Monday, 23 June 2014

Save the Capitol Theatre

By: Paolo M. Bustamante

Last year, after attending the Heritage Conservation Summit at Luxent Hotel, Timog, Quezon City, I received the worst news imaginable, from our President Mr. Ivan Henares. He broke the news that the Capitol Theatre in Escolta Manila will soon be swept by THE WRECKING BALL. This is every heritage conservationist’s nightmare! How can that be? It has existed for more than 60 years and it is protected by The Heritage Law. 

We have lost numerous heritage sites last week during Typhoon Yolanda. The difference from this situation from the one fueled by Typhoon Yolanda is the wreckage of this heritage site is caused by man. The people in Visayas are very careful in preserving their built heritage. They respect their roots and their rich history, aside from using it to improve their communities by taking care of and utilizing those sites for the enhancement of their tourism industry. I know that Visayas could rise again from the ruble with our help. Please feel free to contact the following details the Philippine Red Cross: 
T: 527-0000 E: 
… so that your donations will land on honest hands. 

Currently, the Heritage Conservation Society together with the Heritage Conservation Society- Youth is geared up to map out the historical buildings in Escolta. We shall identify all the buildings that should be included in the declaration to make the Escolta a historic business district. 

As heritage conservationists, Escolta needs us right now. The street lost numerous pre-war buildings such as the Botica Boie and the Crystal Arcade. Also, post-war buildings like the Lyric Theater, which was demolished in the 1980's.

Enough is enough! We need to keep our past through the preservation of these heritage edifices. We have already lost the Meralco Building in San Marcelino, Manila, The Lavesarez House in Lavesarez St., The Alberto House in Laguna, The Ides O'Racca and the St. Pancriacius Chapel in the La Loma Cemetery. 

The Capitol Theatre is next in line to be nothing but a pile of rubble. Should we wait for that to happen? We must all take action before it is too late –to build a brighter and stronger MANILA.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The National Museum

By: Paolo M. Bustamante

A few years ago, I had a 6-hour break in one of my terms. I remember spending those breaks going to the National Museum. Back then, the National Museum which was under renovation had no entrance charge. Anyone who wanted to visit the National Museum can do so for free, so I decided to grab that opportunity.

Yesterday, I called my friends to come with me to visit the National Museum. We decided to tour it together, and we were surprised to see it empty. No one was around to see the paintings of Juan Luna and to marvel at the works of great Filipino artists. 

We wondered where the field trips are being held and if anyone frequented the National Museum, just like before. I shared this experience with my sister and she told me that when she and her boyfriend visited Star City a year ago, they witnessed 3 school field trips there on the same day. That made shake my head in so much disappointment. 

It was very upsetting to know that some schools would trade the National Museum for Star City as a field trip destination. I mean, what would these kids learn in Star City? Besides, it is not a safe place for children who run around and have a thirst to explore “off limits” spots. Wow! Times have truly changed. I recall having field trips in the National Museum, Museo Pambata and Manila Zoo when I was in grade school. I guess, my generation was fortunate enough to experience that.

 I recall that the National Museum has 4 or 3 floors, and I remember hearing my voice echoing from the ground floor, up. That reflects just how barren that place was when my friends and I visited it.

 Isn't it disturbing and alarming that nobody cares and values the artifacts that show our history, culture and heritage that is exhibited in the National Museum. This should be a call for us to affect change and to raise awareness. 

I bet most Filipinos would want to visit France’s Louvre Museum and other European and Western museums, but have you ever tried visiting the one that we have at home? Have you ever tried to take an afternoon off to see what our museums in Manila have to teach and show us? 

To tickle your interests, here are some fun facts about the National Museum: The original National Museum was designed by Ralph Harrington Doane and Antonio Toledo in 1918. It was intended to be the future home of the National Library of the Philippines. According to the “Plan of Manila” of Daniel H. Burnham, it served as the Old Congress Building from 1926-1972. You would also know these things if you visited the National Museum. Know a piece of history, and explore your home! 

So, when was the last time you visited the National Museum? Tell us, on the comments section!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Mayflower Building

By: Paolo M. Bustamante
I am quite upset with some schools such as the University of the East- Manila, because they are currently demolishing the prewar Laperal Apartments to give way to another high rise buildingAlso, the University of Sto. Tomas' 1930's art deco gymnasium was demolished to give way to a much bigger gym. Moreover, The Colegio de San Juan de Letran also demolished their Vincent Ferrer building which housed the beautiful Letran Statues.  The reason for demolishing the structure is for the preparation for the Quadcentenial Celebration of their school in 2020. Still, for a heritage conservationist like me, it is pretty upsetting.

When I heard that my school, The De La Salle -College of St. Benilde,  purchased the Mayflower Building in Leon Guinto, I didn't know how to react.  I was happy because my school finally purchased a lot to address space issues that our campus is facing due to our growing student population. However, I also felt fearful because I am not sure if they will demolish the building or keep and enhance it.  CSB is a school that is in need of a bigger space for its growing number of students, and I don't know what to expect from my school in a situation like that.

When I entered the Mayflower Building, the first thing that I saw was the staircase. The rooms remained spacious and it was very nice-looking that I somehow wanted to pattern my dreamhouse to it. It was so elegant and beautiful. However, the promise of it being demolished still hung in the air.

According to and the Benildean Press, the Mayflower building was built in 1938. A Filipino architect was commissioned by then Vice President Fernando Lopez, to design an innovative building in Malate. Many lives were lost in this building during the Japanese Occupation. It is one of the few surviving Art Deco apartments after the Second World War. After the war, it was leased to the US Agency for International Deveplopment to serve as their offices. The Mayflower also became the resthouse/meeting place of former Presidents Elpidio Quirino and Ramon Magsaysay. During the 1970's the building served as the Embassy of Indonesia and Spain. During the 1980's it was then taken over by the Opus Dei to serve as their Maynila Study Center.  Finally, in 1994 it became the home to the Insituto Cervantes and it was inaugurated by Her Royal Highness Infanta Elena of Spain.

The De La Salle- College of St. Benilde purchased the building on June 16, 2011.  The Mayflower Building first opened its doors to Benildeans during the celebration of the 100 year presence of the De La Salle Community in the Philippines.  The ground floor is now a restaurant under the management of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management of CSB. (By the way, I heard the food there is delicious and affordable.  I must try it sometime.) The Second floor currently houses the Student Publication Office of Benilde, the Yearbook Office and the Student Behavior Office. The third floor is occupied by the Department of Student Life and Center for Social Action. Lastly, the fourth Floor has a student lounge for Benildeans.

I am a proud Benildean and I am proud of my school for not demolishing this heritage site. I know that there are a lot of freshmen that are enrolling at CSB, and its is currently facing space constraints. But instead of expanding and making another high rise building, they reused the building and fashioned it to serve another purpose, just like St. Scholastica's Fridenhouse Hotel.