Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Manila: Save Manila's old markets too!

All our ASEAN neighbors take pride in their old markets. In fact, they go out of their way to preserve and even restore them. As a result, they are popular destinations among locals and tourists alike.

Kuala Lumpur still has its Central Market, an Art Deco building which is very popular with tourists. It is in fact a declared heritage site of Malaysia and even has its own website, complete with the story of its near demise. The website notes that "it became the first case for large scale adaptive re-use of a building by the private sector after plans to demolish it were scrapped following public protest." It adds that the market "is unlike any other soul-less modem shopping complex in the city."

Singapore has the Telok Ayer Market. Just like its counterpart in KL, this is a declared national monument of Singapore. When tunneling work for the MRT began in 1986, instead of demolishing the market, realizing the historical and architectural value of the market, Singapore dismantled it and put this heritage treasure in storage. It was rebuilt as soon as the MRT tunnel was completed.

Now for Manila. We got this message from Archt. Richard Tuason-Sanchez Bautista of the NCCA: "I happen to pass by three Markets in Manila: Central Market, Quinta, and Paco. All have sign boards that mention about a new market that will be erected in the same site. Quinta is already partially demolished, and demolition is on going. Paco Market, which is among the loveliest market will go the same way."

Above is a photo of the Paco Market which was built circa 1910, courtesy of Archt. Bautista. In the inset is one of the Art Deco buildings that surround the Paco Market. This area, with several Art Deco buildings still standing, would have been a great place for rehabilitation and urban renewal efforts if Manila's planners and engineers were only forward looking.

Mayor Lito Atienza, for the love of Philippine culture, please stop destroying the architectural heritage of Manila!

* * *

Update: I just got a text message from Archt. Bautista who immediately called an engineer from the Manila City Hall. According to him, they will repair parts of the markets and re-layout the place, but not demolish. Let's hope and pray that this is true and that they will not modify the exteriors of these markets. But Richard added that based on what they have done before, such as the Trabajo Market, they changed the entire structure!

I also got to speak with Archt. Lorelei de Viana of the NHI who said that Paco Market must have been designed by Archt. William Parsons. Same goes for the Arranque Market which the City Government of Manila has already altered beyond recognition. So we better make sure Paco Market is preserved!


  1. Anonymous14.12.06

    @ ivan: open air markets are inevitably part of visitor itineraries in the great Asian cities. They do not have to be unsanitary, unsafe, and unappealing. Manila needs to look to other nations as models for preserving heritage while remaining pragmatic. It's always an adventure to wander through a local market, and in there lies a key selling point to la Quinta, Central, and Paco.

    @ Mayor Lito: clean up, install proper plumbing/drainage and lighting, then reopen a rehabilitated historic and functional structure! (jeesh--the man wears those aloha shirts--you call them "Hawaiian"--and lived in Honolulu so many years--he should know how we cleaned up and restored the one in our Chinatown)...selective memory???

  2. Too late for Quinta. It's almost gone as we speak! As an aside, I'm impressed with the List of Singapore National Monuments in Wikipedia. Each building even has its own Wikipedia entry. Ironically, Manila has more heritage structures but Singapore has all of theirs declared!

  3. the problem perhaps lies in our fanatical fascination with everythinng "new" and "high tech". In the current culture that we have, old is oftentimes regarded as obsolete and/or useless. The value that goes with time is lost. It sad that people do not see the history behind architectural wonders, or even historic landmarks.

    the need to strengthen our consciousness is called for. and I believe that in order to do this, we need to establish our identity as a nation. I hate to admit it but we are still confused. we still do not know who we are. Perhaps that is the reason why we put little value in our past or in historical places, landmarks, etc because we do not see ourselves, our history, and our identity in them.

  4. Anonymous14.12.06

    Ivan, I am all for Heritage Conservation, but as far as wet markets are concerned, SANITATION not architecture is topmost -- the cleanliness that affects my food. Second is order, security and better control, what with all the double-dead meat being peddled around, not to mention the pickpockets and petty thieves that prey on the poor.

    There is an average of 500,000 cases of morbidity and 4,200 cases of mortality each year (DOH) due to unclean food and water. If this problem can be partially solved by having MODERN markets, what are we howling about?

  5. Hi Alan, please read the comment of hawayano above. It's a matter of cleaning up the market, installing proper drainaige and lighting, then reopen a rehabilitated historic and functional structure. You don't have to demolish it to make it sanitary.

    That's what heritage conservation is all about. You still have the old structure outside and yet have the most modern facilities inside.

  6. Anonymous14.12.06

    Dear Alan,

    Sanitation was strongly considered in the design of these markets. If you will notice, the stalls are big, the hall ways were wide, drainage and sanitation was there, the ceiling height are high in these places. But it unfortunate that they were neglected, and the new design of the markets have smaller stalls, narrow walk ways and low ceiling height. Maintenance of these places were not continued and the added stalls caused all these problems, but it is certain that all the markets considered sanitation as priority.
    In the case of Paco, the Americans planned it well, architecturally, sanitary, etc..

  7. Anonymous1.12.08

    Ivan thank you for putting this website. I agree we should maintain the old Paco Market, it is a sign of our heritage. Politicians are fattening their wallets with all these "destructive" construction projects the are giving to their relatives. The vendors at Paco market are out in the streets because the politicians and police are making money renting them the sidewalk spaces. Also, there is the Soriano market next door that is not being used. The politicians should focus on improving the basic infrastructure and stop being corrupt.


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