Ancestral architecture spans a long history and is unique throughout the world. Each structure has its own stories. Here in the Philippines, we have our fair share of them, from buildings made of stone, wood, bamboo and even steel.
An iconic example of ancestral architecture made with bamboo is our very own bahay kubo. The bahay kubo was made of bamboo since it was available everywhere and could easily be repaired without requiring advanced tools. When the Spaniards arrived, they introduced to us the use of stone and bricks to build houses and buildings for high government officials or wealthy people.
Stone and bricks
But after some time, stone and bricks became common materials with which most upper-class Filipino houses were made of. Nowadays, we call those houses bahay na bato, which some consider the upgraded version of the bahay kubo.
A famous example of this would be the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna, which is a reproduction of the two-story house where Jose Rizal was born. The original home was destroyed during World War II. Rizal Shrine is now a museum.
Another house that has become a tourist attraction is a historic spot for Philippine Independence. This is the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite. It has a special place in Philippine history because this was where our country’s independence was proclaimed. This was also where the Philippine flag was formally waved for the first time and where the Philippine national anthem was first played (as instrumental music).
One of the historic buildings in Manila is the National Museum of Fine Arts, located on Padre Burgos Avenue. It is known for exhibiting famous Filipino artworks such as “The Spoliarium” by Juan Luna, “The Planting of the First Cross by Vicente S. Manansala,” “First Mass at Limasawa” by Carlos “Botong” Francisco and many more.
The building’s walls have witnessed many historic events. Completed in 1926, it housed the 7th Philippine Legislature and was the headquarters of the National Library from 1928 to 1944. The second, third and fourth floors were occupied by the Senate and House of Representatives while the ground floor was occupied by the National Library.
In 1935, the inauguration of Manuel L. Quezon was held outside the building. The building then became home of the National Assembly, so it became known as the National Assembly Building. In 1940, the National Assembly was replaced by a bicameral Congress, consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate occupied the upper floors while the House occupied the lower floors. The building would serve as home of the Commonwealth Congress until 1945.
During World War II, it witnessed many horrible events including the Battle of Manila. The building was severely damaged and was almost reduced to rubble due to bombing. Only the central portion was left intact which still needed restoration.
Restorations started in 1949 and after completion, it served as the Congress Building until 1972 when martial law was declared.
Another historic building in Manila is the Manila Central Post Office (MCPO), which is located along the riverbanks in Lawton, Ermita, and at the northern end of Liwasang Bonifacio. The MCPO serves as both the Central Post Office of the City of Manila and as the home of the Philippine Postal Corp. But it houses a much deeper history within its pillars.
Constructed in 1925 by Juan Arellano and Tomás Mapúa, the building is referred as “one of the greatest examples of American colonial architecture in the Philippines” with its design being neo-classical style.
In 1945, during the Battle of Manila, it was severely damaged by the American forces. It was repaired and restored to its beauty after the war. Now it serves not only as the Central Post Office but an iconic building and a reminder of the architecture of the past. It is commonly visited by tourists, heritage conservation members and stamp collectors for the building houses most of the recent stamp issuances. There are many more architectural treasures around the country. Some have been lost to time while others are in grave danger of being forgotten completely or demolished. This is why I hope that they can receive more attention from everyone. Even small areas have large stories that can be told.
Everyone is encouraged to visit them when they can so that you can learn their stories and history. They might not stand forever but their stories can leave a mark that cannot be removed. We should be proud of these architectural treasures that we have. —Contributed INQ
The author is a Grade 6 student at the University of Santo Tomas Angelicum College.