By Jay Ledesma

Remembering a beloved icon

I WILL deviate from my usual subject matter as I wish to give tribute to an iconic landmark that has been a second home to many, including me. Today, we remember the Philamlife Building at U.N. Avenue, Manila.

My first encounter with this Icon was on April 19, 1986. It was the wedding of my sister at then Manila Hilton Hotel (now Manila Pavilion). While standing and waiting for our ride at the UN exit door of the hotel, I just couldn’t help but admire this unique and beautiful building in front of me, with so many people coming in and out. I was told that it’s an insurance office. I just graduated from college in March of that year. I stood there wishing that someday I can work in that kind of an office, if not that exact office.

I met her the 2nd time during the summer of 1989. My friend asked me to join her to watch a concert at the Philamlife Theater. From the moment I entered their huge lobby and then to their theater, I was in awe. I wasn’t that aware yet about insurance companies but I told myself that Philamlife must really be big because not all companies can afford to have their own theater and on this scale. I became a fan that night! 

I went to become a college instructress, then a Training Director before I got married and transferred to Davao in 1992.

I never imagined that I will again meet the Icon for the third time. Sometime in June 1992, Mr. Pepot Sto Domingo then head of Philamlife’s provincial-sales, flew me into Manila for a job interview with then EVP for Sales Mr. Ato Vergel De Dios. I got the job! 

As I was leaving the building, the memory of me six years ago, standing and making that wish, all came back to me. My wish was granted! And that was just 28 years ago...

The grandeur and the cultural history of the Philam Life Building, designed by architect Carlos Arguelles and built in 1961, made it as one of the iconic and favorite landmarks in Manila.

As I was based in Davao, I always look forward to being called to our UN headquarters so I can enjoy and experience “working” in the building.

Just like the majority, my favorite part of the building is the Philamlife Theater (also called Philamlife Auditorium). It was the venue for all our major agency and employee activities such as kick-off rallies, awards and recognition programs, and conventions. Of course, this 780-seat theater was a very popular venue for various concerts and performances, thanks to its sound acoustic design. A lot of renowned artists have performed on the stage of the Philamlife Auditorium.

The spacious lobby with its enormous columns, high ceilings, and artworks and carvings on the wall, will really leave one in awe. I love it especially during the Christmas season when it’s adorned with giant Christmas trees, life-sized ‘Belen’, and other ornaments. The lobby also served as an extension of the auditorium during bigger gatherings. Then there is the East lobby, which will always be remembered as the daily 12-noon mass was held there.

From the lobby, one can view the interior landscaped garden found right in the middle of the building itself. This central courtyard gives a homey feeling and allows more natural light into the lobby. Aside from being a usual venue for team building activities, the garden was also a fave spot of the “smoking bandits”.

Across the garden and at the rear portion of the lobby was the AT Brooks. This multi-tiered room was the venue for trainings and seminars for both the employee and agency force. I had my trainings in this room during my early months in the company.

Now, who will not remember Dell’s? They are the concessionaire in our canteen which catered not only to the Philamlife employees and agents but also non-Philamlifers. For most, the canteen is Dell’s and Dell’s is the canteen. The canteen has two sections: the Executive Dining Room (EDR) which has waiters in their yellow and black uniforms while the other section is self-service.

Either you come early or you make an advance order, otherwise, you might end up with nothing, as the canteen really swarms with people during lunchtime. It’s usually where people meet and hold “informal” meetings.

The Apo Lakay is a smaller and a more formal dining area for the top executives of the Company. This is where the Excos will normally host the visiting AIG/AIA Executives, Top Leaders and Advisors, and other guests.

The third floor of the Philamlife Building will always be special to me as the Agency Sales Office was here. This was where I had my job interview, where I was hired, where sales targets were discussed and defended at the War Room, where we cried and laughed, where lifelong friendships were formed.

The Philamlife UN Building was the second home for many Philamlfers for more than 50 years.

That’s why it’s no surprise that though it’s already expected, the dismantling of this Icon which was featured in the newspapers several weeks ago, still saddened and pinched the heart of everyone who had the opportunity to experience her.

Farewell to her majesty.

Thank you for making us a part of your history.

Remembering you will always bring joy till eternity. 



About the Columnist

Image of Jay Ledesma

Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.