Historical sites yield to dev’t and progress

YET another historical landmark will have to yield to progress and development after the Department of Public Works and Highways on Wednesday said it was planning to relocate the Anda Monument on Bonifacio Drive in Manila to ease snarling traffic in the area.

But Architect Wilkie Delumen, chief of the National Historical Commission’s historic preservation division, said the NHC did not have any objection to relocating the Anda Monument because the site has no historical significance.

Changing times. This roundabout on
Bonifacio Drive, known since 1957 as
the Anda Circle (above left), will soon
turn into a regular intersection to ease
traffic congestion after the authorities
move the Anda Monument to the
Pasig riverbank, near its original site
outside Fort Santiago toward the mouth
of the river as shown in this photo
from 1900s. LINO SANTOS
“The monument is the one that has historical significance, not the site,” Delumen said, noting that the monument was originally erected in 1871 just outside Fort Santiago toward the mouth of the Pasig River, but it was relocated to its current location in 1957 upon the construction of the Del Pan Bridge.

The monument was erected by the Spanish colonial government in memory of Simon de Anda, a colonial official who led the Spanish resistance to the British Occupation from 1762 to 1764 during the European Seven Years War.

It is located at a roundabout on Bonifacio Drive which is the road cargo trucks have to use coming from and going to the Port of Manila, but the roundabout is frequently clogged because of the volume of vehicles and the authorities are planning to remove it altogether.

“We have seen that removing the roundabout is one of the solutions to the traffic congestion. It will also protect the monument from damage from possible accidents,” he said, adding that the NHC received on Wednesday a letter from the DPWH presenting options to help ease traffic in the Manila’s Port Area.

“One option they presented is to reduce the size of the roundabout while the other is to relocate the monument,” Delumen said in a telephone interview.

Delumen said the government had already been planning since 2012 to widen Bonifacio Drive because of the heavy traffic of cargo trucks that has recently caused monstrous traffic jams because of the pile up of empty containers vans at the Port of Manila.

“It was originally former Intramuros Administration head Jose Capistrano who proposed the options of reducing the size of the roundabout or relocating the monument, but we objected to reducing the size of the roundabout because it will no longer be architecturally proportional,” Delumen said.

“The DPWH is citing the 2012 arrangement and they are renewing the proposal to relocate the Anda Monument to the Plaza Maestranza,” Delumen said, referring to the restored part of the Intramuros Wall at the bank of the Pasig River between Fort Santiago and the Bureau of Immigration.

But Public Works Undersecretary Raul Asis said they cannot just relocate the historical landmark.

“There is no immediate schedule when we will remove or reduce the rotunda unless the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the Manila city council gave their permission,” Asis said, adding it will only take two weeks complete the project once permission is given.

“In the meantime, we have already suspended the construction work on both sides of Bonifacio Drive going on Del Pan Bridge to ease the heavy traffic congestion in the area, because of the expected big volume of trucks this coming holiday season,” Asia added.

The DPWH will patch up big holes along A Bonifacio that have been dug up and construction on the road will resume on January 2015.

“The rotunda will become an ordinary intersection soon. We want a freer flow of traffic, especially for trucks,” he said.

Meanwhile, Delumen said the NHC has stopped the renovation work at the historic Army & Navy Club of Manila after slabs from the original building were observed crumbled during the demolition of an annexed building.

“We issued a cease and desist order last Sept. 5 because slabs from the original building crumbled during the clearing of the building,” he said.

Delumen said slabs from the main building crumbled when workmen, employed hotel developer OceanVille Hotel and Spa Corp., removed corroded steel window frames.

“From the outset, we insisted that the developer does not touch the original building without consulting with us,” Delumen said. “But we understand that there is no way to restore corroded steel window frames. We just want to make sure we know what’s going on.”

OceanVille and its engineering firm AHM Phil were allowed to clear the annex building in order to conduct a detailed engineering study before the building, which is owned by the City of Manila, is renovated as a boutique hotel.

“Under dynamic restoration, adaptive reuse is allowed and that is an internationally-accepted practice,” Delumen said.

He said OceanVille has commissioned the firm of noted architect Felino Palafox and the firm is set to present their development plan for the main building today.

Palafox assured the public that their design “will comply with NHCP standards” and that it will prioritize “protection and enhancement of the environment and heritage.”

The city’s tourism czar Carlos Celdran, who used to hold office at the Army & Navy Club, agreed that the building needs to be completely restored.

“In the late 1990s, the walls and floors were already crumbling,” Celdran said. “You could see through to floor below, the plumbing was non-existent and the electricals were a total fire hazard.”

“If truth be told, that building has to be redone completely from the ground up,” he added, noting that the Philippines has had good experience in building restoration.

“Take the Luneta Hotel, the facade is all that is original. The Luneta interior is brand new. It’s literally a building within a building,” Celdran said.

“[The Army & Navy Club] should be restored and adaptively reused to modern uses. A boutique hotel is fine if done properly,” Celdran said.

But he also urged public vigilance involving such projects, to ensure that the people’s heritage is preserved. “Monitor the moves of these agencies. Being involved and concerned is the first step to saving heritage,” he said.


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