Wednesday, March 2, 2011

161. The Carnival Architects: MAPUA, BARRETTO, ARELLANO


The splendor of the Carnivals owes much to its fabulous edifices that did not fail to impress and awe—from the imposing Carnival Gate, the majestic Coronation Throne, the expansive Hippodrome to the provincial booths and displays that vied for the spectators’ attention. The first Carnival did not have a definitive visual theme, a merry mix of American and Philippine motifs, with inspirations drawn from mythology, European fantasy and royalty.

Committees were organized to handle and manage every aspect of the Carnival activities like Promotion, Program, Decoration, Tickets, Invitations, Sanitation, Security, Music, Dances, Sports Competition, Transportation and Masquerade Balls. The construction of the Carnival infrastructures fell into the hands of several key people. In charge of building the main edifices was Col. Mark L. Hersey, while the Hippodrome was put under Col. George Langhorne, who also multi-tasked as the King Consort of the Queen of the Occident. Mauro Prieto headed a team of that included Armando Campa, Manuel de Iriarte, Vicente Singson, C. Rodriguez and B. Roxas that designed and built the Carnival stage of 1908.

As the Carnivals became even more elaborate in the succeeding years, architects were hired to render their professional and expert services in designing the overall Carnival look, including its fabulous buildings and structures. Returning Filipino architects who were sent as pensionados to study in the beaux arts schools of the American East Coast, were the first to be employed for these all-important tasks. Three of them would go on to achieve national recognition and earn their well-deserved place as leading lights of Philippine architecture: Tomas Mapua, Carlos Barretto and Juan Arellano.

Tomas B. Mapua (b. 21 Dec. 1888/ d. 22 Dec. 1965) was the first registered architect of the Philippines who designed the 1917, 1920 and the 1921 Carnivals. The son of Juan Mapua and Justina Bautista, he was sent to America by the U.S. government for his high school and college education. He earned his Architecture degree from Cornell in 1911. For the 1921 Carnival, he executed the magnificent Magallanes Exposition Building, that had 5 high entrance arches surmounted by figural statues and the Main Entrance to the Carnival that had five expansive gateways book-ended with domed structures topped with fancy spires. Inside, the Throne Hall of the Auditorium featured an ornate central dome supported by columns, sheltering the throne of the Queen like a baldochine.

Mapua would go on to design and build the Manila City Hall, Manila Custom’s House, Agrifina Circle, the Post Office Building and the Leyte Capitol. In 1925, he founded the Mapua Institute of Technology (now Mapua University), which became the premier architecture and engineering school of the country.


Carlos Barretto holds the distinction as the first pensionado architect, having graduated three years earlier than Mapua, earning his degree in 1908 from the prestigious Drexel University in Philadelphia. He was the second (after Mapua) to be officially registered as an architect in 1921, as required by law that was passed by the National Assembly that year, one of 22 Filipinos.

Barretto designed the Carnival infrastructures of 1935, built on exuberant Art Deco motif that was the prevailing style of the Commonwealth years. After the Liberation, a group of Filipino architects that included Barretto, organized themselves into the Philippine Institute of Architects which proved to be of great help to the Philippines’ post-war recovery.


Juan Marcos G. Arellano (b. 25 April 1888/ d. 5 Dec. 1960) was the Tondo-born child of Luis Arellano and Bartola de Guzman. His first interest was painting, studying under Fabian de la Rosa and Lorenzo Guerrero. After graduating from Ateneo in 1908, he pursued architecture as a government scholar at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1911, before finishing his course at Drexel, where Barrettoo had finished a few years before.

Trained in Beaux Arts, Arellano worked briefly in New York before his return to to the Philippines. In 1922, he was named as the chief architect of the Manila Carnival, creating the grand neoclassic edifices that complemented the Graeco-Roman theme of the national fair. Arellano would go on to design the Metropolitan Theater in 1935, his best-known work, plus the Jones Bridge, the Legislative Building, the Bank of the Philippine Islands and the Malcolm Hall of the University of the Philippines and the U.S. Embassy. After his retirement in 1956, Arellano returned to painting, his first passion.

For at least 2 decades, the Carnival City of Manila was transformed by these accomplished architects, with their gift of design—creating landscapes of sheer fantasies and building gateways to new worlds of romance, royalty and revelry, fascinating feasts for all the nation’s eyes to see.

2 comments:

skysenshi said...

Wow, tomas mapua wa my ex's lolo but I ever knew he was an architect. I had always thought he was an engineer. Then again, his descendants, even when pursuing a different field, always seemed very structured and mathematical.

alex r. castro said...

Then you must know sisters Lisa Mapua and Cherry Mapua Osmena? Tomas Mapua is their uncle, and they're acquaintances!