A historic landmark

By Tin Bartolome

Posted at Mar 27 2015 09:14 AM | Updated as of Mar 27 2015 05:15 PM

A shining white building stands across Puerta Isabelle II along Magallanes Drive in Intramuros. It’s difficult not to notice the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands (CCPI) building as it has grimy buildings for neighbors.


It has been almost six months since I first visited this historic building. My friend of 30 years assumed office as executive director just a few weeks earlier and I went to visit her. She was overseeing the renovation of the building that survived World War II and was looking forward to the unveiling of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) markers.

I kept going back after that first visit. I witnessed the transformation of a building that has seen better days. Pictures of past leaders were re-printed and put in new frames, then hung on repainted walls. Window treatments were installed, plants and water features were brought in. Lights on an Amorsolo mural were replaced and restrooms were refurbished.

After the new markers were installed, these were covered with curtains for the unveiling. I became particularly fond of its library. One wall has shelves and shelves of books, bound copies of their magazine and early editions of the Official Gazette. On the opposite wall are windows that open out onto the promenade right beside the river. On the other side of the river is the El Hogar building erected in 1914 and the Hamilton or the HSBC built in 1921.

A Brief History

These are older structures compared to the CCPI building where I stood. The Chamber building was built in 1934 but the Chamber itself dates back to the Spanish period, during the time of King Alfonso XII and Queen Regent Maria Cristina. It was organized in 1897 and has survived wars, revolutions, political oppression and great transitions.

The Chamber (CCPI) launched the Filipino First Movement and helped lobby for the enactment of the Retail Trade Law and the Flag Law. Along with the Philippine Chamber of Industries, it was a progenitor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but had to lie dormant during the martial law period. More recently however, it has repositioned itself, set its vision and in fact, actively campaigned against pork barrel.

All in the Family

What struck me as I got to know those behind the Chamber is that more than the promotion of business, generations of members have been involved in it. The executive director and some members of the board all have older family members who have led and served the Chamber. Business and family values have been passed on and have withstood the test of time.

To me, that gleaming white building is a testimony to what Filipinos could achieve, proof of our resilience and most of all, enduring family values evident even in the business world.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.