Monumental legacy
Category: Villalon, Augusto F. (Pride of Place)
By Augusto Villalon
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 03/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines - The Manila Polo Club in Makati, a heritage structure completed in 1950 by National Artist Pablo Antonio, was recently bestowed a marker by the Architectural Legacy of Philippine National Artists.

During the simple recognition ceremonies, architect Pablo Antonio Jr., representing the late National Artist's family, expressed his "profound gratitude to the officers and management of the Manila Polo Club for their tireless efforts in preserving this club."

Antonio Jr. echoed the rationale for the Architectural Legacy of Philippine National Artists program that seeks to recognize the unappreciated excellence of Philippine architecture while demonstrating that heritage structures built over 50 years ago deserve to continue living, to be reused and updated to render them more relevant to today's way of life, and that the original architectural design and character of the building should be maintained.

In recognition of greatness in Philippine architecture, four institutions are collaborating in the Architectural Legacy of Philippine National Artists program that documents the work of outstanding architects Juan Nakpil, Pablo Antonio, Leandro Locsin and Ildefonso Santos.

As a first phase of the program, commemorative markers are in the process of being installed in 12 surviving works of the National Artists for Architecture although full documentation has been completed for all National Artists' works.

The participating national institutions are the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

In the spirit of professional cooperation, the United Architects of the Philippines, together with the Philippine Institute of Architects, conceptualized the Philippine Architectural Archives Program, the basis of the present Architectural Legacy program.

Boysen Paints is the project's construction industry partner.

Nakpil, Antonio

Among the initial 12 structures are Quezon Institute in Quezon City (1938), Quezon Hall at UP Diliman (1950) and San Carlos Seminary in Makati (1953) by Juan Nakpil.

Juan Felipe Nakpil (1899-1986) was born in Quiapo, Manila. Son of musician Julio Nakpil (composer of Katipunan hymns) and Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio), he obtained his Diploma in Architecture from the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in Paris and received his Master in Architecture degree from Harvard University. He founded the Philippine Architects Society in 1933 and is considered the Dean of Filipino Architects.

He was the first architect named National Artist in 1973 "for his outstanding talents and services in creating edifices, both private and public, that are conceptually well-designed and conscientiously executed."

Works by Pablo Antonio to receive markers are the Far Eastern University campus in Manila (1938-50), White Cross Sanatorium in San Juan (1938) and the Manila Polo Club in Makati (1950).

Born in Binondo, Manila, Pablo Sebero Antonio (1902-75) began his architectural studies at Mapua Institute of Technology and completed his degree at University of London in 1927.

Clean lines, plain surfaces and bold rectangular masses characterize Antonio's buildings, a radical departure from the traditionalist and academic style of the period leading to his reputation as the foremost modernist architect of his time.

He was the second architect bestowed National Artist status (1976) "for his unique creations and distinct contribution to Philippine architecture and to the developing culture of the nation."

Leandro Locsin is honored for the Church of the Holy Sacrifice at UP Diliman (1955), the Church of Saint Andrew in Makati (1968) and the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City (1975).

Locsin, Santos

Leandro Valencia Locsin (1928-95), born in Silay, Negros Occidental, in 1928, completed his architecture studies at University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

As seen in his Cultural Center of the Philippines and Philippine International Convention Center, Locsin floats architectural volumes that capture the visual lightness characteristic of Philippine architecture.

His significant contributions in the search of Philippine identity in design led to his being proclaimed National Artist in 1990 in acknowledgement of "his triumph in combining in a forceful and dramatic fashion the precision of engineering technology with the principles of aesthetics."

Among the achievements of Ildefonso Santos awarded commemorative markers are the landscape architecture of Paco Park (1963) and "Martyrdom of Jose Rizal" at Rizal Park (1989).

Santos (1929- ) was born in Malabon, Rizal, holds a BA in Architecture from University of Santo Tomas and University of Southern California.

He established the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects and headed the graduate program of tropical landscape architecture at University of the Philippines. He was elevated to National Artist in 2006 for his "work in the development of landscape architecture in the Philippines."

The Architectural Legacy program is a commendable first step in establishing the public awareness that heritage buildings are to be respected and should remain in use since they definitely serve a need in our contemporary lifestyle.

Pushing aside the stereotype that to be considered heritage a structure must date to the Spanish colonial era, this program expands the idea of heritage to rightfully include more recent structures dating from the American colonial period, ranging through the early days of Philippine Independence, and all the way to the late 1970s.

Sadly, the commemorative plaques do not guarantee preservation of the buildings.

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