Save G.S.I.S. By GEMMA CRUZ ARANETA
THE City of Manila, the one and only capital of the Philippines, has unique features that new enclaves like Makati and Taguig do not possess and never will. So, in my opinion, those who say that Manila is lagging (napag-iiwanan) behind Makati and Taguig, do not understand what Manila is all about and there lies the danger. Manila is the only city in this republic that has an enviable density of built heritage resources. Do we really want to convert it into another forest of concrete with no identity? Those who really know about urban rehabilitation maintain that the conservation of Manila’s heritage has great ROI potential. We shall soon see that in the PPP project comprising the Manila Central Post Office and environs. In the meantime, the GSIS building on Arroceros has made it to the “endangered species” list.
Rumors are rife about the fate of the GSIS building designed by Arch. Federico Ilustre. Will it be demolished to give way to an SM annex? Or, a high-rise office tower that will dwarf City Hall? Mayor Alfredo S. Lim has received quite a number of frantic e-mail messages. Here are three of the most representative.
From Assistant Professor Sandra Nicole Roldan of the College of Arts and Letters of the University of the Philippines (Diliman): “Not only is it part of our country’s built heritage, there is still economic value in the structure because it can undergo adaptive reuse. Cities all over the world are realizing the economic value of old buildings and how they can attract tourist dollars, if conserved and reused creatively. The city of Shanghai, for example, has been aggressively renovating, adapting, and conserving the Western-style pre-World War II buildings by converting them into hotels that attract many tourists. Shanghai’s about-face came after decades of demolishing old structures. I am hoping that unlike your predecessors, you will consider keeping our national patrimony intact and useful for the present generation and those to come.”
From Arch. Emilio Garrido, an Asia-Pacific Leadership Program Fellow: “I would like to mention the Bugis Junction in Singapore. The development of the part of the downtown area saved the old shop houses and included these in an integrated development that comprise the Inter-Continental Singapore and other office towers. The former old shops now serve as part of the podium part which contain commercial spaces. If we demolish yet another historic building, we will leave another scar on what can be a potentially beautiful feature of our city. We saw how the Jai-alai building was lost. Please save the GSIS.
Roland de la Paz of Marikina, described himself as a concerned citizen and disciple of art: “My voice may be little, my message puny, but I implore you as a Filipino and an architect to scrap the plan to demolish the GSIS building in Manila. It is a fine example of “streamline moderne” architecture, a symbol to the Filipino’s built legacy and identity and a testament to our taste for sophisticated styles. It is a structural gem the city should treasure. Please stop the madness of demolishing yet another significant building just for commercial gain. There are ways to reconcile real estate gain and heritage conservation so please heed our call.”