Solon wants probe on historical and cultural devaluation of cultural properties in Manila

By on January 3, 2015

El Hogar building in Escolta, Manila (tumblr photo)
El Hogar building in Escolta, Manila (tumblr photo)

MANILA — Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry L. Ridon has asked the House Committee on Metro Manila Development to investigate the historical and cultural devaluation of several cultural properties in Manila due to neglect or demolition for multibillion-property development.

In House Resolution 1566, Ridon mentioned in particular the Army Navy Club, the old Meralco building, the Anda Circle, the Philippine Post Office, the Manila Metropolitan Theater and El Hogar Filipino as among the cultural properties in Manila that suffer from cultural and historical devaluation.

Ridon said the internal structure of Army Navy Club along Roxas Blvd., established in 1909 to serve as an exclusive social haven for US soldiers during their occupation, was demolished to pave way for its redevelopment into a boutique hotel.

The demolition, denounced by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), is a clear violation of the National Heritage and Cultural Act, which provides for the cultural preservation as a strategy of maintaining Filipino identity, Ridon said. The club was hailed a national historical landmark by cultural agencies in 1991.

The Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corporation is in charge of developing the Army and Navy Club building while AMH Philippines is responsible for the structural assessment of the building.

Ridon said the old Meralco building in San Marcelino St., which dates more than 50 years old and considered as an important cultural property, was demolished in 2013 despite clamor of heritage activists for the adaptive reuse of the building.

“The building was designed by Juan Arellano and featured the art deco style. Aside from the architectural craftsmanship, the façade of this building used to house the bas relief ‘Furies’ sculpted by Italian artist expatriate Francesco Riccardo Monti,” Ridon said.

In the same vein, Ridon said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) plans to demolish the Anda circle located at the boundary of Intramuros and Port area and transfer the monument to ease up the traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

The monument was constructed in 1871 upon the orders of then Governor General Maria dela Torre in honor of Simon de Anda y Salazar who served as the governor general of the Philippines from 1770 to 1776. Anda was said to have rebelled against British invaders and led a resistance movement when he fled to Bulacan and Pampanga. He likewise denounced the King of Spain for subjecting the Philippines in deplorable conditions.

As for the PhilPost Office in Lawton, there is a plan by a construction firm that built the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore to redevelop the building into a hotel under Public-private Partnership or PPP, Ridon said.

“Fronted by the iconic structure of national hero Andres Bonifacio, the building served as the main administrative office PhilPost for 86 years. It boasts of a neoclassical style and was built in 1926 and survived World War II,” according to Ridon.

Meanwhile, Ridon said, the Manila Metropolitan Theater formerly known as the Grand Old Dame of Manila Theater was once the center of cultural arts in the country and etched its name in history as the home of Zarzuelas in the 1930s.

“The restoration for the MET, hailed a national treasure by the National Museum in 2010, has been impeded by a dispute regarding the ownership of the cultural property between the local city government and the Government Service Insurance System. Because of the sluggish dispute settlement, the MET is compelled to sit idly, its beauty and cultural prestige withering away through time,” Ridon said.

As for El Hogar Filipino, the NHCP has been pushing since 2012 for the adaptive reuse of the building constructed in 1914 at the corner of Juan Luna and Muelle de Industria Sts. in Binondo, Ridon said. The news of demolition of El Hogar Filipino came out in February 2014 when tenants were asked to move out of the building.

According to Ridon, the weak implementation of laws contributes to the historical-cultural devaluation of cultural projects.

“Loose preservation, conservation and restoration plans and actual work on national treasures and cultural properties makes these vulnerable to deterioration. Congress must act as a steward for the protection and preservation of cultural properties by ensuring that laws intended for such purpose are enforced and violations and violators should be held liable,” Ridon said.