Aduana Building: A Historical Landmark In Ruins


Aduana Intendia Building

A man standing at the corner of Aduana Building



Aduana Intendencia Building

Aduana Building as seen from Muralla Street


Taking multiple names since it was first constructed, La Aduana de Manila, Aduana, Intendencia, Customs House–this iconic structure located just a few blocks from Manila Cathedral remains in ruins to this day. With the overgrown weeds sprouting from spaces between its black bricks, one can only hope that the National Archives of the Philippines will finally begin the reconstruction of this historical landmark.

Since it was first constructed in 1823, here are twelve important highlights of its history of construction and destruction:


1. Based on the plans prepared by Tomas Cortes, the first iteration of La Aduana, with its neoclassical design, was done from 1823-1829.

Neoclassical is a revival of Classical architecture during the 18th and early 19th centuries. A neoclassical design has these defining characteristics– clean and elegant lines, uncluttered appearance, free-standing columns, and is usually massive.

In the Philippines, some examples of neoclassical architecture include the Manila City Hall, Malacañang Palace, Manila Central Post Office, Malolos Cathedral, National Museum, and Tondo Church among others.

While in other countries, some great examples include the Rotunda of Mosta in Malta, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris among others.


Aduana Intendencia Building

A close look at the details of its facade


2. By 1863, however, the structure was badly damaged by the earthquake that struck Manila and the rest of Luzon. Also damaged by the devastating earthquake were Quiapo Church, and three iconic landmarks in Intramuros–the Ayuntamiento, Manila Cathedral, and the Governor’s Palace.


3. With the extensive damage it sustained from the earthquake, the building was demolished in 1872.


4. Luis Perez Sonjue then spearheaded the reconstruction of the building from 1874-1876 to bring back its former glory. The reconstruction stayed true to the original design of the first structure as designed by Cortes.


5. The second iteration of the building then housed the Customs offices, the Intendencia Heneral de Hacienda (Central Administration), the Treasury, and the Casa de Moneda (Mint). When the Customs offices transferred, La Aduana was then renamed as Intendencia.


Aduana Intendencia Building

The historical marker from the Intramuros Administration


6. By 1901, during the American Insular Government, the Office of the Archives also took office in La Aduana.


7. When the Jones Law was enacted in 1916, the newly formed Philippine Senate then occupied the building after their first opening session. By 1926, the Senate relocated to the newly constructed Legislative Building–which, at present, houses the National Museum of Fine Arts.


Adauana (Intiendencia) Building with "Senate of the Philippines" written in the main entrance (image credit: John Tewell on Flickr)

Adauana (Intiendencia) Building with “Senate of the Philippines” written in the main entrance (Photo courtesy: John Tewell on Flickr)


8. The building was then left to the care of the Intendencia and the Treasury after the Customs was moved to the port area.


9. With the Japanese occupation in 1941 and the Battle of Manila in 1945, the building suffered serious damage just like most of the structures of Old Manila.


10. After the war, the building was reconstructed and later housed the Central Bank of the Philippines, the National Treasury, and the Commission of Elections.


11. With yet another misfortune, the building was completely burned in 1979 and has laid in ruins since then.


12. The National Archives acquired the building in 1997 to serve as their future office. By 1996, the architectural plans needed to restore the building were completed by architects Juan C. Lopez and Jose Luis Gonzales.

However, no progress has been made for over two decades now. This, even after then-President Fidel Ramos led the inauguration for its reconstruction in 1997.


Aduana Intendencia Building


Aduana Intendencia Building

Overgrown plants now taking over the building


Aduana Intendencia Building

The main entrance


Aduana Intendencia Building



The Manila Project

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  2. Official Gazette
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  1. Hi The Manila Project,

    Is architects Juan C. Lopez and Jose Luis Gonzales has an email address?
    We would like to ask a few questions about the building for thesis purposes. Thank you in advance.


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