By: Paolo M. Bustamante
It is really shocking to know that the City of Manila is continually losing its heritage sites in recent months. As Manila lets go of its built heritage, it is also losing its identity as a city. During the time of Mayor Lito Atienza, there were a lot of people who were taken-aback when he initiated the demolition of the historical Jai-Alai Building, to give way to Manila’s Hall of Justice –which was never even built!
(Army Navy Club)
Following the demolitions of the Jai Alai Building, were the Admiral Hotel, the Army Navy Club, Michelle Apartments, and the Gaiety Theatre. Coincidentally, they were all located in Malate, and were all historically significant –until they just became a memory etched in old pictures, stories, and videos.
(Army Navy Club)
On September 2014, heritage enthusiasts, architects, and even the people of Manila were shocked when they saw a photo of what looked like a partially demolished Army Navy Club. Social Media aided in spreading the news about the demolition of heritage building, which sparked mild outrage among Filipino netizens. To those of you who are not aware, the Army Navy Club has been abandoned for more than a decade. Prior to that, Filipino heritage enthusiasts were briefly excited upon news that the said structure will go under thorough rehabilitation, under the leadership of Architect Palafox. No one expected that a few months after the pleasant news was released, that the rehabilitation deal will never fall through.
(Army Navy Club)
To be quite frank, I am not familiar with the history of the Army Navy Club, but according to my readings (GMA News), it was designed by William Parsons in the last years of the 19th century. The Manila Army and Navy Club was a neo-colonial revival edifice that served as an exclusive club for American military officers. It was turned into a bomb shelter and evacuations during World War II.
Not far from the Army Navy Club, is the Admiral Hotel. Fortunately, the Admiral Hotel was spared during World War II and it was restored to its former glory after the war. The Admiral Bay Suited was said to have received several awards for its exceptional design and as a laudable example of the adaptive reuse of a historic building. In recent news, during the typhoon Mario (a typhoon that hit Manila on September 2014), someone posted a picture in the Facebook group “Manila Nostalgia” of a partially demolished Admiral Bay Suites. This photo alarmed many Filipinos, particularly Manilenos and heritage advocates, for it wasn’t long ago that the hotel underwent detailed renovations. Carlos Celdran commented on the Facebook post clarifying, “that the building will be demolished”.The permit to demolish this landmark was granted on September 4, 2014.
The Admiral Apartments and Hotel Building, was designed by Architect Fernando H. Ocampo in the 1930’s, and was commissioned by the family of Dona Ana Ledesma Lopez, and Salvador & Victoria Lopez Araneta. Notable personalities have been known to stay in this hotel during its glory days, such as: Gen. Douglas McArthur and former US President Herbert Hoover.
The building was inaugurated on July 8, 1939 and President Manuel L. Quezon was one of the guests of honor. The Admiral Hotel was one of the tallest buildings along Dewy Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard). It served as a Japanese Base during the Occupation of Manila, led by Iwabushi Sanji and after the liberation, it served as the American High Command Headquarters.
In recent news, the NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines) released a Cease and Desist order, but I think it is far too late for that move, for only the shell and the rubble of the building was left from the demolition.
Near the Army Navy Club and the Admiral Hotel is the Gaiety Theatre along M.H. Del Pilar Street. I got an email from David Montasco, which said that the Gaiety Theatre might soon be up for demolition. He also said that the contact person for the theatre is the same contact person for the Madrid House in San Nicolas!
I was very much alarmed by this news, which prompted me to look into it. The current state of the Gaiety Theatre is: It has no roof, the interior is unrecognizable, and the building was poorly maintained, to the point that it seemed like it was deliberately neglected. However, certain aspects remain intact, such as: The Artdeco grills, and the streamline.
At this point, you are probably wondering why the Gaiety Theatre hold such significance. According to Mr. Lou Gopal, the Gaiety Theatre was designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil in 1935. It was also then owned by an American, H. Brown. Knowing this, I do not see why we should not preserve the works of our National Artists. What would be the point of declaring talented Filipinos as National Artists, if their works are not preserved in any kind of way? [Any additional thoughts on this, feel free to share them on the comments section below.]
Personally, I find it difficult to let go of a historical building. However, given the situation of the Gaiety Theatre, its future sure looks bleak. Looking into it, the only way to preserve this is through the application of “Fascadism”, and to preserve the Art Deco grill and the streamline arches. I am a fan of Juan Nakpil, but out of all his works, this one did not appeal to me too much. Its architectural style looked too modern for my taste. [I was to hear your thoughts on the Gaiety Theatre’s architectural style! Please share them on the comment section below.]
Last October 2014, after giving a talk on “Preserving Our Built Heritage from a Student’s Point of View”, at the Pamantasan ng Lungson ng Maynila, I met with some friends at our St. Benilde campus, and we visited the places mentioned above. This is was inspires me to write this blog post, as a farewell to these heritage buildings. I was personally pleased to be able to visit these places with my friends before they’re gone. But to my dismay, we were not allowed to go inside the Army Navy Club, and when we ent straight to the Gaiety Theatre, no one was around. In hindsight, that was still one of my best afternoons.
I don’t have the right words to express what I feel for this loss. If we continue to go at this rate, nothing will be left of our heritage sites. The future generations will be left to wonder that these places looked like, and I cannot help but feel bad about that thought.
The 1930's Michelle Apartments is also being demolished I don’t know what the exact reasons are for its demolition, but I sure do home that things will eventually change for the better.
I wish you all a blessed and fruitful 2015!