Aug 3, 2017

Following a year of negotiations for its possible sale, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has finally announced that the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Malate, Manila is here to stay.

According to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, PSC shelved plans of selling the 83-year-old structure to the company of businessman Enrique Razon for an estimated P10 to 15 billion. Negotiations were being led by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

But much to the joy of conservation groups, PSC will instead rehabilitate and restore the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex so that it continues to be a hub for Filipino athletes.

PSC chairman Butch Ramirez stressed that the decision was made with Filipino athletes in mind. “It’s more of listening to the athletes, to the Filipinos,” Ramirez said, explaining that “majority would like to preserve the place.”

nolisoliph rizal coliseum2
Photo courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

The complex, which has stood as a symbol of the country’s rich sports history, was completed in 1934 under the supervision of architect Juan Arellano. It was finished in time for the 10th Far Eastern Games, which Manila was hosting the same year. During the war, Japanese troops used Rizal Sports Complex as a garrison. By the time Manila was liberated in 1945, the structure had been destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1953 and since then has hosted a number of athletic meets and national events.

The site was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines earlier this year. Prior to that, the National Museum declared Rizal Sports Complex an Important Cultural Property in 2016. It was deemed significant because of its distinct Art Deco style, “with features such as curving walls, double band of moldings, and beveled corners with nail head ornaments.”

Today, the site is home to four historical facilities: the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, the Rizal pool, the Rizal ballpark, and the Rizal Football Stadium. PSC plans on building another structure that will cater to at least five sports. A master plan for the rehabilitation of the complex is in the works, with the construction “projected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.”

Protecting Philippine heritage
Despite Razon’s promises to preserve the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, heritage advocates criticized the group’s intentions of developing the area once the deal was inked. It was previously reported that high-rise condominiums and commercial establishments would be built inside the 10-hectare property without sacrificing the façade and structure of the historical buildings. The idea was to build a shopping complex through a joint venture between the government and Razon’s company. The questions raised at that time were: Could they actually pull it off? And will the Razon group really honor its word?

For now, culture advocates can rest easy. But while Rizal Sports Complex is a major win for Philippine heritage, this doesn’t mean the battle is over. Many of our historical spaces and landmarks still need protecting. Awareness on conservation and restoration must be spread further, but at least we have sites like the Rizal Sports Complex and the Metropolitan Theater to remind us that these structures are worth saving—and there’s just no questioning that.


Header photo courtesy of Paulo Alcazaren via Philippine Daily Inquirer

Read more:

Remembering the Manila Metropolitan Theater

Four heritage sites that need to pull a Met

There will be a new “city” in Metro Manila

TAGS: conservation fixture heritage heritage buildings Malate manila nolisoliph Philippine heritage sites restoration Rizal Memorial Sports Complex