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Arts & Culture

This 94-Year-Old Art Deco Building Stands Right Beside A Mall

The formerly abandoned building dates from 1924 and is now being restored to be integrated into a 21st century development

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Photography: Jilson Tiu

Not many Alabang residents know that they have a heritage gem in their midst. While shoppers rush to buy their groceries at the nearby Landmark department store, they might notice a landscaped driveway (with a central statue done in the classical style) gracefully curving towards a small, but stately building.

 

That building is the former Biological Production Services (BPS), and the structure dates to 1924. According to the Muntinlupa City Government website, the BPS was the main vaccine and serum research unit of the Department of Health for most of the 20th century, until around a decade ago when the unit was moved to a new building near the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. The Japanese Imperial Army, seeing its importance, converted it into a hospital during World War II. 

(Above) The BPS in its former abandoned state, photo from Philippines, My Philippines Facebook page

The facade exhibits obvious Art Deco features, with its horizontal, Deco-Moderne lines, eaves, and geometric details. According to this article by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the architecture is attributed to either Juan Arellano or Juan Nakpil, but most possibly Arellano. It is still unconfirmed.

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If you're curious about the statue of a nude woman standing over a skull, it is a replica of National Hero Jose Rizal's clay sculpture of The Triumph Of Science Over Death, the original of which is located in Rizal Museum in Fort Santiago. Another replica is in the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. This statue, the replica of which was sculpted by Dr. Genaro Sy-Changco, was a fitting symbol of hope in a building that helped save patients who were usually victims of snake bites, or suffered from tuberculosis. 


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While the BPS lay abandoned for more than a decade, a curious ruin amongst the modern-day high-rises, Filinvest Alabang Inc. acquired the property and in a move towards adaptive reuse, integrated the building into its commercial development. According to the same Inquirer article, the building is currently being restored, with portions of it possibly being turned into a museum.


It's  a much-welcome decision at a time when heritage buildings are more often demolished than saved. And the lady will continue to stand proud--a symbol, this time, of its triumph over the wrecking ball. 


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