Pictures to follow. Sorry! Photos added. Still a work in progress. 🙂
About two years ago, I went with Lornadahl for a Postal Heritage Tour around Manila. While it’s not an official tour of the Philippine Post Office, it was nevertheless an educational tour on the postal service and philately, as well as some places around Manila that isn’t covered by the usual Celdran tour. This tour is hosted by the Filipinas Stamp Collectors Club and guided by Lawrence Chan.
What makes this tour interesting is that you get a look into the very fascinating field of philately, as well as a glimpse inside the majestic yet sadly dilapidated Metropolitan Theater in Manila. The tour also stretches to include Intramuros but as the tour is flexible, it sometimes doesn’t even get that far. Still, it’s a trip that is worth the time and effort.
I joined Anne and her cousin for this tour. Rence said that it usually lasts until early evening, mostly because the participants are fascinated by exploring that it’s hard to stick to the time table. We met at Liwasang Bonifacio, the park in front of the Post Office that is more known as Plaza Lawton. The older generation would probably recognize it as Arroceros Park.
The fountain was being used for the Bourne Legacy shoot, and the crew had set up camp at the park itself. I tried to catch a glimpse of Edward Norton but I doubt that he was still around.
The Historical Post Office
We went inside the Post Office first. The Post Office is a small, self-sustaining compound. Because of the large fleet of vehicles it needed, they had their own gas station. There are also smaller buildings within the compound, but sad to say, more than half of them are in a bad state. One is the Post Office museum, but it’s currently closed. I had the chance to attend a philately lecture there during the last tour, but the building is off limits now because it’s structurally unsound.
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The Post Office building is an impressive structure. It is often used in many local productions as a setting for school graduations or law offices. Sad to say, there is news that the building will be sold in the near future as the postal company is losing more money than what they are earning. Fullerton Hotel is said to be interested in it.
Inside, the Filipinas Stamp Collectors Club was holding its monthly meeting and auction. There were a lot of items up for bidding, including a set of Marvel comics and some old mint condition stamps. Some members of the film crew went up to take a peek. Many of the members of the club were from an older generation, one of them even a World War II veteran. There were also some young people there, and there was a group of Koreans going through the stamps for sale. They looked like collectors too.
There was also an ongoing exhibit. Philpex 2012: National Stamp Competition and Exhibition. Various collectors submitted entries to this competition. It’s not just about stamps but also about postcards, correspondence and the postal service in general. It was a rather impressive display, especially if you had one of the more knowledgeable members of the philately group with you. Our group had the privilege of talking to Mr. Jimmy Ang and if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Rey Ong De Jesus. Between the two of them, we got a very informative and fun crash course into the world of philately (and more)!
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The exhibit featured various themes of stamps. Some showcased stamps that was all about animals. Others were about paintings. One entry’s topic was all about philatelic terms. By itself that is already a very comprehensive topic but the fact that the stamps used were all about birds was something equally impressive. Another impressive exhibit was the display of correspondence between a Filipino and a Japanese back in the 1970s. The Japanese has long since passed on, but their memories live on in those letters.
We spent nearly four hours inside the post office. Anne and I managed to get some shots of the famous pillars. I feel sad that one day we can’t just go up to the building to take pictures. Still, I do understand why they have to. Doesn’t mean I’m happy with it.
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The Metropolitan Theater
This pink edifice is a familiar sight to commuters. Jeepneys and buses pass by it and those riding the LRT can see it clearly from the train tracks. Yet not everyone can say that they know what it is, much less be able to remember watching plays there.
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The Metropolitan Theater was designed by the brothers Juan and Arcadio Arellano. The statues that you can see outside are by Italian sculptor Francisco Riccardo Monti (he also did the ones in UST). The murals inside are by Fernando Amorsolo (the originals are being kept at the GSIS museum) The whole building is a collaboration of many talented people, some of which you may recognize from art and history books.
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The view from the top is excellent. You can see the post office, Escolta and even the Fairmart and Isetan buildings. The other side of the building gave a wonder sprawling view of Manila City Hall, Intramuors, Lyceum and the Manila Cathedral.
Sadly, the Met seems to have been long forgotten. Efforts to restore it has been made in the recent years, but no progress. One wonders if it’s politics or just disinterest that prevents anything from being done. It’s such a wonderful building with character and tons of history, it would be a shame to just let it rot.
Like most old buildings, the Met is said to be haunted. One of the women in our group didn’t make it past the entrance, saying that she felt the presence of spirits. They weren’t malevolent, she said, but it still gave me the creeps. Rence said that the ballroom was where many spirits would make their presence felt. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I felt a little dizzy when we first stepped in the ballroom.
Ghosts and other entities aside, I couldn’t help but feel really sad about the state of the Met. I hope that one day soon it would be restored back to its old glory, and not demolished to make way for another condominium or mall.
Arroceros Forest Park
Our last stop was less than five minutes away. The Arroceros Forest Park is the one of the few places in Manila where it’s densely populated by trees. Somehow you can easily pretend that you are far from the city because the trees create a sort of sound barrier that muffles the sound of traffic outside.
It’s a nice place to hang out. We spent a few minutes enjoying the cool river breeze (there was no stench, and the water has less debris floating about) and waved to the boats as they passed by. As the sun set, we said our goodbyes and hoped that the places we visited would still be around in the years to come.