Lost in Flames: The Manila Central Post Office, a Cultural Landmark, Leaves a Void in Manila's Skyline


With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to the Manila Post Office, an architectural marvel that has stood as a proud symbol of the city's heritage and resilience. Today, as the flames consume its storied walls, we are reminded of its glorious past, the bustling energy, and the vital role this iconic landmark played in connecting people and shaping the fabric of Manila.

A testament to Philippine postal heritage

Throughout its history, the Manila Post Office played a pivotal role in connecting people, fostering communication, and preserving the written word. It served as the lifeline between families separated by distance, as well as a conduit for businesses, governments, and individuals to exchange messages and packages. The hustle and bustle within its walls were a testament to the power of human connection and the vital role played by postal services in a rapidly evolving world.

The Manila Central Post Office Building, which served as the hub of Philippine postal services and the headquarters of the former Bureau of Posts, was built in 1926 near the Pasig River, which presented a convenient pathway for the seamless delivery of mail. Additionally, the strategic location of the post office allowed for accessibility from all directions, including Quiapo, Binondo, Malate, and Ermita.


Situated in Liwasang Bonifacio, the Manila Central Post Office showcases a splendid neoclassical architectural style. This masterpiece was a collaborative effort between two American architects, Ralph Doane and Tomas Mapua, as well as Filipino architect Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano. Renowned for its elegance and grandeur, the Post Office Building stood as a prominent structure during its time and continues to be one of the most iconic landmarks in Metro Manila.

The Manila Central Post Office in 2012.

Destruction and rebirth

Beyond its functional purpose, the Manila Post Office encapsulated the aspirations and dreams of a burgeoning nation. It witnessed the ebbs and flows of history, surviving World War II bombings and standing tall as a beacon of resilience. The building endured destruction during World War II in 1945 and was reconstructed in 1946 in the aftermath of the war.

WWII 245.F11.3
An aerial photograph showing the Manila Post Office and the Pasig River. Image was taken around 1945 or 1946 during World War II, while James W. Setzer of Maiden, NC, was serving in the 29th Engineer Topographic Battalion in the Philippines (circa 1945-1946). From James W. Setzer Papers, WWII 245, WWII Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.
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The Manila Post Office was more than just a building; it was a symbol of civic pride. The grand facade exuded a sense of dignity and permanence, a stark contrast to the ever-changing urban landscape that surrounded it.

Dominating the front facade of the colossal structure, one's gaze is drawn to the imposing row of 16 Ionic pillars that majestically line the steps, beckoning visitors towards the entrance. Awe-inspiring in its scale, the main body of the building is crowned by a recessed rectangular attic level, while two graceful semi-circular wings stand as stalwart companions on either side. Stepping inside, one is greeted by a grand lobby adorned with subsidiary halls at each end, nestled beneath the resplendent domed ceilings that grace the semi-circular spaces.

A loss for cultural heritage

Fire engulfs the Manila Central Post Office on May 22, 2023.

As we witness the devastating flames consuming the Manila Post Office, we mourn not only the loss of an architectural masterpiece but also a piece of our cultural heritage. Its destruction leaves a void in our urban landscape, a void that cannot be easily filled. The Manila Post Office stood as a symbol of our collective history, reminding us of the legacy left by those who came before us.


While the flames may have engulfed the physical structure, the heritage of the Manila Post Office lives on. As we bid farewell to this architectural gem, we must embrace the opportunity to rebuild and reimagine a future that pays homage to our past. It is a call to preserve our cultural heritage, to create spaces that inspire, and to honor the stories that have shaped our nation.

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Thea Alberto-Masakayan
Thea Alberto-Masakayan is the Deputy Editorial Director of Summit Media.
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