For Whom the Bell Tolls: PH heritage landmarks left in ruins
“Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” This is one of the well-remembered lines from a sermon by John Donne, that with which this article is named after. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” then became the name of a novel written by Ernest Hemingway. It vividly explored tragic themes, as well as the death of its protagonist. These Philippine heritage landmarks—once a beacon of architectural marvel, echoed the same suffering; what was once solidly felt walls are now different buildings carrying the remnants of the old.
1. Magallanes Theater
Created by Carlos Arguelles, this brutalist masterpiece formerly stood at the corner of the bygone Maranaw Commercial Complex. The Magallanes Theater was considered to be one of Makati’s most popular movie places of its time. The building’s monolithic appearance brings to mind the rigid forms of the CCP Theater. The building drew its last breath in the 1990s when it was demolished. The barangay hall of Magallanes Village now stands in its place.
2. Jai-Alai Building
This Streamline Moderne masterpiece realized by the collaboration of Welton Becket and Walter Wurdeman faced demolition in the year 2000, which was led by then Manila mayor Lito Atienza. Such decision sparked widespread outrage and brought plight of Manila’s heritage buildings to the public’s attention. The Jai-Alai building was meant to be replaced by a new Manila Hall of Justice. To this day, the building’s lot remains empty and overshadowed by the infamous and unremarkable Torre de Manila condominium beside it.
3. Meralco Building
Meralco’s first headquarters in San Marcelino Street, Manila, is Juan Arellano’s vision that was erected and embellished with a four-storey sculptural relief carvings of the Furies on the Art Deco building’s façade. It is a conversation between art and architecture, with the carvings made possible by Italian sculptor Francesco Monti. An attempt by its new owner to demolish it in 2012 was contradicted with the intervention of the local government and the Italian embassy. However, despite calls for its adaptive reuse, the structure was eventually taken down for a planned condominium and a fast-food restaurant.
4. Benguet Center
Leandro Locsin’s Benguet Center, inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces and its riprap walls, was one of the first few buildings in the growing CBD of Ortigas in 1983. In 2011, the building, which used to be the headquarters of the SM-owned bank BDO, was demolished. The site transformed into a parking lot, which was retained for a few years before the construction of an extension of SM’s upscale Podium mall and high-rise office tower.
5. Rizal Theater
A structure designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil, the Rizal Theater was meant to be part of a much larger cultural complex in Rizal Park. Because of lack of funds, the original design was scaled down and built at the corner of Makati and Ayala Avenues. It reached its complete unfolding when it was demolished in 1989 to give way for Makati Shangri-La Hotel.
This article first appeared in BluPrint Vol 4 2016. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
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Written by Patrick Kasingsing
Introduction and edits by Arielle Abrigo
Illustrations by Cesar Ramirez Jr.