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Monday, July 15, 2024

Preserving Filipino memory with restoration of heritage sites

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Home to the largest ensemble of Art Deco buildings in the country, Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila reiterates its longstanding advocacy toward the preservation of Filipino cultural heritage with the meticulous restoration of its Administration Building.

The 75-year-old structure is an Art Deco masterpiece designed by Filipino architect and National Artist  Pablo Antonio, Sr.

It is one of six FEU buildings named National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts through Museum Declaration-1-2018. It is also one of the buildings granted the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Asia-Pacific Honorable Mention Heritage Award in 2005.

This status, which showcases world-class Filipino structural and artistic designs, motivated the restoration.

The restoration efforts for the building took a long time as it went through an arduous and methodical process

“We restored the wallpaper and conducted tile restoration on the ground floor. While doing this, we made sure to retain the integrity of the original design to preserve the building’s status as an important heritage site not just in FEU but also in the entire country,” said  Nida B. Bulanhagui, manager of Facilities and Technical Services Civil Engineering and Architectural Design Department (FTS CEADD).

Bulanhagui described the painstaking process of restoring the marble tiles in the main building, where each tile was carefully dismantled, numbered, and handled to maintain its original arrangement and value. The tiles were cleaned to preserve their colors and designs before being reinstalled in their original positions.

The university allotted P1.2 million for the restoration project. Essential in the process was the jet grouting of the Administration Building to maintain the structural integrity of the heritage structure.

Aside from Italian sculptor  Francesco Ricardo Monti’s “bas reliefs” depicting the various Philippine historical eras, the Administration Building also houses the country’s largest Art Deco mural,  Antonio Dumlao’s  Sarimanok Triptych  in crushed glass and resin, and some  Fernando Amorsolo  paintings, all of which carry an important parcel of Filipino memory.

It is also the venue of the FEU Auditorium, which served as the first Cultural Center of the Philippines during the post-war years and now continues to serve as a venue for culture and the arts, thus enriching the students’ university experience.

A legacy of culture and art preservation

Continuing the legacy of the university as a champion of heritage site preservation and protection, the FTS CEADD is also expecting the restoration of the Science Building and the Architecture and Fine Arts Building this year. In 2025, Nicanor Reyes Sr. Hall is scheduled for jet grouting.

“Expect more renovations and building projects in our campus in the following years. We want to give our students state-of-the-art experience in our campus while maintaining our promise in preserving important heritage sites,” said Bulanhagui.

The FEU Auditorium was the first Cultural Center of the Philippines during the post-war era

Aside from the restoration projects, FEU also hosts symposiums on cultural preservation and innovation. Recently, FEU’s Institute of Architecture and Fine Arts held ArtX, “Konsepto: Innovations of Filipino Arts, Fashion and Architecture.”

The symposium featured respected architects and an owner of a design and construction firm, who are pioneers in the field of local arts, fashion, and architecture.

  “The greenest building is the one that is already built. That was a quote by Carl Elefante that captured my attention. As an architect, who happens to have a passion toward arts and history, restoration of heritage buildings is my way of preserving our rich culture and history,” said  Gerard Lico, principal architect of ARC Lico and a professor of architecture, during the symposium. 

FEU Manila is open for free art appreciation tours to anyone interested to personally experience the richness of Filipino cultural heritage and memory within the campus. These tours are available on Wednesdays, by appointment. To book a slot, you may sign up at  https://bit.ly/FEUCampusTours.

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