Lately, Philippine heritage, most especially Manila heritage, has come under attack no less thanks to big developers who aim to “redevelop” those structures into something more…modern and commercially viable. And unfortunately in a number of cases, “redevelopment” for them means: “we’ll tear this old, historic building down and build something modern that is devoid of historic value, heritage be damned.”
That may be the way of thinking developer Anchor Land has when it has decided to demolish the almost 80-year old Admiral Hotel and build a new structure which would be a boutique hotel that will, in their words, “keep its heritage alive and ensure that it remains as a historical landmark.”
To which I say, SCREW YOU, ANCHOR LAND!!!
Okay, I am getting myself ahead of the story. So, allow me to delve deeper into this matter.
AN ADMIRAL HERITAGE
The heritage of this structure goes as far back as the prewar years. then known before as an apartment building called Admiral Apartments. Completed in 1939, it was designed by noted prw-war Filipino architect Fernando Ocampo, commissioned by the prominent couple, Salvador Araneta and his wife, Victoria Lopez-Araneta.
Owing to its location facing Dewey Boulevard and the Manila Bay, the Admiral Apartments became a popular landmark in itself, having been graced by the presence of some renowned personalities, like then Pres. Manuel Quezon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, even foreign visitors like Lord Mountbatten and Clare Boothe Luce, the wife of Time Magazine founder Henry Luce and also the first American woman to hold the post of ambassador.
It suffered some significant damage during World War II but was rebuilt soon after. Eventually, it was converted into a hotel, though over the years, it fell into some tough times thanks to competition from newer hotels in Makati, not to mention the declining state of Malate district where the hotel is located.
HERE COMES ANCHOR LAND
In 2009, property developer Anchor Land acquired the property where Admiral Hotel is located as it intended to redevelop the area into a residential project called Admiral Baysuites. The development included the construction of a 53-storey, 179-meter high residential condominium tower behind the original Admiral Hotel structure and the hotel itself to be redeveloped into a boutique hotel. The Accor Hotel group, which manages Sofitel and Novotel hotels around the world, has been tapped to manage what they dubbed as a “five-star” boutique hotel that will arise in the old Admiral Hotel.
As Anchor Land has been actively marketing this project, it also stressed that it aims to preserve the heritage of the old Admiral Hotel. In fact a look at Admiral Baysuites’ Faceboook page shows them quoting the history of the hotel, quotes about the importance of Admiral’s heritage, not to mention photos of renowned heritage advocates like Carlos Celdran, Paulo Alcazaren, and Gemma Cruz-Araneta that the developer invited in their past events related to the project. (which no doubt aims to attract some publicity)
Then last week, Manila was surprised to see this happening at the old hotel.
So much for “preserving heritage,” eh?
Not surprisingly, a backlash ensued, prompting Anchor Land to come out with a statement, which I quote here for the most part:
“Engineering investigations done determined that the original building was no longer structurally sound following years of slow deterioration. Anchor Land remains steadfast in its commitment to its clients and future guests. Hence, Anchor Land took the only responsible decision available, which is to rebuild the Admiral Hotel structure. The decision was made with the interest of all its future guests, staff, and the general public in mind, whose safety Anchor Land prioritizes.
In rebuilding the Admiral Hotel, Anchor Land will take every step to keep its heritage alive and ensure that it remains as a historical landmark. More importantly, guests will be able to experience the Admiral Hotel once more. In line with this, the new Admiral Hotel will be managed by international hotel operator Accor when it opens. It will be the first five-star boutique hotel in the Philippines and the first hotel in the country to be included in the prestigious MGallery Collection of upscale hotels in the world.
Anchor Land believes that the Admiral Hotel’s prestige lies in its heritage. But it will be for nothing if the structural integrity of its premises is not guaranteed. Safety remains to be a paramount concern for Anchor Land as a developer.”
Unfortunately, it all reads as typical PR fluff that tends to ignore some important matters and skirts serious questions, namely:
– What was the basis for the recommendation to demolish the structure? Why can’t they do what other developers in other countries do in dealing with unsafe heritage structures: revamp the interior but at least keeping the facade intact?
-In relation to that, why didn’t take a cue from Luneta Hotel, which was an older structure and was not maintained well for decades but was rebuilt according to safety standards but still respected the structure that not a piece of the facade was demolished?
-What kind of stupidity are they saying about keeping the heritage alive if they already destroyed in the first place? What’s there to keep alive when you killed and made something new out of your own whims, disregarding what has come before? Whatever heritage they are talking is only superficial or artificial, deprived of the very soul that they already destroyed.
It must also be noted that before, there was little to no mention of the Admiral Hotel to be demolished, though in my Google search, some items came up from early this year that the hotel will be “rebuilt.” Even so, why did Anchor Land bothered to invite Celdran, Alcazaren, and Cruz-Araneta in their events early this year, knowing their stance on heritage conservation? This could mean that either Anchor Land has no idea at all about how to preserve heritage, or they may be using these personalities for their publicity in promoting the new Admiral Hotel.
Either way, what Anchor Land has committed is a grave crime against Filipino heritage. What is worse is that they have used deceptions and lies for their profits’s sake and discarding our heritage down the drain.
SHAME ON YOU ANCHOR LAND. SHAME ON YOU!!!
And if they can manage to deceive and lie to known personalities like Celdran, Alcazaren, and Cruz-Araneta, imagine what they can do to other people, especially potential partners and buyers of their projects.
For this reason, the Urban Roamer calls on everyone who is considering dealing with Anchor Land in Admiral Baysuites or with some of their other projects to think twice. Be wary of this dubious company. Or better yet, AVOID THEM. Don’t give your hard-earned money to a bunch of deceiving and lying scumbags like them, for your own good.
To the Manila city government and national agencies like the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, if you cannot explain how a crime like this was not avoided in the first place, the least you can do is to go after the developer to make sure they pay a hefty price for violating our endangered heritage. We now have RA 10066; this should not go unpunished. (unless there would be some technicality that may be invoked)
As someone who has gotten to appreciate the city’s rich heritage, it saddens me to see this wanton destruction of what’s left of the city’s past, all in the name of “progress” or whatever idea of progress they have in mind, which I’m sure is very wrong. The progress of a city does not lie much on modern infrastructure or technologically-advanced structures that were built, but by how much of its past has been preserved and protected for present and future generations to appreciate along with the new.
I still dream that Metro Manila will have that type of progress in the future, and shitty companies like DMCI and Anchor Land would not pose a threat anymore to the metropolis, its heritage, and its people.