Check Management

About China Bank

Preserving A Legacy

In the early 20th century, Binondo, Manila was the prime business address where major banks established themselves before branching out nationwide. China Bank opened for business on No. 90 Calle Rosario (now Quintin Paredes St.) on August 16, 1920. By its second year, the Bank had grown so much that it would soon need a bigger space; so, it turned to one of the premier architects in the country at that time, Arthur Julius Niclaus Gabler Gumbert, to design its new headquarters.

By 1924, China Bank was operating from its own building on Calle Juan Luna corner building on Calle Juan Luna corner Calle Dasmariñas. Through World War II, martial law, and the new millennium, the China Bank Building stood as a vestige of Binondo’s heyday as the “Wall Street of the Philippines”.

Binondo Heritage Restoration Project

To preserve the Bank’s heritage and more importantly, to help revive the country’s capital, China Bank embarked on a true restoration of its original headquarters— the Binondo Heritage Restoration Project—the centerpiece of its centennial celebration.

In 2018, China Bank engaged Architect Manuel Noche, the former secretary of the Heritage Conservation Society, to restore the China Bank Building to its original design as faithfully as possible and make it structurally resilient. After a thorough, year-long forensic investigation that uncovered architectural details which were thought lost or damaged, the restoration began.

The building’s impressive transformation is very apparent. Outside, the meticulously restored original grills and arches, previously walled in for the last 70 years, give the refreshed building an elegant and nostalgic vibe. Meanwhile, the modern interior designed by SSO & Associates led by Maja Olivares-Co makes the branch lobby, with it's high ceiling and beautiful granite floors, look grand and contemporary. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum recognized the China Bank Building with historical markers. The latter also declared it an important cultural property.

China Bank Museum

A major component of the restoration is the construction of the China Bank Museum. Designed by the curatorial team led by Marian Pastor Roces of TAO, Inc., the museum communicates China Bank’s story, with each museum area representing a core value of the Bank.

The first area evokes “Resourcefulness and Initiative”, contextualized by the very birth of China Bank in the early 20th century to help aspiring entrepreneurs newly migrated from China to the Philippines. Here, the Bank’s Articles of Incorporation is displayed, showing the migration flow from Southeast China.

In the next section, the core value “Concern for People” is given a contemplative setting in a room-like space where visitors can watch video documentaries and view documents like the handwritten account of Imperial Japan’s liquidation of the Bank after the World War II, and papers on the Liberty Wells Foundation, initiated by Albino Z. SyCip in 1953 to bring potable water to the people.

The next gallery, “High Performance Standards” stands by its assertion: longevity is a hallmark of a bank performing at unusually high standards.

The core value “Efficiency” is captured in the display of counting machines that were state-of-the-art when the Bank used them, including the Chinese abacus and the sequential array of American and European adding machines used over the last century. A section text describes China Bank’s day-to-day operations as expressive of “a culture of efficiency which draws from the Chinese heritage of its migrant founders.”

The next section, devoted to “Customer Service Focus”, is anchored by a large-scale artwork in laser-cut material: an assemblage of images of customers and employees both engaged in forging relationships built on trust and mutual reinforcement of financial purpose, also depicting the values of loyalty and fairness.

On display in the gallery on “Integrity” are the photographs, portraits, and memorabilia of the Bank’s past and present leaders—the embodiment of integrity. Here is a special memorial to Dee C. Chuan, featuring a portrait of the Bank’s founder by the National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, and portraits by renowned artist Edgardo Lantin of the Bank’s chairmen and presidents.

“Commitment to Quality”, occupying the last section fronting the gallery of leaders’ portraits, is a metaphoric conversation between leadership and its stewardship. The first of the two key exhibits is a wall-sized display in reliefs explaining the restoration project which raised the bar in historical structure preservation. The second exhibit is the pièce de résistance: two of the A-shaped steel beams inserted into the old building, each beam set equipped with rubber vibration control to protect it from earthquake damage. This technology is only used for the first time in the Philippines and should inspire other heritage projects to utilize technological innovation in support of institutional endurance.

Binondo Heritage Restoration Project

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