  It was previously known as Roxas Building. It was designed  by Andres Luna de San Pedro and Fernando H. Ocampo. The neoclassical beaux-arts commercial structure was built in 1915.

       Regina Building was designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna and was built in 1915 at the corner of Escolta Street and Calle David in Binondo, Manila. The design combined the styles of neoclassicism and beaux-arts. It was a three-storey structure during the time it was built but was later expanded into a fourth floor by Fernando Ocampo when the De Leon family bought if from the Roxases.The building was renamed Regina Building in 1926. This building is surrounded on its two sides by two bodies of water, Estero de la Reina and the Pasig River.

      To date, the building is now 101 years old this year 2016. Despite its old age, its glamour never fades.

      These are just a few buildings and will update this blog from time to time. There are also those buildings that, it not maintained and reconstructed, will be extinct anytime soon. But if you're a sort of a cultural explorer and love all the buildings above, you can go to Intramuros and  you'll feast your eyes with bunch of classic and beautiful architectures and ruins.

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