Heritage as a live concept

Published July 31, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRIPE-VINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL

You mention heritage award in the context of architecture or a standing structure, and more often than not, one will think of an anachronistic, seldom-used, or outdated building that’s outlived its usefulness. And that the award is being bestowed to protect its design components and/or decorative features, or because someone of historical note once lived in it. We see this all the time in European cities like London and Paris. In cities of a developing country like ours, the emphasis has been more about progress, urban renewal, and modernization.

And that’s precisely why I loved watching the Palacio de Memoria on Roxas Boulevard receive a Heritage Award from our National Commission of Culture and the Arts. The award is in the Adaptive Reuse category, and to me that spelled the big difference. That’s because it’s an award for successfully blending cultural preservation with economic function. In other words, the Palacio is a going concern, a breathing/living structure that serves people and visitors today, while it’s been rehabilitated to showcase its provenance as one of the last standing pre-war mansions of Metro Manila.

THE NCCA Heritage Award for Adaptive Reuse marker that now welcomes guests to the Palacio de Memoria.

Awarded in 2020, the event to officially unveil the marker that accompanies the award was done just last week, July 19, thanks to the Covid pandemic. But that time lag did not diminish the significance of what the marker that’s now mounted by the front doors represents. It’s living testimony of the kind of respect and sense of responsibility that the Lhuillier family possess in the ownership of the Palacio and it’s grounds.

Camille Lhuillier-Albani is the general manager of the Palacio de Memoria, and she welcomed representatives from the NCCA and from Parañaque City for the intimate early afternoon event. She was joined by her parents, Ambassador Philippe Jones Lhuillier and Mrs. Edna Diago-Lhuillier, by Camille’s husband, her sister, and other family members – all part of the “tribe” that have proudly attached their name to this living legacy of responsible stewardship of history.

AT THE PALACIO DE MEMORIA – NCCA Heritage Award for Adaptive Reuse marker event, (from left) Parañaque Councilor Kristine Esplana, NCCA Head of the Cultural Heritage Section Lawrence Salazar, Ambassador Philippe Jones Lhuillier, Palacio General Manager Camille Lhuillier-Albani, NCCA Commissioner for Cultural Heritage Architect Michael Manalo, and Second District of Parañaque Representative Jose Enrico Golez.

In fact, one speaker, NCCA Commissioner for Cultural Heritage Architect Michael Manalo touched on this stewardship aspect. It’s a known fact that oftentimes, it’s far more economical to tear a structure down and build from the ground up, rather than restore an old structure to its former glory, while outfitting it with the latest of modern amenities. To their credit, Architect Manalo commended the Lhuillier family for doing the latter at the Palacio, and converting what used to be a glorious residence to an even more glorious events place and historical heritage site.

Constructed in the 1930’s, the Palacio de Memoria survived the Battle of Manila on Roxas Boulevard, and one of the spectacular decorative features of the main house, is the Filipino folk dance-themed terrazzo flooring, that’s attributed to National Artist Juan Nakpil. The short ceremony, hosted by Issa Litton, with musical numbers from The Nightingales (composed of alumna from the Philippine Madrigal Singers), was held in the very hall where this breath-taking flooring can be found. For me, it’s a beautiful example of walking on history; and you’ll appreciate how the hall has been restored and refurbished; such that it serves as a working, functional space, while still extolling the virtues of heritage and history.

Camille Lhuillier-Albani has turned the Palacio grounds into a regular beehive of activity. The Loggia is their regular F&B outlet, and it’s run by Chef Margarita Fores. There are mini-museums, and guided tours on offer. There’s an enclosed tent that can be booked for wedding receptions, fairs, corporate events, and big parties. The Casa de Memoria auctions and cultural events such as their Tertulia de Memoria, are held at the Palacio – and you can check their website for when they’ll mount their next weekend Palacio flea market.

The aircraft displayed in the garden are IG-worthy stops, and one has even been converted to a bar.There’s a Tanqueray Bar, and the popular Run Rabbit Run of Poblacion has partnered with Palacio to run the Mosphil Lounge cocktail bar – and yes, you read that right, it’s a plane that’s been turned into your new, hip party place.

During her speech at the marker awarding, Camille made special mention of the staff that tirelessly helps her realize her vision for the Palacio. And of course, she was super happy that her father was present, as he was the one who started the whole ball rolling when he purchased the property. Walking into the Palacio grounds is like entering a time warp – but that’s only the initial impression, as you soon appreciate how it’s all been updated so that the mansion works with up-to-date amenities, and as there’s so much activity going on, you’ll never be at a loss for what to do.

 
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