City of Manila

From Bank to BPO: The Tale of Juan Luna E-Services Building

At a time and place when heritage conservation is the last thing on the minds of many people, it uplifts one’s heritage-loving spirit whenever there is a story of heritage that has been preserved and restored for a new generation’s appreciation. It is also good to know that we are hearing some more of these stories thanks to a growing awareness on the need to presere our colorful past.

Today, the Urban Roamer is happy to present another such story here. Known before as the First National City Bank Building, it has been given a new lease of life ready for the future with a new name to reflect its rebirth: the Juan Luna E-Services Building.

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Designed by an architect whose name is now unfortunately lost in history, the building was completed in 1922 thanks to funding from the El Hogar Mutual Association, AKA its neighbor across Juan Luna St.

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It first served as the headquarters of a trading company, the Pacific Commercial Company.  Then in the 1930s until the 1940s, the building became the Philippine office of an American bank, the First National City Bank (of New York) which would later be one of the precursor institutions to what would become one of the leading financial institutions in the world today, Citibank.

In its heyday, it was (and still is) one of the imposing buildings to have been built along the northern bank of the Pasig River. After all, it was hard to miss the classic columnar design meshed with early 20th century building architecture.

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It fell into a slow steady decline in the following decades as it fell into gradual disuse. Fortunately, with the dawn of the 21st century came also a new dawn for this building. Under new ownership, the building was given a new lease of life thanks to adaptive reuse, now envisioned to serve as office space for the country’s thriving business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. With that came a new name for the building, now known as the Juan Luna E-Services Building.

With a team headed by architect and writer Augusto Villalon, the building went through some structural retrofitting and some changes such as the addition of a viewing deck at the topmost floor while keeping many of its elements intact.

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the added viewing deck, giving one a panoramic view of Manila

As of this writing, some works are still being done but needless to say, the building is almost ready to be leased to interested BPO companies as part of an effort to lure businesses back to the capital city and its old business district in Binondo.

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It is the Urban Roamer’s fervent hope that this development will serve as an inspiration for the rebirth of Binondo and the old business district there, as well as for the resurrection of our country’s neglected heritage for present and future generations to appreciate. Perhaps this time, it can help in the rebirth of its neighbor across the street.

Acknowledgements to AXL Powerhouse Productions blog, Manila Nostalgia and Escolta Facebook groups, Rence Chan’s Postal Heritage tours, and the owners of Juan Luna E-Services Building in making this entry possible

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