Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Central Post Office - Memories of a Colonial Past (Manila)

The heart of the country's post-sorting and distribution station is Manila's Central Post Office, the head office of the Philippine Postal Corporation. Forget its salient function and it's understandable why the building is an eye catcher. Its neoclassical architecture was conceptualized by Juan M. Arellano and Tomas Mapua who designed and built the building in 1926. Though this was severely damaged during World War II, it didn't take long to rebuild it to its original glory. In fact, by 1946, it was proudly standing again.

A "fu dragon" welcomes from one side of the bridge.

The location of the Post Office was part of Daniel Burnham's city planning, deliberately situating it at the confluence of several streets near the banks of the Pasig River. It is accessible from several sides: Quiapo, Binondo, Malate, Ermita. It has 16 ionic pillars and cost PhP1 million to build.

Who was Daniel Hudson Burnham? He was a New York-born, Chicago-raised architect and urban designer who created master plans for several cities all over the world. This includes Chicago, downtown Washington D.C. and Manila.

Yes, Manila was from the brilliant mind of a world class planner. More than an urban planner, Burnham always wanted to be a good man. He believed that "man should strive to be of service to others". He was also commissioned to plan Baguio City, thus Burnham Park was named after him. If Bacolod City's Provincial Capitol seems familiar, this is because it is Daniel Burnham's work.

This central office has been featured in several local movies because of its scenic facade. It's also one of my favorite places in old Manila, though I have never stepped on its grounds until the day I took these photos. In front of the building is a statue of Andres Bonifacio, a revolutionary hero who hailed from Tondo. He was a mason and a member of La Liga Filipina. He eventually founded the revolutionary movement KKK aka the Katipunan who fought against the Spaniards. He was called the Supremo.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Andres Bonifacio: The Supremo.

Pasig River


Ramakrishnan said...

The pictures are terrific. Really nice to see the colonial building so well preserved,picturesque and also functional.The statue of Andre & the Fu Dragon are imposing !(What is FU ??)

eye in the sky said...

Ram, I used to call these dragons as "nagas" as they're famously called all over Asia but a recent visit to a Chinese Filipino museum named them "fu dragon". To be honest, I was quite taken aback why these figures are found in church compounds (in Manila, and in Cebu). History reveals that many artisans who helped build these churches were Chinese immigrants and they had free rein to the exterior designs, thus the dragons.

Why "fu dragon"? Well, shaolin was quite famous during those times. The fighting movement had 5 animal kung fu styles: tiger, leopard, crane, snake and (the rare but most powerful) dragon. The Kung Fu Dragon - or Fu Dragon figure "protects treasures, defends against famines and floods, and is filled with ancient wisdom."

Ramakrishnan said...

Thanks for detailed & articulate answer.