MANILA, Philippines – Fire razed the decades-old Manila Central Post Office at 11:41 pm Sunday, May 21, and was declared under control the next morning at 7:22 am, around eight hours after.
The cause of the fire is still unknown as of posting time, but damage has been estimated at P300 million.
Philippine Postal Corporation Postmaster Luis Carlos said that the letters and parcels in the building were “totally burned.” Some court letters and national IDs were also affected.
Filipinos online took to social media platforms to lament the destruction:
Here’s what you need to know about one of Manila’s most distinctive historical landmarks:
Original construction and 1st fire
Designed by renowned architects Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua, the construction of this neoclassical building – worth a whopping P1 million at the time – began in 1926. It was built to serve as the center of the Philippine postal services, and as the headquarters of the then-Bureau of Posts – now the Philippine Postal Corporation.
This recent fire, however, was not the first time the structure had been put in danger – it had been gravely damaged during World War II in the Battle of Manila. It was rebuilt after the war in 1946, mainly staying true to its original design.
Considered to be Arellano’s magnum opus, it’s easy to be in awe of the Post Office’s facade, which sports 16 Greco-Roman Ionic pillars and flanked on either end by two semi-circular wings. On top of the building is a recessed rectangular attic story. It was often dubbed one of the grandest buildings in the country when it was first completed.
You can see the Post Office’s style reflected in other iconic buildings designed by Arellano, from the Manila Metropolitan Theater, to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, and the provincial capitols of Negros Occidental and Cebu.
Location, location, location
While the Post Office’s location right on the shores of the Pasig River by the Lawton, Ermita area makes it picture-perfect, its placement is not just for mere aesthetics: the goal was for easy transportation of mail via the river, according to American architect Daniel Burnham’s original plan for Manila. It was also placed at the center of Manila’s converging avenues, making it easily accessible from Quiapo, Binondo, Malate, and Ermita.
Important Cultural Property
The post office was declared an “Important Cultural Property” (ICP) by the National Museum in 2018 – the 251st anniversary of the Philippine Postal Service. ICPs are considered properties with “exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance to the Philippines,” and can receive government funds for its protection, conservation, and restoration.
Home of Philippine philately
The Post Office, fittingly, also has a dedicated section to philately or the collection of postage stamps. The Post Office even holds an annual “Stamp Bazaar” on the premises, which is attended by the Philippine Stamp Collectors Society and other stamp enthusiasts. Special edition stamps are also released by the office from time to time; some recent designs commemorate Philippine cinema, Lapu-Lapu, and even PBA icon Robert “Sonny” Jaworski Sr. – with reports from James Patrick Cruz/Rappler.com
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