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 building. Also, 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 http://judefensor.wordpress.com/ 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.