Historic Army Navy Club set to become a boutique hotel

Pia Ranada

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Historic Army Navy Club set to become a boutique hotel
The government assures concerned citizens that the supposed 'demolition' of the Army Navy Club is, in fact, a restoration

MANILA, Philippines – The Army Navy Club, an abandoned early 20th century building which was once a glamorous enclave for American military officers, will reclaim its former glory, this time as a boutique hotel.

Wilkie Delumen, chief architect of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), announced on Thursday, September 4, that the historical building’s developer plans to turn it into a hotel while still preserving its integrity and design.

“Three months ago, the Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corporation, went to the NHCP and consulted us on their proposed restoration and development of the Army Navy Club,” he said during a Senate inquiry hearing on the controversial DMCI development Torre de Manila.

He added that famed architect Felino “Jun” Palafox was tapped by Oceanville to lead the rehabilitation and restoration of the building which is located along the South Road in Manila, behind the Museo Pambata.

He clarified that the photographs spreading on social media of clearing and dismantling activities in the Army Navy Club premises are not photos of a demolition.

The NHCP gave Oceanville’s engineering consultant AMH Philippines Inc a permit to dismantle two annex buildings because the structures were already in a bad state of decay and were found by the consultant to be hazardous.

“We concurred with the findings of the engineering consultant that the annex building be dismantled. That was the only permit we gave,” he said.

The annex structures are not original parts of the Army Navy Club’s main building, he told Rappler. In fact, they were often used as areas for servicemen like waiters, drivers and caterers.

GUTTED OUT. Netizens were alarmed by photos of the Army Navy Club apparently being gutted out. Photo posted on Facebook by Rafael J Roxas

The consultant has also taken out rusting window frames that Delumen says could break apart any time.

But concerned netizens observed that the developers seemed to be gutting the building from the inside.

Delumen clarified that the building had to cleared from inside for AMH Philippines to be able to conduct a detailed engineering study.

He blamed Oceanville for the uproar in social media which had netizens dreading the fate of the building.

He said NHCP had told the developer before beginning their work to install a tarpaulin declaring the clearing activities they were doing so as to prevent rumors of a demolition.


Palafox’ architectural firm, Palafox Associates, is set to present their development plan for the main building. Delumen emphasized that the restoration will preserve the former high-end club’s neo-colonial revival style.

In a text to Rappler, Palafox gave assurances that their design “will comply with NHCP standards” and that it will prioritize “protection and enhancement of the environment and heritage.”

Palafox’ group has taken on other heritage rehabilitation projects including the restoration of the Manila Polo Club and the Novartis Building originally designed by architect Leandro Locsin.

He is also the consultant of Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos for the Metro Ilocos Tourism Master Plan. He had a hand in urban renewal around Paoay Church and restoring convents and seminaries in the province.

But vigilance is needed more than ever now that the restoration and development process is about start, said Ivan Henares, president of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS).

Before any more work is done, “development and conservation plans for the Army and Navy Club should be submitted first and approved through an open consultation process with government and private stakeholders,” he told Rappler in an email.

Elite, glamorous

The Army Navy Club was built between 1910 and 1911 and was designed by William Parsons, the architect chosen by American urban planner Daniel Burnham to execute his master plan for Manila, according to heritage conservation columnist Paulo Alcazaren.

Three storeys tall with two wings, the club was a glamorous gathering place exclusively for American military soldiers. Women, non-commissioned officers, and Filipinos were not allowed inside.

The club stayed popular until the Philippine Commonwealth was established in the 1930s. It was even expanded with tennis courts and a swimming pool where one could enjoy an unobstructed view of Manila Bay.

The building was heavily damaged during World War II but was soon back in action, catering to guests until the 1980s. By then, Filipinos and women were free to walk in.

In the 1990s, the Army Navy Club was restored and housed the Museo ng Maynila. It’s “twin,” the Elk’s Lodge, so called because they were built around the same time and were designed by the same man, became the Museo Pambata.

But while Elk’s Lodge remained alive with children’s laughter and a regular flow of guests, the Army Navy Club was abandoned when the Museo ng Maynila closed its doors.

With the new plans for the building just unveiled, hopes are high that the Army Navy Club will still see happy days. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.