Lifestyle

The Philippines' National Archives are on Fire at the Juan Luna Building

It's the hub for primary sources of information on Philippine history.
IMAGE Rancho Arcilla / Wikimedia Commons
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A fire that started midnight in the Land Management Bureau office in Binondo, Manila, has spread to the Juan Luna Building, which currently houses the national archives. As of 10 a.m. today, May 28, the blaze has affected the Moraga Mansion, a residential building, and the BPI Building, according to GMA News



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According to its website, the National Archives of the Philippines is tasked with "guaranteeing that documents and records are preserved and accessible to the public...Its main responsibility is to preserve the primary sources of information on Philippine history, the basic components of cultural heritage and collective memory." It preserves about 60 million documents from the Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations. 

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Unofficial reports, however, claimed that office's important documents have been evacuated, and only digitization machinery remains.

Designed by American architects Murphy, McGill, and Hamlin, the Juan Luna Building was built in 1923, a joint project of  the Pacific Commercial Company and International Banking Corporation Building. Since the '30s, the five-storey structure was (and continues to be) called the First National City Bank (now Citibank).

With its ionic columns and arched windows, the design features a Beaux-Arts ("fine arts" style of architecture. According to the book Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines, the structure is a prototype of similar designs of banks overseas. 

It survived the Battle of Manila in 1945, and was used for a variety of purposes until businessman Carlos Araneta purchased the property in 2009. He turned it into the Juan Luna Plaza, planning to use it to house BPO offices. It was then restored as the Juna Luna E-Services Building in 2012, but safety issues dissuaded investors, and it failed to turn it into a thriving BPO center.

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In a CNN report dated 2017, Juan Luna building administrator Christopher Hagedorn said that the 1,600-square-meter space on each of the floors awaited "brave tenants who will be willing to risk putting up their businesses in a time machine."

According to another CNN report, three people have been confirmed to be injured by the blaze. 

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This story will be updated.

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Sasha Lim Uy
Managing Editor, EsquireMag.ph
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled SPOT.ph's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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