Conserving Manila’s Heritage Sites

Today I read this article in ABS-CBN News Online about the social commentary of Dolce Amore, a prime time soap about the degenerating status of heritage sites in Manila. The show went to Paco Park which I’ve also visited and found to be barely maintained. They also went to Luneta Park and discussed how the local government can allow, in the name of increased revenues, an eyesore to be built.

dolce amore
Source: ABS CBN News Online

I find it really sad that the local government of Manila has failed to identify what the city is capable of. In a bid to be like Makati or Quezon City or the other cities in Metro Manila, they have allowed capitalists to enter and build business structures around the city – in the process destroying the heritage sites.

Manila could have been a great city had it stuck to a well-thought out development plan. She could have been an old university town filled with various universities and cultural sites. They could have concentrated on that – developing a vibrant, safe and pollution-free (or lessened) university belt. Sadly, even though there are many universities in the area, the students live in fear of petty criminals and risk their lives in vehicle-infested roads. Slums surround the campuses adding to the pollution and derelict view of the area.

Parks – pocket parks – are virtually non-existent since those that exist have become home to homeless people. The only lung in Manila left has been virtually forgotten. The once grand architectural wonder buildings have been discarded – left to rot until they are eventually destroyed to make way for “better and modern” ones.

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Manila City Legend: Green – Parks; Dark Blue – University Zone; Red – High Intensity Industrial Zone; Yellow – High Density Residential Zone Click image to view clearly Source: Wikipedia

I am saddened that my children may never see Manila with her cultural heritage intact. I, myself, am sad that what I see are mere vestiges of a once glorious past.

Shall I stay on the sidelines? But what can I do?

A visit to these derelict sites, which I’ve always planned but never do, is, I believe, the start.

Week #1: Visiting an Art Museum on Phil. History

It was an unexpected trip. Cultivating an exploratory spirit in tune to the recent Pluto discoveries, I decided to add some spice to my usual monthly routine. 

Arriving earlier than usual for my monthly empowerment sessions in Cubao, I decided to explore the advertised art musuem in Gateway Mall. 

Apparently it’s been around for more than a year already but not being one from Cubao, it was all new to me. 

The paintings were all brilliant works of art as each mural depicted a moment in the history of the country. It was also enchanting how each scene was painted in a way that closely resembled that moment in history. For example this painting depicting how religion flourished in the Philippines is made to look like stained glass reminiscent of many Catholic churches. 

This painting, which was the first in the series depicted the prehistoric era of the Philippinrs. I love how it’s made to resemble a cave painting. 

This painting depicting the darkest moment in Philippine history – the Martial Law years captivates the harsh reality of that time. Beside it is a painting of the EDSA revolution. 

There were many other paintings lined up in a long hall. Each one arranged in chronological order of the event in history. Every historic milestone from the famous revolutions to the formation of the Philippine Republic and government were depicted in art form. Even not so famous but important historic events like the formation of barangays in pre-colonial times to the establishment of work unions in the early 1900s were depicted. 

The paintings culminated in a portrayal of current history done in vivid colors reminiscent of hi-res photographs. It even has the PCOS machine in it. 

The exhibit is an initiative of UP Alumni Association together with several distinct artists. 

It has a coffee book table for those who wish to keep a copy of the paintings and how they were conceptualized by the artists. 

According to the guard on duty, the exhibit will run for two years. It’s open from 10am to 7pm. 

Admission is free. 

History buffs and non-history buffs alike would find value visiting this museum. I don’t think it has attracted a lot of attention given the few people milling by when I was there. But every Filipino deserves to see such artistic portrayal of our country’s history especially when it’s made so easily accessible for everyone. 

Perhaps every mall goer should decide to drop by even if just for a few minutes in this gallery and appreciate art and history together. 


Outside the musuem, on the same level is a topiary garden. It was windy and the breeze was a welcome respite from the heat. However, I was saddened to see that the topiary was plastic. Even the grass was felt. A far cry from the real gardens I’m used to in BGC and Makati. Or even the rooftop gardens I saw in Changi Airport. But for the effort, it’s worth an A. 


Note: This post is part of my 52 weeks of adventure blog series. You can read about it here: 52 Weeks of Adventure