Saturday, December 20, 2014

A.M. Shorts: Michel Apartments


The Michel Apartments at its splendor. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Long before the rise of multi-storey residential apartments in post-war Manila such as in Makati, there were already numerous apartments that were as elegant, if not, more elegant, than those of today's, in pre-war Manila. Manila, being the capital of a prosperous Philippine Islands, was once home to many expatriates of different nationalities, such as Spanish, American, British, and German. And within the confines of the modern residential section of Ermita and Malate lies the Michel Apartments, one of the city's top residential apartment.

The Michel Apartments was an art-deco, mid-rise apartment building designed by Francis 'Cheri' Mandelbaum, whose other work was the Rosaria Apartments nearby. Mandelbaum was an American architect trained in Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He also spent some time in the Philippines, coming to the islands in 1904 to work in the Bureau of Public Works with William Parsons, urban planner and architect of the Paco Station of the Philippine National Railways. Also, he worked as a professor of architecture at the University of Santo Tomás in Manila. 

At some time, the Michel Apartments was the tallest apartment building in the City of Manila. 


The Michel Apartments lay in ruins after the liberation of the city in 1945. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Michel Apartments stand nine storeys high on a 1730-square meter lot along Calle A. Mabini in Malate, the residential section of the city where many of the country's pillars in social, economic, and political institutions resided. The Michel was commissioned by Don Pedro Sy-Quia y Encarnacion, a scion of the old and landed Sy-Quia family from the north. The Michel was said to be named after his wife, Doña Asuncion Michels de Champourcin y Ventura, a mestizo from Pampanga.

This year, 2014, the Michel Apartments was hounded with a demolition permit, despite of it being a protected structure under law. The demolition of the Michel Apartments was stopped by heritage conservation activists and citizens alike through the "cease-and-desist order" from the court. But, the demolition of the Michel had already started when the court ruling came out, so it would be of no use.

Destruction of heritage structures should be given the highest priority, as physical heritage is rapidly declining because of irresponsible governance of local leaders. If the government continues to act in a way like they do not give importance to the country's heritage, then these structures will be prey to money-hungry developers.


1 comment:

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    Joan Gill

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