At this time when we in the metropolis are suffering from the effects of El Niño and temperatures reaching as to as high as almost 37 degrees Celsius, this urban roamer cannot help but look back at a time when there was such a thing as a literally cool spot in Manila where perhaps we can take refuge from all the heat. I’m referring to none other than the Insular Ice Plant.
Back in the days when refrigerators either were non-existent or not widely used yet, the Insular Ice Plant was one of the first buildings built by the Americans to keep the steak and beer fresh and cold. Designed by Edgar Bourne, it was a well-built building and it had a towering smokestack that was a landmark of sorts of Manila for many years, just near the southern end of the Puente de Colgante, then eventually the Quezon Bridge, right across the Post Office Building, Jones Bridge, and the Metropolitan Theater.
It is said that the plants blows off a whistle every hour, in the same way the Manila City Hall clock tower sounds off every top of the hour. Its whistle was a part of the everyday life of the people who have lived and worked in Manila, especially in the downtown area which was close to the ice plant. In fact, many look forward to the whistle of the plant at 4 PM so they can hurry finishing their work so they can go home.
Remarkably, the Insular Ice Plant survived the destruction brought by World War II to the city and even its fall into disuse. Unfortunately it was not able to survive the demands of rapid urbanization when it had to be torn down by the early 1980’s to give way to the construction of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 in the area.
Nowadays, apart from the posts of the overhead LRT Line 1, the old site of the Insular Ice Plant has given way to a ferry terminal of the revitalized Pasig River ferry service and soon, a terminal for south-bound buses or other public vehicles.
Looking back, while the demands of mass transit could not be ignored even at that time, one has to wonder if there was no way to have saved this building for its legacy and a tribute as well to pre-war American architecture in the country.
Perhaps there might have been a way to utilize it into something else, like an winter or ice-themed museum or park which can help somehow alleviate the heat wave woes we are experiencing.
We can only dream of those things that might have been.
© The Urban Roamer