MANILA (UPDATED) — Both the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on Monday said they were saddened after a fire gutted he Manila Central Post Office, one of the oldest and most iconic structures in the capital.
In a statement, the state culture agency said it the building, designated as an Important Cultural Property (Mahalagang Yamang Pangkalinangan), is one of the most beautiful buildings in Manila.
"Ikinalulungkot po ng Pambansang Komisyon para sa Kultura at mga Sining (NCCA) na tinupok ng apoy ang Manila Central Post Office Building ngayong araw. Bilang isang natalagang Malahagang Yamang Pangkalinangan (Important Cultural Property), tunay ngang masasabi na isa ang gusaling ito sa mga pinakamaganda sa ating lungsod at isang mahalagang bahagi ng ating pambansang pamana," it said.
NCCA also said it will help not only in the restoration of the building, but also in ensuring that the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) will be able to resume its normal operations.
"Kasama ang mga sangay pang-kultura at iba pang tanggapan ng pamahalaan, handa pong tumulong ang NCCA sa abot ng aming kakayahan hindi lamang sa pag-ayos ng nasirang gusali, kundi maging sa pagbabalik ng normal na operasyon ng Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost). Hinihiling din namin ang pakikiisa ng lahat sa mahalagang gawaing ito," it said.
"Nawa ang pag-ayos ng mga nasira ay masimulan nang walang gaanong abala sa hanapbuhay at paglilingkod ng mga kawani ng PHLPost, na ating inaalaala dahil sa mga hamon na kanilang hinaharap ngayon," it added.
The NHCP, for its part, said it will work with local and national agencies to ensure the rehabilitation of the building.
“The NHCP, in collaboration with local and national agencies, expresses its commitment to help the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost), in any way, to rehabilitate the damaged edifice,” it said in a statement.
NHCP also said it will give way to PHLPost in the time being in conducting retrieval operations.
“The renowned structure has been part of the life of not only Manileños, but of many Filipinos from different parts of the archipelago. The post office building, which bears a historical marker installed in 1994 and declared as a National Historical Landmark alongside the Plaza Lawton in 2012 by the Commission, is protected by the Heritage Law,” it said.
“Constructed in 1926 following the design of Juan Arellano, damaged by the Second World War in 1945, and reconstructed in 1946, it has survived almost a century of challenges. For the time being, we will give way to the PHLPost in conducting retrieval operations and addressing the basic needs of their people,” it added.
Firefighters said the blaze started before midnight on Sunday at the basement of the building in Lawton, Manila, which provides postal services and operates a museum.
Thick, black smoke billowed hundreds of meters into the sky as flames gutted the neo-classical landmark that overlooks the Pasig River.
Originally built in 1926, the post office was once considered the "grandest building" in Manila, according to its website.
It was destroyed in World War II as US forces recaptured the capital from Japanese occupation forces, and rebuilt in 1946.
The Philippine National Museum declared the building an "important cultural property" in 2018.