During our tour, Grace and I could not help but notice the proliferation of fine-dining restaurants and cafes inside portions of the ancient walls, vaulted chambers and some fortifications, notably at Baluarte de San Andres and Puerta de Isabel II, all built in the name of “adaptive re-use,” a concept wherein the past is adapted to keep it as a living part of its newer environs. Here, the argument between conservationists (notably the Heritage Conservation Society, an NGO) and the Intramuros Administration. The first is concerned by this commercial invasion of Intramuros’ past while the latter concerned with the task of preserving it by any and all means. In these days of national budget deficits and cuts and the Asian financial crisis, economic imperatives have necessarily come into the picture. A great deal of funding is needed in the restoration and preservation (and later, the operation) of historic sites such as Intramuros. That is a given. On one side of the coin, the IA is hoping that revenues earned from these restaurant and café endeavors would help in the economic revitalization of Intramuros by creating new jobs, promoting heritage tourism, increasing the area’s property value and, in the long run, attracting new investments. In short, they are hoping that this economic base will eventually support Intramuros’ preservation. “Revitalized” historical districts usually cited include Clarke Quay in Singapore, Covent Garden in London and the Cartagena de Indias Fortifications in Colombia. On the other side of the coin, conservationists and moralists are concerned that these new constructions will violate the IA charter by debasing the structural integrity of the historic walls. The IA charter states that “all walls, fortifications and gates are special zones subject to specific rules and regulations regarding allowable and prohibited uses, specific building requirements and architectural standards”. They also contend that these restaurants and cafes endanger Intramuros’ unique historical atmosphere as well as damage the morals of students studying in the nearby schools and universities. As architects, Grace and I are doubly concerned with how these new commercial developments may compromise Intramuros’ structural, as well as, aesthetic integrity. Just the same, we are also pragmatists who believe, especially in these days of economic uncertainty, that these are viable ways of making restoration and preservation pay for itself. However, it is our hope that, with proper monitoring of building regulations and violations, a compromise might be struck between the two sides.
After our lunch at Toho Restaurant in Chinatown, Grace, Jandy, Cheska, Dad, Mom and I drove to Intramuros and parked the car at Fort Santiago, just across the Manila Cathedral. Being a weekend, there was a steady stream of visitors, including foreigners, all strolling leisurely. With Jandy, I planned to revisit the fort, our last visit being way back March 1, 1993 when Jandy was just 6 years old.