Arts & Leisure



BY SAM L. MARCELO, Senior Reporter


Waking the Walled City




Posted on April 20, 2011


A treasure trove worth approximately P1.8 billion hides inside Intramuros. A sliver-sized exhibit titled Sulyap: A Preview hints at the Walled City’s vast collection of about 6,000 artifacts -- most of them ecclesiastical -- from the Spanish colonial period to the pre-war era.

  
  PHOTO
St. John the Evangelist in polychromed hardwood
Eucharistic silver, altar adornments, and religious images carved from kamagong have been trotted out of the Palacio del Gobernador into Casa Blanca as part of Intramuros Administration’s (IA) celebration of its 32nd foundation anniversary.

Mula sa Lumang Bahay, a second exhibit, features architectural details from turn-of-century colonial houses. In a small room, a house is broken down into an inventory of parts: "balusters, door and window transoms and sashes, ventanillas, louvers and shutters, lattice work, arches, window posts, grille gates, newel posts, stair railings, column capitals, dividers, and brackets."

In a few years, these artifacts will find a permanent home in a museum reconstructed from the ruins of San Ignacio Church, one of seven that used to be stand inside Intramuros (only San Agustin Church survived the bombing of Manila in 1945).

BUILDING MUSEUMS

According to Intramuros Administrator Jose Capistrano, Jr., who took over the post from Bambi Harper, a budget of P150 million has already been earmarked for the Museo de Intramuros, as the space will be called. Of this amount, P100 million will come from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and P50 million from general appropriations.

Additional funding is being sought, he continued, because the "church portion" of the museum isn’t large enough to accommodate all the artifacts in IA’s care. "We also need to rebuild the Jesuit Mission House," he said, referring to the structure beside the church. "We need more space for our collection." IA hopes to open Museo de Intramuros to the public in 2012.

The museum is only one of the ongoing projects in Intramuros. Others include the transfer of the Visitors Center to Almacenes Reales, a bigger space on the opposite side of Fort Santiago; the reconstruction of the Ayuntamiento Building, seat of government during Spanish times and legislative assembly during the American period, and its eventual conversion into the offices of the National Treasury; and the similar reconstruction of the Intendencia Building (the original customs house before it became an army barracks and the office of the Central Bank), which will become the site of the National Archives through funding from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

IA is also looking into a Fort Santiago light show similar to the one projected on facade of Chartres Cathedral in France.

Mr. Capistrano, who served as Intramuros Administrator for six months beginning August 1989 before he was transferred to the Philippine Tourism Authority, presented these ongoing projects along with a five-year plan that aims to resuscitate Intramuros, an area previously described as "in a coma."

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

"If we are to promote Intramuros as a must-see destination, we have to fast-track its approval as a Tourism Enterprise Zone," he said. Aside from conservation and preservation efforts, IA wants to enter into Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to develop key areas in the Walled City.

Mr. Capistrano envisions Maestranza Wall -- a major, "game-changing" part of the Intramuros plan -- as the local version of Singapore’s Clarke Quay, a historical port area that now hosts restaurants, wine bars, entertainment spots and retail shops.

Other projects open to PPP include an underground parking system either in Plaza Roma or near Fort Santiago; the conversion of the triangular Philippine Constabulary Barracks into a theme park with a miniature replica of colonial Intramuros (a la Madurodam in the Netherlands); the conversion of the old Ateneo building into either a roofed theater and auditorium or a boutique hotel.

Developers such as Ayala Land, Inc.; Federal Land, Inc.; Rockwell Land Corp.; and the SM Group of Companies are being eyed as potential partners.

"Our portion of the partnership will be the land," said Mr. Capistrano. "The private sector will be helping out and, as I understand, [these developers] are very interested in these projects. However, we don’t have an estimate as to how much these projects will cost. They’ll have to go through a bidding process."

The five-year development plan also includes improvements in transportation within the Walled City through a tranvia shuttle system and a number of electric cars. More immediately, IA is looking for a "humane and just resolution" to the issue of informal settlers -- some 3,000 families -- who live inside Intramuros.

"They aren’t squatters, as assumed. They’re on private land but they pay rent to the owners," said Mr. Capistrano. "However, these owners might be open to having their land leased or sold so that other structures can be put up -- call centers or BPOs are ideal because of the height limit imposed on buildings." He continued that IA is already consulting with the community and that Gawad Kalinga has been tapped for livelihood projects.

IA wants to put the "In" back in Intramuros and to market it as a living, happening place that is part cultural destination, part commercial district. Eventually, the Walled City should become self-sustaining. Last year, Intramuros made P59 million, 50% from gate receipts.

Mr. Capistrano knows that IA has a lot of things to do and that a multi-sectoral approach is needed. "Our vision remains the same -- it’s still restoration. But we want to emphasize developing Intramuros as a tourist attraction and involving all the stakeholders in the development," he said. "Tourism can be an engine for investment and national development."

SULYAP: A PREVIEW and Mula sa Lumang Bahay are on view until May 31, except Holy Thursday and Good Friday, in Casa Blanca, G/F, Plaza San Luis Complex, Cor. Gen. Luna and Real Sts., Intramuros, Manila.