10 Heritage Sites in Manila That Need Your Attention

Calling Mayor Isko Moreno!

(SPOT.ph) Manila’s newly minted mayor, Isko Moreno, is making very visible and highly publicized changes in the Philippine capital. He has expressed how keen he is on developing the city's many tourist attractions by making a tourist circuit that would hit all of the top spots. Preserving heritage sites is also included in his to-do list, and we might just have the list of structures that need his attention the most.

Here are 10 places in Manila that could use some sprucing up:

Luneta Park

PHOTO BY Pinoy Photographer
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Luneta Park is one of the city’s few parks, allowing people to walk around and enjoy open space and greenery before going back to their busy day. It’s also a very important part of our history: It's the site of Jose Rizal’s execution, which ignited the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards. While the park itself is well-maintained, developments around the area constantly threaten the park's beauty, as in the case of the "pambansang photobomber." Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, during the opening of the 18th Congress, filed a bill that bans the construction of structures that would ruin the view of and sight line of historical areas. 

San Agustin Church

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San Agustin Church, which was built in 1587, is one of the country’s four Baroque churches, collectively designated in 1993 as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This title is currently in peril with the construction of a Binondo-Intramuros Friendship Bridge nearby. The bridge’s construction is on pause as the Department of Public Works and Highways conducts an "Archaeological and Heritage Impact Assessment." 

Manila Metropolitan Theater 

PHOTO BY Judgefloro
Wikimedia
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When the Manila Metropolitan Theater (or the Met) opened its doors in 1931, it immediately became the center of arts in Manila, hosting zarzuelas, operas, musicals, and plays during its heyday. The Art Deco building survived wars, multiple closures and reopenings, and internal conflict in ownership before it was officially deemed unusable in 2012. Finally, in 2015, the Government Service Insurance System sold the property to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and a full-on renovation of the building started. We've been seeing a lot of progress since, including a one-day reopening in December 2016. But despite its P266.77 million budget, another slew of internal problems—from a looming reorganization of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to delays in implementations—have stalled its renovation indefinitely. 

Capitol Theater Building 

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Designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil, this pre-war Art Deco building was built in the 1930s when Escolta was the bustling center of commerce and culture in the city. Along with many heritage sites, it was a casualty of war. Instead of a renovation, the NCCA, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and the National Museum in 2017 gave Ascott Resources and Development Corporation the go signal to demolish the Capitol Theater. The developer, however, was instructed to retain the tower and building's façade—which, according to a letter by the NCCA to Ascott, is being closely monitored. 

Sta. Cruz Building 

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One of the last things that Joseph Estrada did before his term as mayor ended was to approve the demolition of yet another cultural site in the city: the Sta. Cruz Building, on the corner of Escolta Street and Plaza Sta. Cruz. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) intervened and issued a cease-and-desist order in May to preserve the the post-war building. According to a memo addressed to Universal Realty Corporation, structures that date "at least 50 years old are presumed Important Cultural Properties and, thus, must be preserved and protected." 

El Hogar

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Built in 1914, El Hogar was a wedding present from Spanish businessman Don Antonio Melián Pavía to his wife Doña Margarita Zóbel y de Ayala. Despite its current state, it shows examples of both Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture styles, and is one of only two remaining American-era buildings along the once-grand boulevard of the Pasig River. Its remaining tenants were asked to vacate the building in 2014. According to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the new owners in July 2015 requested that the building be declared condemned on grounds that it is "structurally unsafe and dilapidated." The Manila Building Office recommended and approved the demolition. In the same month, the NHCP issued a cease-and-desist order to stop New Golden City Builders from dismantling the century-old structure's steelworks.

Times Theater

PHOTO BY Franz Miko Verzon
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The past decades have really shifted the center of commerce and culture away from Manila City and into today’s business districts in Makati and Taguig. A little over 50 years ago, Quiapo was home to Times Theater, one of the most luxurious cinema houses in Manila. Another Art Deco building, it showed films straight from Hollywood, with Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan being the first Filipino-made film to screen there. These days it is practically abandoned and unkempt, with rows of Quiapo kiosks at the street level. 

Calvo Building

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Wikimedia
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Designed by Manila Cathedral’s architect, Fernando Ocampo Sr., the Calvo Building was constructed in 1938 with a design that was inspired by French architectural styles of the 19th century. It was also the first home to post-war radio station DZBB, which eventually became what we know today as GMA Network. It’s a little-known cultural site in the Escolta area, with a small museum that features relics and photos from the the structure's own history. Calvo Building still stands, but it could sure use some attention—both by conservationists and tourists.

Old Magnolia Ice Cream Plant

PHOTO BY Dennis Barcelo
Inquirer
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Just before Estrada stepped down from office, another culturally significant building was demolished—the old Magnolia Ice Cream Plant along Palanca Street. According to NHCP, they were not notified of what heritage advocates called a "midnight demolition" on the eve of June 30. What's left right now is the façade of the three-storey building that once "incorporated the most advanced dairy processing facilities of the time, and is also dubbed as one of the great ice creams in Asia," according to a letter from NHCP to the Manila City Hall. 

Aduana Building 

PHOTO BY Ngiping Kidlat
Wikimedia
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Also known as the "Intendenicia," the Aduana Building was built sometime in the 1820s but incurred damage during a 1863 earthquake. It was rebuilt in the 1870s to house government offices. It was again damaged during World War II, but rebuilt and used until a fire in 1979, after which it was finally abandoned. There’s news of restoring the building after it was bought by the National Archives of the Philippines.

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