Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I don't know where to begin about how upset I am about what is going on in downtown Manila and Intramuros. I heard that the year of the Pig is all about change, but these changes I see are all happening way too fast for me to handle. It truly breaks my heart to see centuries old heritage sites being altered without proper planning and long revered establishments close down to make way for brash commercialism and badly designed real estate projects. Here are a few of those alarming changes that I have to adjust to...

For years I heard that the Order of Saint Augustine had elaborate plans to construct an seminary/annex to the museum behind their cloisters in Intramuros, on the site of the former Agustinian Dormitories which was destroyed in the Battle of Manila back in 1945 (above, right). In the last ten years, several plans were drawn up, scale models were made, but nothing ever seemed to go beyond the blueprint stage. Frankly, I thought that construction would never ever push through at all. Or that perhaps before doing so, they would first repair the crumbling bathrooms and rooms of the original museum and rebuild the bell tower (which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1883) before venturing into the construction of a new building within the complex. Apparently I thought wrong. Way wrong.

Just a couple of days ago, while doing my usual spiel about the American Colonial period in the garden (above), I recieved word from San Agustine employees that construction would finally begin at the end of March. Looking around, I also noticed that all the plants lining the bench area had all been uprooted, the gardener had been laid off, and the trees marked for cutting (DENR permit?) in order to begin construction of a two storey building that does NOT really look like the original structure at all. This came as horrifying news for me as I now have to find a new location for the American Colonial period segment of my tour. But that aside, I was willing to grin and bear the inconvenience and transfer my spiel to the upper galleries during the construction period since the annex would eventually be used as a restoration workshop, auditorium, and exhibition hall for San Agustin. Truth be told, I am not one to hinder any project that would upgrade the facilities of the museum. But unfortunately that wouldn't be the case either as even the purpose of the new building has been changed. No longer will the building be used for cultural purposes but it will now be used by priests as their domitories and nothing else. I don't know if the National Historical Institute approved these new changes (or if they even know what is going on at all). All I know is that the design needs some major alterations (the glass windows are just way too big and inappropriate) and the museum should definitely be given priority. After all, the San Agustin Order has a lot of land in the province, why don't they build the dormitories out there where the air is fresher and there is more space? It just doesn't make sense to me to build a seminary inside the current San Agustin compound.

The building plans...
This will remain.
But all the trees here will be cut down to make way for the new L shaped seminary.

But you know what else doesn't make sense to me? These structures being built next to Fort Santiago. Huge ugly badminton courts/warehouses being built right on the site of the former golf driving range. It's too big, it's too close to the walls of Fort Santiago, and it just ruins the sanctity of the Jose Rizal Shrine (from where the photo was taken).

And unlike the seminary of Father Blanco's garden (which only suffers from a bad design and a misdirected purpose), these structures above are completely ILLEGAL. Built very close to the walls, this project, worth PHP85M, was pursued despite the disapproval of the Philippine Tourism Authority Board and a stoppage order issued by the Intramuros Administration. Obviously, P.D. 1515 or any adherence to the legal system is ignored here.

To learn more about the law which protects Intramuros, log on to this site.

So to all fellow Filipino citizens (and most especially PRESS PEOPLE), if you wish to do more research on these matters or if you wish to file a complaint illustrating your disgust with these issues, shoot out a scathing email to the following folks.

National Historical Institute

Ambeth Ocampo - Chair NHI

Dominador C. Ferrer Jr.
Intramuros Administration
Palacio del Gobernador Building,
Intramuros, Manila 1000
5273155; 5275642; 5273084

Atty. Trixie Cruz-Angeles - Legal NCCA

Sec. Joseph Ace Durano - Secretary of the Department of Tourism

Really Ace. What the hell? Too busy now acting as the mouthpiece for the Unity Team to give a sh** about Intramuros? Throw us a bone here. You freaking ignored Intramuros for the last two years. Now is a good opportunity to redeem yourself.

Forward this post to your friends and colleagues whom you believe cares for the protection and proper development of Intramuros. I really hope it isn't too late.