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Preserving a 100-year legacy of banking

THE country’s first privately owned commercial bank, China Banking Corp. (China Bank), marked its 100th anniversary in August 2020. While preparing to celebrate its centennial amid the pandemic, the bank embarked on a genuine restoration of its original headquarters located in Manila’s Binondo district — the world’s first Chinatown.

Now known as the China Bank Binondo Center, the building was completed in 1924 and served as the head office for six decades. German architect Arthur Gabler-Gumbert designed the seven-story structure in the Neoclassical fashion using a variation of the Beaux-Arts architectural style.

As the centerpiece of China Bank’s centennial celebration, the Binondo Heritage Restoration Project (BHRP) aimed to preserve the bank’s legacy in the history of the Chinese Filipino community for future generations, without disrupting the branch banking operations while the structure was undergoing a massive renovation. This building now stands as an architectural reminder of Binondo’s heydays as the “Wall Street of the Philippines” as well as the center of trade and commerce in the country.

Recently, the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) organized a tour of the China Bank Museum occupying the fourth floor of the restored building, where memorabilia and photographs honor the bank’s founder Dee C. Chuan and his successors. On hand to welcome the FFCCCII delegation were China Bank Chair Hans Sy and President William Whang.

During the tour, Mr. Sy revealed that it was his first time to step into the museum curated by art critic Marian Pastor Roces. He said: “The gravity of the pandemic necessitated a modification of plans, but it does not diminish the significance of the occasion. The restoration and heritage project is China Bank’s contribution to the revitalization of Binondo.”

This was affirmed by Mr. Whang, who shared that the project’s objective is to preserve not only China Bank’s culture and legacy, but more importantly, the bygone character of Binondo for generations to come. He disclosed that among the bank’s first clients were the late taipans Henry Sy and John Gokongwei.

Both the National Historical Commission and the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) recognize the significant role of the China Bank Binondo Center in the nation’s history. In fact, it has been designated by the NMP as an “Important Cultural Property.” According to BHRP Chair Alex Escucha, great care was taken to ensure that the building met the highest standards of resilience and structural sustainability, in addition to bringing it up to modern building and safety codes. The result is touted as the most faithful restoration of any building in the Philippines today.

PACQUIAO NFT LAUNCHFilipino boxing legend Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao has been appointed brand ambassador and honorary chair of Systems Technologies Apps Robotic Trading, Inc. (START).  The Japan-based company is primarily involved in the creation and marketing of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) along with its Singapore-based partner NFT One. They have created a lot of buzz in the Japanese NFT trading community due to their fast-selling “Neo Stackey” collection of NFTs.

Fresh from his triumphant exhibition match against South Korean martial artist DK Yoo last weekend, Mr. Pacquiao flew back to Manila from Seoul for the contract-signing ceremony with START Founder and CEO Kousei at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City. The partnership is envisioned to leverage on the former senator’s image as one of the most bankable sportsmen in the world — with his diehard followers numbering in the millions. In Japan alone, he has gained a cult following and is accorded with rock-star status who is revered wherever he goes.

START also plans to build schools and encourage a new generation of engineers to help create breakthroughs in the NFT industry as part of its core advocacies. After all, its mission is to become the dominant player in the global NFT market.

The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and BusinessWorld.

J. Albert Gamboa is the chief finance officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and chair of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.  #FinexPhils www.finex.org.ph

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