For those eager to revisit the past and grasp a tangible part of history, a most worthy option would definitely be sightseeing significant heritage sites. And the Philippines, which has emerged from a long and rich colonial past, offers both that opportunity and gratification. From war-torn ruins to heroes’ birthplaces, the country has it all for wanderers of all ages.
But architectural landmarks are more than reminders of a bygone era: They are a living testament to what and how early Filipinos lived in the past – the very stories of their aspirations and their struggles. Which is why in order to help connect and appreciate their stories, preserving architectural heritage sites is a must if one is to fully understand Philippine identity in the present.
And while preserving the treasures of the past is an extraordinary undertaking for any one or for any institution—given the effort, resources and patience required to maintain each important heritage landmark—convenience store chain 7-Eleven, through its exclusive licensee Philippine Seven Corp. (PSC), shares this commitment as it raises the awareness to help preserve some of the country’s most important architectural treasures through its Modern Cultural Stores.
More important than ever
Located within easy walking distance are the 7-Eleven Intramuros stores and along Cabildo (Ferlaw Building of the Manila Cathedral) and Victoria (OWWA Building) streets. Both familiar edifices that greet tourists, students and passers-by, the convenience stores’ facade preserved the overall Hispanic look of the buildings. As for historical significance, the area occupied by Ferlaw was formerly the location of the home of Padre Jose Burgos, one of three Filipino Martyr Priests who once also served as second curate of the Manila Cathedral, and later its magistrate and chief and fiscal of the Ecclesiastical Court during the early 1860s.
The heritage aspects of both 7-Eleven store locations have been kept almost entirely intact – with modern installation designs only found inside the store premises.
In the Las Piñas area, 7-Eleven’s commercial building was constructed in compliance with the city’s requirement – an initiative of then Representative Cynthia Villar – that all commercial buildings and offices along Quirino Ave. in Las Piñas should possess brick-like finishing.
The same important preservation initiatives were also accomplished in 7-Eleven store outlets in Laguna (in particular Jose Rizal’s hometown in Calamba), Cavite and Batangas (Lipa) in which the proposed plans should incorporate “a little bit of old-world charm” through its architectural design before approval, issuance of Occupancy Permit, and then construction.
These regulations, according to Francis S. Medina, Business Development division manager of PSC, are under the provision of the National Heritage Institute (NHI), the government agency responsible for the conservation and preservation of the Philippine historical legacies. It encompasses the cultural program on historical studies, curatorial works, architectural conservation, historical information dissemination, restoration and preservation of relics and memorabilia of heroes and renowned Filipinos.
And just like in certain cases wherein important architectural details are in need of maintenance or repair, any alteration should be consulted with NHI and concerned local municipal and city governments to protect, if not totally retain, each historical detail of the building’s appearance.
“All of these conditions only apply to the facade of the store. 7-Eleven still applies the current design of ‘Store of the Future’ through signage and interior while still incorporating some of the heritage look. An example of which is the Manila Cathedral store wherein a spiral staircase is used,” said Medina.
With tourism, preservation, heritage and culture a major consideration that will greatly benefit locals and foreign visitors alike, 7-Eleven is more than willing to engage in such collaborative purpose by ensuring every store development meets the needs of the present without compromising the historical locations’ character and sense of place.
By joining and spearheading proactive efforts to preserve the country’s collection of architecture, 7-Eleven demonstrates by example how a globally renowned enterprise can take part in initiatives that aim to save such landmarks, as well as enhance the tourism potential of the locations. In so doing, buildings from the past will never be left behind but instead live on to continue their invaluable role in defining the nation and educating its people of its cultural identity.
“Linking the past with the present creates a broader, optimistic view of our culture’s future. And while there’s a lot more work to be done, we are glad that in our own little ways we are taking part in the preservation movement,” Medina concluded.