IN PHOTOS: The Manila Central Post Office

A miserable day for Philippine heritage conservation—the Post Office Building, a survivor of World War II, burned down last May 21.

On May 21, minutes before midnight struck, a fire broke out at the Manila Central Post Office. The heritage building went down in blazes, burning for more than seven hours until firefighters were able to control the flames at 7:22 am.

As of writing, reports confirm that the fire engulfed everything from the ground floor to the fifth floor. The ceiling caved in, leaving behind the charred structure of the edifice.

The aftermath of the fire.
PHOTOS: Manila Public Information Office/Facebook

It is not the first time that the post office was struck by disaster. The neoclassical building, designed by Juan M. Arellano and Tomás Mapúa in 1926, was rebuilt in 1946 after World War II. Since then, the 16 Ionic pillars fronting the main lobby have remained a familiar and iconic sight for Manileños and passersby traversing Jones Bridge.

The Manila Central Post Office in the 1930s.
The Manila Central Post Office was one of the structures ravaged by World War II in 1945.

Behind Warsaw in Poland, Manila was the second-most destroyed city in the world after the war.

In 2018, the Post Office Building was declared an “Important Cultural Property” (ICP) by the National Museum. As defined by the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, ICPs have “exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance” to the Philippines. This allows ICPs to request government funding for protection, restoration, and conservation.

Lawmakers have urged for concentrated efforts to look into the cause of the fire to prevent similar incidents from happening, especially for ICPs. They have also called for fundraising efforts to restore the building anew.

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Header photo: Post Office Building circa 1950. B&W photos of Manila c/o John Tewell via Facebook

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