Sunday, 17 March 2013

Attempted Manila Post Office walking tour

Mercury must still be in retrograde because the walking tour that Lilo invited me to join around Old Manila didn't proceed as planed.

The walking tour is a monthly free tour organized by the Filipinas Stamp Collectors Club every 3rd Sunday of the month. According to our guide, club member Lawrence Chan, the walk is part of the Club's advocacy program to promote stamp collecting as well as generate appreciation for our country's heritage and history.

Lilo, Odel and I were there as early as 12 noon. The lobby was already set-up like a tiangge  with tables offering various vintage items such as Barbie Dolls, Coca Cola memorabilia, matchbox, baseball cards, marvel comics, magazines, vinyl records and several other collectibles. At the end of the lobby, the Selyong Pinoy Club was holding an auction. Stamps, coins,  bills, postcards, Pilipino classic comics, etc were being auctioned.

Guide showing us pictures of Old Manila
It seemed like all sorts of collectors  - philatelists, bibliophiles, numismatist, deltiologist, you name it - were going through the various lots. We had to nudge Odel out who was glued to the postcard section looking at  picture postcards of  Munich dating from the 1970s.

At 1pm, we went across the street to Liwasang Bonifacio plaza to meet the group. The plaza is named after national hero Andres Bonifacio and has become a regular rally site for action groups. Similar to Carlos Celdran, our guide pulled out a picture book containing photos of the Old Manila.  We then walked back to the Philippine Post Office, a neoclassical structure built in 1926 and designed by architect Juan de Guzman Arellano, the same architect of the Metropolitan Theater and Jones Bridge.

At the post office, we were asked to wait. The tour was supposed to take us around the building including the compound area and after, walk to the Metropolitan Theater (we were told to bring flashlights for this) and end in Chinatown's Binondo. Honestly, it was too hot to be walking outside and thus, it was a blessing in disguise that the guards changed that day and wouldn't allow us to go further than the lobby.

Lilo and I watching the auction (photo taken by Lilo)
While waiting we chitchatted with the other tour participants. I found out from one that Singapore's Fullerton Group backed out of the plan to convert the historic building into a 5-star luxury hotel. He added that the government may condemn the building soon because of its escalating maintenance cost.

I posted this possible occurrence on my facebook wall to which Boo Chanco commented: "According to [Tourism Secretary] Sec Mon J, they have to relocate the Post Office before they can plan what to do with the building and the Met [theater]. All will be part of the Intramurous development plan."

Well, I do hope so. The government should as much as possible preserve our heritage and this means saving this 87-year old building. Note that aside from the converted Singapore Post Office, they should look into Chicago as a model. Chicago's old Post Office is currently being developed into a retail complex that includes a 40-storey hotel and two residential towers.

Anyway, we got tired of waiting. At 2:30 pm, we decided to leave and headed out to SMX where it was for sure air conditioned! Luckily, we were able to visit the Manila Fame 2013 which was on its last day. It's a 3-day annual event, showcasing the country's best of the best furniture and furnishings, fashion and accessories.  I was surprised to see two French companies among the exhibitors - a porcelain tableware company and furniture-designer.

Alors, hopefully our next attempt to join the Phil Post walking tour will not be in vain.

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