Historic Manila Central Post Office Succumbs to Fire

May 22, 2023



Shan Arcega

The Manila Post Office was built way back in 1926. The head office of the Philippine Postal Corporation, this building sitting in front of the banks of the Pasig River in the fortified parts of historic Manila, the Greco-Roman style building serves as an example of Western architecture keeping its place even within the chaos of two world wars. Aside from being the center where mail sorting and distribution operations take place, the Manila Post Office also stands host to the philatelic section where stamp enthusiasts can buy the latest and special edition stamps for their collection. Every year, the Manila Central Post Office hosts an exhibition for old stamps and even equipment related to mail service. As one of the oldest heritage sites in the city, the Manila Post Office serves as an inspiration for architecture students and enthusiasts alike due to its beautiful and classic design.

Related read: Dominic Galicia notes on the Manila Central Post Office

Late May 22, 2023, a massive fire hit the Manila Central Post Office. According to the Manila Fire Station, the fire started past 11 P.M. on Sunday and was placed on the highest alarm level–general alarm at 5:54 A.M. on Monday. Though the Bureau of Fire Protection said that 39 of its trucks and 60 volunteer trucks were sent to fight the blaze, as of 1 P.M. today, Postmaster General Luis Carlos declared that the 97-year-old neo-classical building at Liwasang Bonifacio burned completely and needs to be preserved. 

According to an updated report from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the fire which started in the post office basement and easily spread through the building due to the rooms being made up of wood was an accidental event caused by a car battery stored alongside office supplies, thinners, paints and cans. According to the fire clearance certificate obtained by the Philippine Postal Corp. from the BFP, this car battery located in the southern part of the basement, specifically the Mega Manila Storage Room, self-discharged and resulted in a thermal runaway that caused an increase in temperature and pressure which eventually caused an explosion.

“The BFP report stated that the combustibility of the load contents and its enclosed set-up greatly influence heat build-up that explains the explosion and subsequent conflagration, leading to the full development of fire and subsequent damage of the nearby structures,” the PHLPost stated.

Unfortunately, this fire has also engulfed mail that was to be sent from Manila to the provinces and internationally. Though some PhilIDs for delivery were also affected by the fire, the Philippine Statistics of Authority informed that affected PhilIDs will be replaced at no cost.

Related read: Notes on A Building: on remembrance, cultural preservation, and identity

The Manila Central Post Office has an extensive history as a heritage site that was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt after the war. Declared as an important cultural property by the National Museum that has exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance, the landmark may receive government funding for its protection, conservation, and restoration. Echoing Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s sentiments, Sonny Angara also looked towards the Department of Budget and Management to look for funds to restore the historic building.

According to the Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Superintendent Nahum Tarroza, the initial estimate of the fire damage costs about 300 million PHP. But as one of the historic buildings that carry important significance and can serve as a site where the past traditions and future can merge, it is imperative to have sites like these be restored for future generations to still see and utilize.

Photos from Manila DRRM Office Facebook Page

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