If there’s one thing that is disappointing to see other than disappeared landmarks, it would be those that have been neglected or being left to its own sad state. Sadly there are a number of such examples one can see in the metropolis. Manila’s historic walled city district we call Intramuros is home to some of these “neglected” structures. One of them which I am writing about today is a landmark that’s hard to miss, a few meters away from the southern bank of the Pasig River. It’s a building known by at least a couple of names: the Aduana, the Intendencia. But it’s known primarily as the old headquarters of the Customs offices during the Spanish colonial era, known as the Aduana. Hence also, the name of the street along which it is located, though officially that street is now known as Andres Soriano Jr. Avenue, an industrialist whose family is said to have had a business based there before, not to mention being formerly associated with the country’s top company: San Miguel Corporation. But let’s go back to our story…
Records show that this building was first built in 1823-1829, designed by a Spanish engineer named Tomas Cortes. Its location is also significant as it was built to be close to the Pasig River where much trade and commerce was going along its river banks as boats transport goods that came from the larger ships that dock at the seaport near the mouth of the river.
An earthquake in 1863 destroyed or damaged a number of buildings at the time; the Aduana was not spared from significant damage that it had to be demolished to prevent further damage. It was to be rebuilt in 1876, and the building soon served not only as the Customs office but also of the Intendencia General, (General Administration) the Treasury, and the Casa Moneda (Mint House) where the first Philippine coins were to be made. The Customs offices would later be moved to the reclaimed Port Area off Intramuros by the 1900’s, leaving the offices of the Intendencia and Treasury at the building. Thus the building became known as the Intendencia.
Looking at the building now, one might tempt to say that World War II brought its destruction. While it did suffer from artillery and bombings during that war, World War II did not bring about its demise. In fact, the building was restored after war and served as office for the Central Bank, then the National Treasury and the Commission of Elections. A fire in 1979 put an end to the functions the building has served and was eventually abandoned.
But all is not lost as plans are underway for the restoration of the Aduana/Intendencia to be used as the future home of the National Archives. As of this writing though, not much activity is being done for restoration due to, understandably, current problems with funding. A problem that is facing many of our heritage structures in the struggle for preservation and restoration.
We hope to see this landmark be restored in its rightful glory someday for generations to appreciate. Frustrating as the problems may be, one can at least be hopeful. Acknowledgements to the Intramuros Administration through its book “Ciudad Murada” for the additional info © The Urban Roamer