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What we know so far: Movements in Manila’s heritage structures Traders Building, Zamora House

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
What we know so far: Movements in Manilaâs heritage structures Traders Building, Zamora House
This composite photo shows January 2023 photos of Traders Building in Binondo and Zamora House in Quiapo, Manila.
Photo courtesy of Jan Sy via Renacimiento Manila and Marc Maevin Balan of Lagunenseng LAOAG / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Local social media was abuzz with concerns about two heritage structures in Manila at risk of getting demolished.

Heritage structures at risk

Concerns for these structures were raised after heritage advocate groups sounded the alarm over the reported ongoing demolition of the historical landmark Trade Building also known as Yusingco Building or Juan Residencia in the Binondo district, as well as the popular Zamora House in Quiapo.

“Renacimiento Manila, together with its allied heritage organizations, is raising the alarm on the ongoing demolition of two heritage structures, one in Binondo and another in Quiapo,” the Facebook post read.

“In both cases, the structures being demolished are already a hundred years old,” it added.

Traders Building, located on Juan Luna corner Ingreso Streets in the Binondo District of Manila was described by Renacimiento as an Art Nouveau structure, believed to be built around 1920s.

On the other hand, the three-house Zamora House which can be found in R. Hidalgo Street, Quiapo, was built in the 1800s.

The heritage group said a portion of the ancestral house was once owned by Lucas Paterno. It added that chemist and pharmacist Manuel Zamora behind the “tiki-tiki” syrup, used to cure infantile beriberi in the mid-20th century, previously resided in this house.

The two heritage structures are considered Important Cultural Property as they were built 50 years ago. Therefore, these are protected under the Republic Act 1066 or the “National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.”

According to the heritage org, the demolition of the Traders Building was first noticed by advocates during one of Renacimiento Manila's heritage walks, while the members of Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista atbp. Lugar, Inc. noticed the apparent demolition of the Zamora house while preparing for the Quiapo Heritage Walk.

‘No to demolition’

Following these observations, the concerned heritage advocates wrote to cultural agencies, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, authorized to allow the removal of the presumption of a structure’s important cultural property status.

Bea Dolores of Renacimiento said the groups are also trying to reach out to Rep. Joel Chua (Manila, Third District), who pushed for the creation of the Quiapo Heritage Zone in Congress.

Philstar.com obtained the letters from these heritage groups.

In a letter dated Jan. 17 2023, concerned citizen and lead convenor Manileños For Heritage (M4H) Stephen Pamorada called on NHCP chair Rene Escalante to take immediate action against the ongoing demolition of the Traders building. He particularly requested for the issuance of a cease-and-desist order and compulsory repair order.

Pamorada attached photographs taken on Jan. 16, 2023, which showed the demolition of the building in Binondo. He cited that there is no visible demolition permit installed that could indicate a violation of applicable laws such as the National Building Code of the Philippines.

“It is very unfortunate and disturbing to let such a beautiful piece of architecture be completely demolished. With all this, we respectfully ask your office, with your powers and authority, to issue a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) in accordance with Section 25 of R.A. 10066 for the current demolition happening at the building to save what is remaining of it,” the letter read.

“Furthermore, we also seek to explore the powers of the NHCP per Section 16 of R.A. 10066 to issue Compulsory Repair Order regarding the current condition of the building apart from the damages done due to the current demolition,” it added.

For the Zamora House, concerned Sampaloc resident Peter Danielle Rallos likewise wrote to Escalante last January 21 to inform his office of the demolition. He copied the new NCCA chair Victorino Mapa Manalo in the letter.

“A recent photograph from concerned residents dated January 19 and 20, 2023 shows that there is [a] movement within the property,” Rallos said.

“Capiz windows have been moved and large pieces of wood are seen disassembled and placed within the 'zaguan/silong' of the house. Old antique furniture has been seen cleared from the site. No demolition permit is visible in the site as also revealed in the photograph,” he added.

Rallos cited that in 2021, the owners reportedly requested to lift the ICP presumption from the NHCP and NCAA  and secured the demolition of the permit from Barangay 393 and Manila's local government unit.

The property is under the ownership of Richard Zamora via Cielito’s Realty Development Corp. while the demolition contractor was identified as Erlinda Lim.

The concerned citizen likewise called for the issuance of CDO to protect and preserve the entire three-house Zamora-Paterno complex and not just the Lucas Paterno House/Zamora House.

Rallos said the ancestral house is “of utmost importance as it forms what remains of the aesthetic and historical corridor that resembles the lost beauty of R. Hidalgo Street.”

“Demolition of still-existing collection of heritage houses in Hidalgo Street voids possible tourism potential that could be tapped by the local government considering that a Quiapo heritage zone bill is already in the Senate for reading,” the letter read.

“Allowing the demolition of the Lucas Paterno House/Zamora and or any other structure in its vicinity will result [in] a decontextualized historic fabric of R. Hidalgo Street, more so, a disorganized visual landscape that would have aided residents and visitors alike into [a] deeper appreciation of the street and pride of place for Quiapo district,” it added.

“There is no news of demolition regarding the Zamora (left, designed by National Artist Pablo S. Antonio) and the other Paterno-owned house (right), however any unregulated development at the Lucas Paterno house (center) will gravely and irreversibly affect all three,” the letter continued.

What the NHCP said

In a phone interview with Philstar.com, NHCP Architect III Wilmer Godoy confirmed the reported movements in the two Manila heritage structures.

Last January 20, Godoy and two history researchers conducted a site inspection along Juan Luna Street to check the Traders Building where they confirmed the reported demolition.

The NHCP architect said that there were no onsite workers during their visit but they found the interior dismantled while the façade of the building remained intact. There was also no installed signage indicating demolition.

Godoy said the demolition could have occurred a few days or a few weeks before their visit.

Given this, the architect said they wrote to the Manila LGU to verify whether the owner of the Traders Building secured a demolition permit.

They also advised the LGU to stop the demolition since there is no shoring or structure that covers the construction site, making it unsafe for pedestrians and motorists. Godoy said the building is situated along a major thoroughfare and they should have support for any falling debris.

The NHCP architect said there is a need to secure clearance from both the Manila LGU and NHCP before the developers of the Traders building could start any demolition activity.

Godoy also confirmed the ongoing development in Zamora House. He shared the house would undergo an adaptive reuse project.

In architecture, adaptive reuse refers to the “renovation and reuse of pre-existing structures (such as warehouses) for new purposes.”

“The developer of the Zamora House has clearance from us, complete with development plans. They abide with the requirements of NHCP and they are amenable for the preservation and adaptive reuse ng Zamora House,” Godoy told Philstar.com in mixed English and Filipino.

The architect said the developers are eyeing to open shops and restaurants while still preserving the house. He said this could contribute to the economic activities in R. Hidalgo Street which he said is filled with ancestral houses that are likewise ICPs.

Like in the case of Traders Building, Godoy advised the developers of the Zamora House adaptive reuse project that they should install signage bearing the perspective or any sketch representing the plan for structure. They are also required to put up fences while conducting construction to avoid accidents in the area.

Update

In a Facebook post on Thursday morning, Marc Maevin Balan, a heritage advocate/enthusiast and founder of the Lagunenseng Laog page posted photos of the Zamora House taken on January 25.

His latest photo showed the Zamora House currently has a tarpaulin indicating the proposed adaptive reuse plan for the ancestral house. It bore the name of architect Egbert Nielsean Chua.

Balan shared that hired workers are conducting construction activities inside and outside the house when he paid a visit along Calle Hidalgo.

“According to the tarpaulin, it is said to be an adaptive reuse house and it can be seen that braces are placed or installed in the front,” he said.

The heritage advocate is hopeful for the success of the adaptive reuse project on the historic Zamora House.

“I hope the outcome of the renovation of this house will be good and its contribution to the history of the country will not be wasted,” he said.

Lack of funding

Meanwhile, NHCP’s Godoy said that while the agency is all for the preservation of heritage structures, it also welcomes development that could contribute to the economic activity in their respective areas, provided that the plans are balanced and guided by the cultural agency.

He stressed that to restore the heritage sites and structures, the government agency needs more funding.

“The funding is very scant…We are caught in a dilemma that at the end of the day we need a budget to carry out preservation projects,” Godoy told Philstar.com in mixed English and Filipino.

According to Godoy, the government prioritizes the preservation of communal structures such as city and municipality buildings, old churches and museums. Hence, preserving private property has been a challenge for them given the lack of funding.

Godoy also said it is for this reason that owners who seek the development of heritage structures should not be antagonized but rather should be engaged in dialogue and coordination with LGU and cultural agencies.

NATIONAL HISTORICAL COMMISSION OF THE PHILIPPINES

NCCA

NHCP

RENE ESCALANTE

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