Discovering Philippines

Government and Administration

Large civil buildings such as the "Palacio de Gobierno", the "Ayuntamiento" and the "Aduana" represented the government institutions of the Spanish Administration.

The Philippines formed part of the administrative system adopted by the Spanish Crown for its overseas territories.  From the 16th century, these islands were an enclave which was controlled by the "virreinato" of New Spain.  They had a Governor who was also Captain General of the archipelago.  Manila was the seat of central government and the municipal districts were organized in accordance with the peninsular model.

The most representative building of all the government institutions was the "Palacio de Gobierno", known also as the "Casas Reales" (royal houses), the "Audiencia" or "palacio de la Capitanía General"; this occupied a whole block on one of the sides of the "plaza mayor".  It underwent several transformations and reconstruction works and as from 1845 its main façade, built in the European style, contrasted sharply with all the rest which reflected the Philippine style at its purest: overhanging verandahs with "capiz shell" windows.  It was destroyed in the 1863 earthquake.

Opposite the "Palacio de Gobierno" was the "Cabildo building" (town council) or "Casas de la Ciudad"; this was rebuilt in 1751, and with its series of arches at ground level is an example of the European type of urban municipal building, with clear Italian and Spanish architectural influences; it occupied another side of the "plaza mayor".  It underwent several refurbishment works and after being destroyed in the 19th century a new building was constructed, but today only some of its walls remain.

Later on, the "Aduana" and "Hacienda pública" (Treasury) became more prominent in the city when a specific building was erected for their use: this had twin patios, was solidly built and very imposing in a purely academic way, and was situated right by the edge of the north wall of the city and beside the river.

The royal houses are most beautiful and have a great many windows facing the sea, and are built on the main square out of stone and with two patios, with upper and lower corridors and with stout pillars. The town council buildings are made of stone; their lower part houses the prison, the "audiencia" and the ordinary mayors.

Antonio de Morga 1600
The "Ayuntamiento" in Manila. Eduardo López Navarro in Colección de planos... 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid This is an example of an urban palace in the European style. It follows the Bramante model used for constructing the house of Raphael in Borgo Vaticano in its upper storey, while its ground floor and patio follow the model laid down for the Farnese Palace, which was the finest example of palaces in 16th century Rome. Ayuntamiento

Governor's Palace Governor's Palace. Vicente Serrano Salaverri in Colección de planos correspondientes a varias de las construcciones realizadas o proyectadas por la Inspección General de Obras Públicas de las Islas Filipinas. 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The main façade of the Palace was rebuilt in 1845 in the European style, with dressed stone ground floor structure and an attic; all other façades had overhanging balconies closed off with "capiz" shell window panes in the typical Philippine style.

Main façade of the old "Aduana" building built in Manila. Tomás Cortés. 1828. SHM This building was admired for the beauty of its construction and its classic dimensions. Its upper part was heavily built, and this was the reason behind its destruction in the 1863 earthquake. It was built once more in 1874. Façade

Ayuntamiento The "Ayuntamiento" in Manila. Eduardo López Navarro in Colección de planos... 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid This splendid building is an outstanding example of urban architecture, as can be seen by the street-level arcades, which is where the "Plaza Mayor" becomes part of the building itself, so that under their shade business contracts for provisioning the city may be concluded.

Royal Palace. Tomás Cortés. 1827. SHM When first constructed, the Governor's palace housed the "Real Audiencia" on its main floor. In 1793, when the building was in a bad state of repair, the "Real Audiencia" moved to the adjoining block. Royal Palace

Ground plan Ground plan of the old "Aduana" building built in Manila. Tomás Cortés. 1828. SHM Although its rectangular ground plan with its two interior patios is reminiscent of the Court Prison, which is today the Ministry ofr Foreign Affairs in Madrid, or the "Hospital de la Cruz" in Toledo, this building represents an academic form, that of beaux arts.

Sketch of Malacañang Palace and its surroundings. Gregorio Verdú. 1856. SHM Malacañang started off as a house made of wood, situated on the banks of the Pasig River on the area of land bearing the same name, which is situated in the San Miguel district. In 1802, it was purchased from a private individual by an army colonel. Sketch

Ground plan

Ground plan of the Malacañang Palace. Luis del Rosario y Rivas. 1897. AHN This palace was originally designed as a summer residence for governors. After the 1863 earthquake, it was here that the governor took up permanent residence. Thereafter, it underwent several modification works and amplifications, which one after the other were influenced by the architectural influences of the times, despite which it still maintained a characteristically Philippine style.

Governor's Palace. Vicente Serrano Salaverri in Colección de planos... 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The ground plan of the Palace housed the private chambers of the Governor, a number of government offices such as those of the General Army Counting House and the Secretariat for War and Government. Governor's Palace

Manila Consulate Plan of the Manila Consulate. 19th century. SHM

Plan and sectional view of the Consulate. 19th century. SHM This was a large building sited within Intramuros; besides being the Consulate court of justice, it also housed the Nautical Academy and the Business School. Consulate

Residence Summer residence of the captain general of the Philippines. La Ilustración Española y Americana. 1874. BN

The Malacañang Palace. Luis del Rosario y Rivas. 1897. AHN


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Discovering Philippines Copyright © 2004 Robert S. Gardner