Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Cobankiat Building

By: Paolo M. Bustamante
I have been inactive for quite some time now, and I know that I have no excuse for this except for the fact that I was lazy over the Christmas holidays.  My last blog post was about my graduation and my ode to my alma mater, which was October of last year.  So many things happened since then, such as the demolition of heritage structures, namely: The Michelle Building, The Army Navy Club, and the Admiral Building.  Since 2015 is still quite fresh in our hearts, and the promise of pushing through with my resolutions have not simmered out yet, I promise to make up for it now.

I encountered this post by Isidra Reyes in a Facebook group called, "Manila Nostalgia".  The Facebook post stated that the old Cobankiat Building, which was built in 1948 along Calle Rosario, is being demolished. The house is known to be one of the most successful hardware businesses in the country during its prime, it is also known to be more that 50 years old. 

 Fact: The Cobankiat Group of Companies moved to the 8-storey SJ Wilson Building, which was built in 1937, but what surprised heritage conservationists was the lack of reason and motive to demolish the place where they originally started.  I know that this too much to take in right now, but let's not jump into conclusions just yet.

Heritage advocates commended Mr. Johnny Cobankiat in the restoration and putting the SJ Wilson Building through adaptive reuse.  I even had the privilege to go inside the building along Juan Luna St., which once housed the Manila Stock Exchange. I thought that through this gesture, Binondo is finally reviving in small baby steps.  But just like everything else in this world, there is a trade-off: The demolition of the old Cobankiat Building, where it all began.

Yesterday, I went to Calle Rosario to see the remains of the building.  Sadly only a skeleton of the past remained, through the building's facade and its staircase.  As I looked at it, I felt the same pang of sadness in my chest -- Similar to the one I felt when the Meralco Building was demolished.

If you knew me well, you would know that I took pictures of everything before the building was gone.  But when I take photographs of these places, I never anticipate for its future demolition.  I still believe in the possibility that maybe there are people there who may heed the call of heritage conservationists and at least try to keep the facade of the building, or to try the method of adaptive reuse.  I hope that this slight possibility will become a reality each time.  

Last week, when I returned to take more photographs inside,  I was not permitted by the security guard to enter.  He said that it might be dangerous, for everything will be demolished soon.  However, I am still hoping that things will turned around.  My fingers are crossed. 


  1. Hi Mr. Paolo, Co Ban Kiat Hardware is now located at the old restored Samuel J. Wilson Building, now called the Cobankiat Building in Binondo. http://www.pacifiqa.com/culture/cobankiat-building-binondo/

  2. They have totally shut the building down. I never had the slightest idea that demolished building beside BDO was the old Cobankiat building until now that I'm doing my research paper. This is one of the saddest event that happens in the city of Manila right now.