Manila is overflowing with heritage structures. Unfortunately, because of lack of heritage literacy and ample government institutional support, some of them have fallen to a state of neglect, or worse, have been demolished to give way to new structures.[READ: In Memoriam: Historical structures we lost over the years]
Other important structures that once ruled the Manila skyline, we can now only see a glimpse of through old photographs. Most of them were ravaged in the Battle of Manila during the Second World War in 1945.
These were era-defining architectures that could have coherently bridged the visual history of the city from Spanish influence to its gradual shift to a Brutalist style after the war years. These include Art Deco structures that used to pepper the length of Escolta Street.
A project led by artists heritage advocacy group Renacimiento Manila aims to reconstruct these structures, if only digitally. Prewar Manila 3D Model is a part of its Digital Manila Project, with a goal to recreate Manila’s cityscape during the Commonwealth period.
Through the digital renders of its volunteers, Renacimiento Manila reimagines these historical buildings in their former glory as a means to remind Filipinos of the olden days.
So far, the team has digitally reconstructed parts of Escolta, Plazas Moraga and Cervantes, Jones Bridge, and Calle Rosario and Luna. Renacimiento Manila is also exploring ways to develop these models into an app, a game, or other digital executions.
They are currently accepting donations to fund the project and keep it free for everyone to access. You can help by sending cash donations through GCash at 0945-2141182.
Here are some of the structures they have successfully reconstructed:
Insular Life Building
Plaza Moraga, Binondo
It used to be the headquarters of insurance company Insular Life from 1931 until it transferred to Ayala Avenue in 1963. At seven floors high, it used to be the tallest building in the area. The building was gutted by a fire in 2018 and has since been in a state of disrepair.
Calle Escolta, Binondo
Designed by National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio, the Lyric Theater was home to many firsts in local cinema. Its 1,600-seat theater was where Disney’s first full-length animated feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premiered on May 1, 1938. It was one of the casualties of the Battle of Manila.
Filipinas Insurance Co. Building
It was home to Filipinas Compañia de Seguros, the first domestically-owned fire insurance company in the country established in 1913. Ironically, the building suffered from fire during the war, which damaged some parts of the structure.
Cu Unjieng Building
Calle Escolta cor. Tomas Pinpin St.
Designed by architect Fernando Ocampo in the Art Deco style, the building was bombed and collapsed in 1945. In its space now stands the Peterson Building.
Binondo River Crossing
Jones Bridge designer Juan M. Arellano was Commissioned by the U.S. government in the Philippines in 1918. It was said that Arellano was so inspired by Pont Alexander III during his trip to Paris that Jones Bridge also had the statuaries of boys on dolphins. Jones Bridge was recently renovated to its original white color.
Calle Escolta cor. Tomas Pinpin St.
A classic example of Beaux-Arts architecture, this served as a home to several offices in its past. Damaged during the war, it was restored shortly after and still stands in Escolta today.
The National Panciteria Building
Calle Escolta cor. Plaza Santa Cruz
A massive bahay na bato facing Plaza Santa Cruz with its back to the Estero de la Reina, the building got its name from the tenants that occupied its space: panciterias. It was destroyed during the Battle of Manila.
Old Monte de Piedad Building
Calle Escolta cor. Plaza Goiti
The building housed the country’s first savings bank and is now popularly known as the Don Roman Santos Building. It has since been expanded and remodeled into a Neoclassical structure, which coincidentally is home to another commercial bank.