Monday, November 6, 2017

Rediscovering Old Manila with the United Architects of the Philippines Makati for World Architecture Day

Finally. I was able to sit down and write so now I'd like to share with you my recent experience on rediscovering old Manila through the United Architects of the Philippines Makati Chapter in partnership with Walk With Chan and Philippine Post Office. 

My apologies it had taken me quite sometime before i was able to come up with this blog post. Anyway, this Crossover Manila Walking tour was organized in celebration of the World Architecture Day last month. Through the kindness and invitation of my good friend, Rence Chan who has partnered with UAP-Makati for this Old Manila tour, we immediately said yes and were excited to revisit Intramuros, The Philippine Post Office, Escolta, and Binondo. 

The facade of the Philippine Post office as captured by the camera.

After years of merely passing by the facade of this glorious Philippine Post Office building, (I used to watch it from the safe distance in Plaza Lawton way back in college), the opportunity was finally ripe for us to explore its inner workings. Decades after decades of being overlooked, the iconic Philippine Post Office never really lost its grandeur. It somehow got the retrofitting it deserves. It was such a great experience to see that during out visit one of the gargoyles on the top of the building's columns were spouting water because there was a typhoon during our visit and it was raining. Too bad though, I only had with me my mobile camera, so i wasn't able to take a good shot of it. (You actually need a good DSLR camera for you to be able to capture its beauty). Nevertheless, the old Manila Post Office despite some of its paint peeling off and a few flooded areas, continue to stand amidst the rise of technology. 

Manila Central Post office from afar

Even if the said building fades from its former architectural glory, it was a delight to know that contrary to what some people believe, it's not entirely an urban decay. People still do send tangible letters to their loved ones. In fact, the Philpost has also opened new services sch as Bayadcenter. Yes, you can now pay your bills by going to the Philpost. We were so lucky to be given a tour of the Philippine Post Office building. But since we had a very limited time due to the many itineraries that day, we had to do it really fast. One thing I had learned, Philpost is a story of Hope: as it embarks on a lot of restoration. It also captures the imagination of the younger generation, particularly the so-called millenials, most of them were not even born yet during its heyday. 

We were also introduced to its rich history as well as its legacy. Ms. Arlene Labao, project officer for the Philately Collection and Museum Division was the one in-charge to tour us around. She also taught the milennials on how to write on postcards while Mr. Renaldo Ong, Philippine Philatelic Federation President also brought with him and showed us his rich stamp collections, some of them are really rare ones. He was also game enough to answer all the queries on stamp collecting. 

With the said Walk with Chan tour, my nephew Kyle, with his infectious optimism said having seen the insides of the Philpost, he confessed that he has fallen in love with the structure. As for its stories, the two hours of touring it isn't enough to share with you both the eerie and the good parts of it. 

The Glory of Escolta

We loved this grand staircase of the First United 

After the Manila Post Office building, we went walking towards Escolta. According to Rence, Escolta used to be the commercial business district of Manila. Long before the Makati area became the area for the most successful establishments, Escolta used to be a posh place where commercial centers and businesses are located. This area also used to be home to the rich and famous. 

Our first stop in Escolta is the First United Building. It's a place where the late comedy king, Dolphy had a unit beside former superstar Nora Aunor. Inside the First United Building is an artsy-fartsy of some sort bazaar as well as a museum. I'm amazed by the grand staircase of the said building. It looked just like the ones i'd see on the movies or on textbooks. 

Photograph from the balcony of the top floor of the First United Building

The museum inside the First United Building houses some interesting collections as well as materials of the past. Perhaps some of which were used during Escolta's heyday as the business district of Manila. 

Some of the rare bottles on display at the Bottle Museum on Calvo Building

For our next stop, we went inside the Calvo Building. This bulding also houses a mini museum of bottles and old newspapers as well as printed posters of old Filipino movies. According to Rence, this also used to be the first home of GMA 7. Yes, one of the country's largest network. 

Sidetrip to Binondo

The famous Binondo or Chinatown Arch

New Toho Food Center

Since we were just a stone's throw away from Binondo or Chinatown, we had our lunch at another historical restaurant called Antigua Toho/Panciteria Toho or it's now known as the New Toho Food Center. It was established back in 1888. Yes, it claims to be the oldest restaurant in the Philippines. It was said that our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal used to frequent this place ordering some of his favorites on the restaurant's menu. Imagine us enjoying the same delicious foods that Rizal and his peers used to enjoy a long time ago? Food is cheap yet delicious at some point. 

The Beauty of Old Buildings

While waiting for the rain to stop pouring, we went up an old international bank within the area. It is now called as the Juan Luna Building. It's a great place to do OOTDs and shoot a music video. But more than that, how i wish it will be put to good use. I find it so "sayang." It had high ceilings and a great view of Manila skyline too. It had the view of Plaza Mexico to your right. However, it was refereshing to see an old HSBC building which had been converted into a cafe. It's now called as Grand Cafe. These are the types of buildings I only get to see on films and books. I wish they would be able to restore back to the beauty that the were. 

Revisiting the Walled City

The statue of Queen Isabella II in which Plaza Isabel in Intramuros was named after.

We were then toured in the Walled City of Intramuros. I remember studying one semester here during college. But a lot of things have changed since then. We passed by the National Press Club office and then went to see the last surviving Spanish statues in Manila such as that of Queen Isabella II. She was the first person to be on the first ever issued Philippine stamp. Her statue used to be located in Plaza Lawton but eventually she was moved inside the walls of Intramuros. Plaza Isabel near Maestranza was named after her. 

Adolfo Lopez Mateos' statue in Intramuros

If there's a Queen present, a guy statue won't be left behind. There's also a statue of  a guy named Adolfo Lopez Mateos in Plaza Espana. It's a diminutive open space but you'll easily see the lone statue sitting at the center. It's a bronze statue made in honor of this Mexican politician and was former Mexican President. 

One of the abandoned building in Intramuros which used to serve as favorite venue for action movies.

Rizal Shrine and Fort Santiago

Jose Rizal shrine
 We were quite lucky as during our visit, there was an OPEN HOUSE in several attractions and museums inside the walled city. it meant to say, we need not pay a single cent because entrance fees were waived during this day. Some of those we were able to get into were Casa Manila Museum, Fort Santiago, Rizal Shrine and Baluarte De San Diego Gardens. 

Fort Santiago

Jose Rizal as depicted during his imprisonment

San Agustin Church

Casa Manila Museum

Intricate designs of door accessories
Environment friendly Bamboo bikes are for rent at the Casa Manila

Baluarte de San Diego Gardens

Old canyons

Old cobblestones and stairs leading to the biggest dungeon

The biggest dungeon is found at Baluarte de San Diego Gardens

A big thank you...

The happy group of bloggers who came and joined the UAP-Makati Crossover Manila tour.

I'd like to thank the UAP-Makati chapter headed by its president, Mr. Miko Carandang for their warm invitation to join them on this tour. They were probably the most down-to-earth and coolest architects I've ever met. In fact, it was so easy to assume that they were simply students because they're still young-looking like most of them looked as if they were still fresh out of college. Whereas in reality, they're all professionals--working now in their respective offices as architects. But still, they found time to visit and see all the historical places we've just visited. 

The UAP-Makati group along with bloggers and students who joined the said tour.

Overall, the said Crossover tour organized by the UAP-Makati was not only informative and educational on my part but also an eye opener. Although technology has indeed changed a lot of things in the society, still we must learn to value whatever it is that we have had in the past. These old historical buildings as well as those things that had some historical connections should not be put to waste, but must be given enough attention for our legacy to the younger generations. And just like my teenager nephew who went to accompany me during the said tour, it was refreshing to see all of these things as history unfolded before his very eyes. And in his young age, he saw that these aren't only seen through textbooks or old newpapers but it can still be enjoyed even in reality. 

Here are details on some of the places we visited:

First United Building (inside is the First United Bulding Community Museum and The Hub)
413 Escolta St, Binondo, Manila, Metro Manila

New Toho Food Centre
422 Tomas Pinpin Street, Binondo, Manila
Phone Numbers: 02-241-4208 / 02-242-0294

Calvo Museum
266 Escolta Street, Manila, Muelle Del Banco Nacional, Binondo, Manila

Ying Ying Tea House

233-235 Dasmarinas Corner Yuchengco Street, Binondo, Manila

Special thanks to Rence Chan, United Architect of the Philippines-Makati, and Richie Ongteco.

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