Today, the Urban Roamer is celebrating its 11th anniversary. It’s been quite a journey these past 11 years, especially these past few months when this global pandemic and the restrictions that came with it has effectively prevented this roamer from going out as much as he wanted.
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic and restrictions as a result, news came out that developer SMDC has now begun the process of demolishing significant parts of the old Philamlife Building in Ermita. Although SMDC stated they intend to preserve at least the facade of the building and that there will be a theater component to it in honor of the Philamlife Auditorium, it doesn’t help that SMDC plans to put above their typical, uninspiring, tower building on top of it which cancels out the unique architecture of the Philamlife Building.
But rather than delve on the uncertain fate of the iconic Philamlife Building, I want to take this opportunity to tell a personal story that I have about this building, something that I never actually got to tell in my previous piece about it. To be honest, I kinda forgotten about it too until recently as this news coupled with my recent binge watch of computer-related stuff on YouTube rejigged my memory…or at least what’s left of it.
My first experience with a PC
Back when I was around Grade 1 or 2 in the early 1990s, my dad worked in the offices of a shipping company which had its office at the Philiamlife Building. Being near Rizal Park, we would pass by the building and point to the location of his office which I think was eventually occupied by a bank shortly before the building’s closure. I distinctly remember being impressed with the structure and the futuristic design of the walkway and I thought it was a nice place for one to work.
During that time, I managed to get inside the building once or twice with my dad to take me to his office. Those instances happened on a weekend so I never got to meet any of his colleagues except for perhaps the guard. While I can’t remember the specifics now, I can distinctly remember that it was in one of those visits that I got my hands on a personal computer or PC for the first time. It was one of those computers that placed the CPU beneath the monitor, a 5.25-inch floppy drive, a DOS-based operating system, and one or two games installed that I got to play.
Looking back, I think I was not really that much into the personal computer as I was more into gaming consoles like the Nintendo Family Computer that we had at home. I guess I was not impressed with the colors and the complexity of those DOS commands. Nevertheless, it did leave an impression which would eventually evolve into greater interest with the advent of the internet and custom-built computers years down the line.
My first and last Philamlife Auditorium experience
While I would pass by the Philamlife Building over the years, especially as I began to be an urban roamer, I never got the opportunity to step inside the building again. That was until February 2013, when I attended the concert of my old high school’s choral group. I couldn’t miss the opportunity as it would be a chance for me to step inside the Philamlife Auditorium for the first time.
It was also an opportunity to document as much as I can of the building knowing that its future was an uncertain one at that point. At that time, there was news that the building will be sold to a new owner as Philam Life would relocate to a new office in the Bonifacio Global City the following month. And that chorale concert would be one of the final events, if not the final one, that would be held in the auditorium.
As such, it was a bittersweet moment for me that it was my first and last time to be able to fully appreciate the beauty of this building before it would closed down for good and its future still in doubt as of this writing.
Whatever will be the fate of the Philamlife Building, I will always be grateful for the memories it has provided me. I can only hope that its legacy as a landmark of the city and of memory shall be honored in one way or another.