15 heritage buildings that need to be rescued

By Coconuts Manila

Posted at Feb 11 2014 07:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2014 07:20 PM

If these buildings could talk, they'd be like, "Rescue us!"

We hear you, beautiful creatures. And, not to get your hopes up, but now that Luneta Hotel has been fixed and expected to reopen after decades of neglect, who knows, maybe the next restoration project could be you!

1. El Hogar Filipino

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1914
Location: 204 Juan Luna Street cor Muelle dela Industria, Binondo, Manila

History: This classic example of the Beaux-Arts school of design was built in 1914 by Antonio Melian, a self-proclaimed Peruvian count who formed the El Hogar Mutual Association, a financing cooperative. It was his wedding present of sorts to wife Isabel Zobel (of the Zobel de Ayala clan) and their initials adorn the staircase of the building.

Designed by architect Ramond de Yrureta-Goyena with engineer Roque Ruaño, the Spanish Dominican priest credited for building the first earthquake-resistant building in Asia (the UST Main Building in Sampaloc), El Hogar Filipino was occupied by the Japanese during World War II and heavily damaged during the American bombings. After the war, it was restored and a new floor was added.

What it is now: It is still in use today as an office building. Though it looks run-down, you can still get a glimpse of interesting architectural details on its facade and interiors. Since the late 1990s, the building has been a favorite location for film and TV productions such as the movie "Mano Po" and the music video for Bamboo's hit song "Hallelujah."

How I'll fix it: We asked Michelle Pe, whose family bought and revived the Art Deco design Miramar Hotel across the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard (it is now a 40-room boutique hotel with a restaurant called Bistro Michelle on the ground floor), how she would rescue El Hogar Filipino: "This building has so much potential especially because it is strategically located. I would develop it into a boutique hotel and I'll probably paint the building facade in ivory with a hint of tallow yellow. I will also replace all the ground floor doors with French doors with a canopy where I plan to have a restaurant overlooking the Pasig River. Exterior lights will highlight the building at night."

2. Metropolitan Theater

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1931
Location: Corner of Arroceros Street and Padre Burgos Avenue, Ermita, Manila

History: "The dream of Filipino architect Juan Arellano calls to mind a modern expressionistic style where the theater's face is a great rectangular window of translucent glass. Highlighted on either side in tapestries of colored tiles and its forehead crowned the stylized Muslim minarets. Inside two mural paintings, 'The Dance' and 'The Spirit of Music' by the country's national artist Fernando Amorsolo complement the modern sculpture of Italian designer Francisco Monti. The auditorium has a beautiful rectangular stage decorated with bas relief figures symbolizing music, tragedy, comedy and poetry. The ceiling was decorated with a motif of mango fruits and leaves," from the book Art Deco in the Philippines.

What it is now: Abandoned. The theater's future looks in doubt as it is the subject of a legal battle between GSIS and Manila City Hall over its ownership.

How I'll fix it: "The Metropolitan Theater may be transformed into a five-star hotel which can also showcase theatrical productions on the ground floor as its main highlight. I will not change any of the original color of the facade but instead will just clean and restore its original charm. I will probably change the stained glass design and color and add complementing iron droplights to the building entrance and redo the landscaping," says Miramar Hotel's Michelle Pe.


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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1952
Location: Arroceros cor Concepcion Streets, Manila

History: The old GSIS building, built from 1952-1954 by architect Federico S. Ilustre.

What it is now: A parking lot

How I'll fix it: We asked architect and London School of Economics-trained urban planner James Jao how he would rescue the old GSIS building: "This building can be gentrified into a mixed-use development. By retaining the existing structure, it can be the podium of a high-rise building behind including an atrium. This way you can have a feel of the old and the new. The existing GSIS Building can host upscale retail shops and some restaurants, with a lobby/reception on one side for the hotel or condominium (office or residential). This approach can complement the existing SM City mall. An underground walkway can connect both the GSIS and SM," says architect and urban planner James Jao.

4. Pako Building

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1939
Location: Pedro Gil Street, Paco, Manila

History: "In the district of San Francisco Dilao, better referred to as Paco, straddling Estero de Paco stands Pako Bulding. Though its architect is unkown, the structure built in 1939 is an Art Deco masterpiece. Occupying an irregular lot, the almost trapezoidal structure utilizes its restricted frontage by undulating the faced with curves and defined flat overhangs," from the book Landmarks of Manila.

What it is now: An extension of the Paco market. "I remember the building used to house a library up until the 1990s, but I never got to go inside," says Coconuts Manila writer Anson Yu.

How I'll fix it: We asked architect and London School of Economics-trained urban planner James Jao what he would to rescue the Pako Building: "Right in the heart of a busy market street, Pako Building can be gentrified into retail shops and restaurants to complement the economic activities around it. It must be repainted with Art Deco colors, making it the landmark of the area. A boutique hotel perhaps can be done with the addition of a mid-rise central structure at the core. Good lighting must make it more interesting at night."

5. Times Theater

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1939
Location: Quezon Boulevard, Quiapo

History: "Built in 1939, Times Theater was designed by Luis Araneta. During its inauguration General Douglas MacArthur lead the celebrities of that time graced the modern theater first presentation. Designed like a billowing curtains, this massive curvilinear walls were made dramatic by the central glass block-clad facade that glowed at night, a new and popular material at that time."

What it is now: It is still one of the remaining moviehouses still in operation in that district.

How I'll fix it: "This building right across Quiapo Church is a very interesting iconic building. Until now it is used as a theater showing second-run films. I would recommend to retain the concrete façade of this building and build a mix-use development at the back with the lower floors, at least four storeys, for retail and restaurants. The upper floors can be the hotel rooms. A changing LED lighting at the façade will create a very interesting feature for this Times Theater which stood the test of times for generations," says architect and urban planner James Jao, FUAP.

6. Capitol Theater

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1930s
Location: Escolta Street

History: "Built in the 1930s by architect Juan Nakpil, this Art Deco jewel once mounted on its balcony wall a mural by Filipino modernist Vitorio Edades. The building is designed with a generously lighted commercial block, tail ended by spire-like towers, with its Western tower dominated by an Egyptian-inspired step pyramid. Along the face of the Western tower are bas reliefs attributed perhaps to the atelier of Francisco Monti. The building's demise began in the late 1970s when Escolta lost favor to more prominent shopping districts like Cubao and Makati," from the book Art Deco in the Philippines.

What it is now: There is a restaurant bar occupying the ground floor. "I remember they tried to draw in the Binondo crowd by showing Chinese films, but that didn't work," remarks Coconuts Manila writer Anson Yu. "Eventually it started showing second-run feature films and then closed down. There was an attempt to convert the theater into a restaurant with a performing art stage, but that didn't work as well. The theater is now closed, while a portion is now used by a downmarket eatery."

How I'll fix it: "I remember very well how my father used to bring us to Escolta Street for a Sunday lunch or dinner at Savory and we would pass by the Capitol Theater building. Capitol could be the perfect boutique hotel for this very busy street. The lower floor can be a mix of retail stores and restaurants/coffee shops. The existing lobby can be retrofitted to a hotel lobby/lounge and reception. It must be repainted into the vibrant Art Deco colors and at night the facade should be lit with colored LED which will reflect into the water of the river, similar to Miami, Florida," says architect and urban planner James Jao, FUAP.

7. Philippine National Railways Paco Station

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Photo by Coconuts Manila

Circa: 1915
Location: Plaza Dilao Road, Paco, Manila

History: Said to bear semblance to the Penn Station in New York, the Paco Station of the Philippine National Railways was designed in 1908 by William Parsons, the same architect who designed The Manila Hotel and Philippine General Hospital. It "was also the scene of a heroic battle during World War II and the recapture of the station led to the crucial defeat of the remaining Japanese forces in Manila," writes blogger South Bike. "In 1996, a contractor of a 7-storey mall partly demolished the PNR station but due to the lack of funds it stopped, leaving behind a skeleton of a the first four floors of the mall and the facade of the station."

What it is now: Gutted and abandoned.

How I'll fix it: "This is a building I am very familiar with because during my childhood our family would travel via the Bicol Express on the first class car from Paco all the way to Legazpi City. The grandeur of the lobby as you enter gives you the excitement of travel to the south. This cannot be a boutique hotel since the train is passing through this terminal building with the noise and vibration it causes until now. But the government must definitely modernize the mass train transit infrastructure and this should be the ‘Grand Central Terminal’ of Manila with retails shops and restaurants on both sides, just like the Victoria Station in London," says architect and urban planner James Jao, FUAP.

For the complete list, read the original story at the Coconuts Manila website. (https://manila.coconuts.co/2014/02/07/12-heritage-buildings-metro-manila-should-be-turned-hotels)