Brief History of the Manila Clock Tower Museum
Standing at 100 feet, the Manila Clock Tower was considered the tallest clock tower in the Philippines when unveiled in the 1930s. It was designed by Antonio Toledo and featured three red-faced clocks on top. But like most buildings in Manila, it was intensely damaged during World War II.
Projects to restore the clock tower and make it a tourist attraction started in 2020. Initially, only the facade of the clock tower was improved by painting the central cylindrical body white and the dome-shaped roof gold. Today, the structure is renovated both internally and externally.
The clock tower is illuminated at night. The bell of the clock tower is rung three times then followed by a melody. The bells within the tower make a sound to mark the break time of Manila City Hall employees. The bells ring again at the close of a business day.
The Manila Clock Tower Museum
Manila’s iconic clock tower is now the capital’s newest attraction!
Located on the fourth floor of the Manila City Hall, the museum opened to the public on October 2022 and offers an immersive and multi-sensory experience curated to tell the history of Manila.
Various art pieces, installations, galleries, the Wall of Heroes, and portraits of previous mayors of Manila are some of the must-sees in the museum.
One can enjoy the scenic 360-degree view of the City of Manila from the top of the tower- from Lawton to Intramuros!
Join us as we discover the stories inside the Manila Clock Tower Museum!
The Manila Clock Tower Museum evokes the declaration of Manila as an ’Open City’ during World War II.
Manila was declared an open city on 26 December 1941 by US general Douglas MacArthur during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.The Imperial Japanese Army ignored the declaration and bombed the city.However, the United States Armed Forces were still using the city for logistical purposes at the time of the bombings.
In war, an open city is a settlement which has announced it has abandoned all defensive efforts, generally in the event of the imminent capture of the city to avoid destruction. Once a city has declared itself open the opposing military will be expected under international law to peacefully occupy the city rather than destroy it. According to the Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, it is forbidden for the attacking party to “attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities”.
The intent is to protect the city’s civilians and cultural landmarks from a battle which may be futile.
Attacking forces do not always respect the declaration of an “open city”. Defensive forces will occasionally use the designation as a political tactic as well. In some cases, the declaration of a city to be “open” is made by a side on the verge of defeat and surrender; in other cases, those making such a declaration are willing and able to fight on but prefer that the specific city be spared. Often resistance movements will be active in open cities, straining the temperate conduct of the occupying forces.
One of the attractions at the Manila Clock Tower Museum is a gallery dedicated to the previous local chief executives of the City of Manila.
Prior to the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi, Manila was a chiefdom headed by datus. From the defeat of Rajah Sulayman’s forces in 1575 to the passage of the Maura Law in 1895, the chief executive of the city was appointed by the Spanish government to a person of Spanish descent. The highest position a Filipino was able to hold was the Cabeza de barangay. With the passage of the Maura Law, the office of capitan municipal was established, with the people electing their own town heads, although the Spanish retained considerable influence and could veto decisions.
With the eruption of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine–American War, the position reverted to an appointive head. With the advent of World War II, President Manuel L. Quezon appointed Jorge B. Vargas as mayor of the City of Greater Manila (forerunner of Metro Manila) in 1941.
With the amendment of the city’s charter in 1951, the position became an elective post. The first mayoral election was in 1951, and Manila’s congressman from the 2nd district Arsenio Lacson defeated incumbent Manuel de la Fuente.
With Arsenio Lacson becoming the first elected mayor, the city of Manila underwent The Golden Age, was revitalized, and once again became the “Pearl of the Orient”, a moniker it earned before the outbreak of the war. After Mayor Lacson’s term in the 1950s, the city was led by Mayor Antonio Villegas during most of the 1960s, and Mayor Ramon Bagatsing for nearly the entire decade of the 1970s until the 1986 People Power Revolution that overthrew President Marcos.
Mayors Lacson, Villegas, and Bagatsing are often collectively considered “the Big Three of Manila” for their relatively long tenures as the city hall’s chief executive.
In 2022, Manila elected its first female mayor- Maria Sheilah “Honey” Lacuna-Pangan.
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