One more historic Manila structure bites the dust

By , on September 30, 2014

The Admiral Hotel
The Admiral Hotel

What structure survived World War II, but succumbed to the Estrada administration, and to rampant greed and commercialism?  The answer is the Admiral Hotel on Roxas Boulevard in Manila’s Malate district, which is currently under demolition, with the approval of the Manila city government.

It would seem that the conservation of Old Manila under the administration of Mayor Joseph Estrada is rapidly deteriorating, with the historic pre-war hotel being the latest casualty. This, despite the enactment of the National Cultural Heritage law.

Numerous commercial developments have already wreaked havoc on the cultural and historical heritage of Old Manila; among these:

• The rise of the Torre de Manila skyscraper, which towers monstrously over iconic Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, and is an eyesore to the Manila skyline

• The removal of the Anda Monument from Calle Aduana, with the questionable excuse that it would help decongest traffic in Port Area; and,

• The demolition of the old Meralco building designed by Juan Arellano, along with the massive bas-relief on its façade, sculpted by Francesco Riccardo Monti.

The Admiral Hotel dates back to 1939. Its traditional-revivalist design was done by architect Fernando H. Ocampo, largely held as one of the pioneers of modern Filipino architecture. Fernando also designed the University of UST Central Seminary, and the Manila Cathedral, among other structures.

“We are saddened by the demolition of the Admiral Hotel along Roxas Boulevard, a historic prewar building designed by eminent architect Fernando Ocampo,” Heritage Conservation Society president, Ivan Anthony Henares said.

Anchor Land Holdings, Inc, which purchased the hotel from the Lopez-Araneta family in 2009, said on its Facbook page on September 22 that the “engineering investigations done determined that the original building was no longer structurally sound following years of slow deterioration.”

According to the company, which plans on building a boutique hotel where the Admiral once stood, the “interests of all its future guests, staff and the general public in mind, whose safety Anchor Land prioritizes.”

Henares, however, quickly pointed out that Anchor’s decision was in violation heritage laws. regulations.

“That decision [to demolish Admiral] was not for Anchor Land to make on its own.According to Republic Act No. 10066,” pointed out Henares, “all buildings that are 50 years old or older are presumed to be Important Cultural Properties. And thus, before a demolition permit can be issued by the local government unit, a building owner must first seek approval from government cultural agencies concerned to lift that presumption of declaration,” he said.

“They totally missed the point. Once you demolish a structure, the heritage value is lost. The reconstruction can no longer be considered a historical landmark,” Henares noted, referencing a statement made by Anchor Land that they would do whatever possible to ensure that the building’s legacy lives on.