El Hogar to stay . . . for now

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El Hogar on Juan Luna Street, Muelle dela Industria, Binondo, Manila

Heritage advocates have raised the alarm anew on the iconic El Hogar Filipino building in Manila following reports that Manila City Hall had issued a permit for its demolition.

The building, which has elements of Renaissance and Neoclassical styles, is one of the few remaining early American-era structures along the historic Pasig River.

No demolition permit has been issued, said Manila Building Office records section head Jojo Hogar (no relation to the building).

The Inquirer learned that Michael Chuakaw, vice president of The Ritz Premiere Corporation, the new owner of the building, wrote Manila building official Armando Andres in July 2015 requesting for the declaration of condemnation of the building as “structurally unsafe and dilapidated.”

They cited the April 2015 Nepal earthquake and the 2004 Japan International Cooperation Agency report, among others, about the impact to properties and human life in the event the West Valley Fault and the Manila Trench move.

Courtyard inside El Hogar illuminates the interiors. –PHOTOS BY EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

Chuakaw expressed his company’s desire to “voluntarily demolish.”

An inspection by the Manila Building Office in that same month recommended demolition, calling the building “ruinous, dangerous and a nuisance posing imminent danger of collapse.”

“Demolition is hereby favorably endorsed to preclude any untoward incident that may result to loss of lives, property, health and welfare in relation to [the National Building Code of the Philippines],” read the report obtained by the Inquirer.

In a March 2014 letter to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the Manila government assured it would seek NHCP’s advice before issuing a demolition or condemnation permit.

Griffin detail in the stairway of El Hogar

Asked if Manila had asked NHCP’s advice on El Hogar, architect Louie Valerio of the NHCP Historic Preservation Division said no.

In a letter obtained by the Inquirer dated Aug. 17, 2016, Manila City building official officer-in-charge Rogelio Legaspi sought the official position of then National Commission for Culture and the Arts chair Felipe de Leon whether to restore or condemn the “heritage structure” El Hogar.

There was no formal response from the NCCA, the Inquirer learned. –CONTRIBUTED

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