The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) installed an Important Cultural Property (ICP) marker at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Escolta branch on August 30, 2023, to ensure the protection and preservation of the 54-year-old post-war edifice and formally establish its cultural and historical significance to the country.
The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 defines ICPs as having “exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance” to the Philippines.
“On behalf of our Director General Jeremy Barns and the rest of us from the National Museum, as well as the NCCA, I would like to congratulate the Bank of the Philippine Islands for having stewardship of this historical place. BPI has seen our country’s transformation especially in the world of economics, banking, and finance, and it is very fitting that BPI is housed in this magnificent building. May we continue to work together as partners for the promotion and preservation of our cultural heritage,” said NMP Deputy Director General for Museums Jorell Legaspi.
“Marami pa ring mga suliraning pinagdaraanan ang mga ahensya ng pamahaalan na kaisa sa pangangalaga ng mga pamanang kultura sa usapin ng proteksyon ng mga lugar na hinirang bilang mahalagang yamang pangkalinangan. Nais kong pasalamatan ang BPI sa kanilang tungkulin at dedikasyon na pangalagaan ang isa sa maraming pamanang kultura ng ating bansa,” said NCCA Cultural Properties Protection and Regulation Division Head Joseph Patrick Lee.
Located at Escolta corner Yuchengco Street in Manila, the half-dome, futuristic building was built in 1969 and designed with a brutalist architectural style by the late National Artist for Architecture Jose Maria V. Zaragoza. It previously housed the Commercial Bank and Trust Company (COMTRUST), a commercial bank that began operating in 1954.
After acquiring COMTRUST in 1981, BPI became the largest-capitalized private domestic commercial bank in the Philippines. The merger was referred to in newspapers as the biggest in local banking history, increasing BPI’s total assets to a total value of at least Php 7.5 billion. The merger was also deemed as “the most important aspect of the acquisition” as it expanded BPI’s network and utilized COMTRUST branches’ strategic locations and strength in retail banking.
“As we celebrate 172 years of BPI, the inauguration of BPI Escolta branch as an Important Cultural Property reminds us of the cultural heritage and rich tradition that we share with the Filipino people,” said BPI Consumer Banking Head Ginbee Go. “We are deeply committed to nation-building and supporting economic progress as the first bank in Southeast Asia. While we honor our history by preserving important architectural branch structures, we are cognizant of the need to remain relevant and better serve our customers. Our digital transformation journey is our response to the changing landscape of banking in pursuit of our vision to build a better Philippines—one family, one community at a time.”
The BPI Escolta branch building is the latest addition to the list of BPI branches in historical landmarks. Also bearing historical markers are BPI Escolta Sta. Cruz branch, which was built in 1894, and BPI Cebu Main branch, which was built in 1924.
The unveiling of the ICP marker is part of the line-up of activities in August to celebrate BPI’s 172nd anniversary, which signifies its rich legacy, financial strength and stability, and vision for a better Philippines.