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Remembering the Art Deco Era With Deco Filipino

Ivan Man Dy and Gerard Lico penned a masterpiece full of discoveries from this rich era for art and culture

It was an unassuming February afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, where the latest book of Ivan Man Dy and Gerard Lico called "Deco Filipino"  was officially launched. The public event was packed by a crowd—a number the hosts didn’t expect to house. The overwhelming support showed contemporary cultural enthusiasts' healthy interest in the country's design history.

Deco Filipino authors, Ivan Man Dy and Gerard Lico at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. | Paola Aseron
Cultural heritage expert and historical tour guide, Ivan Man Dy at the launch of Deco Filipino | Paola Aseron
Architect and Professor Gerard Lico at the launch of Deco Filipino | Paola Aseron

With this design style strongly rooted in our history, one cannot deny its contribution to our heritage, art, and culture. In “Deco Filipino,” readers are treated to the Art Deco heritage in the Philippines, featuring several sites from all over the country where this architectural style is presented. From residences, commercial and entertainment buildings, religious edifices, and public and private facilities, its pages are filled with a visual showcase of contemporary architecture and design from 1925 to 1950—all in one bind.


During the launch, everyone sat down as the authors themselves discussed the book, the Art Deco style, the significant era when it blossomed and its influence, and how we’re able to celebrate it in the modern times. Case in point: the restoration of Art Deco buildings in Manila such as the venue of the event itself and the Metropolitan Theater. With this in discourse, the speakers toured the whole group around the Rizal Memorial Coliseum for a sneak peek of its improvements, as well as areas of interests that has survived for decades.

Dusk fell and everyone had their fill of details and books signed, Metro.Style was able to sit down for a chat with Ivan Man Dy. This second edition is a product of his huge interest in Art Deco, and fueled by an international conference he joined in 2015. After five years of extensive research, oculars, interviews, and late nights, “Deco Filipino” is now off the press—an extension of its first publication released in 2009.

Heritage expert, Ivan Man Dy giving a talk at the launch of Deco Filipino. Heritage expert, Ivan Man Dy giving a talk at the launch of Deco Filipino. | Paola Aseron

“They're gonna learn about this specific stylistic heritage. Art deco is something that not many people are familiar with, which is broad in a sense that it’s not only found in architecture. It’s also in different forms, like graphic and industrial design, among others. Art deco is rich—it’s a full package,” Ivan answers when asked about the discoveries the readers will unearth from the book. The rich colors, dominance of geometric figures, and intricate detailings all define the style, and unknown to many, is still abundant—even beyond Manila. 

Detail of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum showing interiors.  The light fixtures were specifically sourced in reference to the Art Deco period. Detail of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum showing interiors. The light fixtures were specifically sourced in reference to the Art Deco period | Paola Aseron
Detail of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum showing interiors.  The light fixtures were specifically sourced in reference to the Art Deco period.  Note the polygon-shaped mirrors that have been beveled, also in reference to the Art Deco period. Detail of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum showing interiors. The light fixtures were specifically sourced in reference to the Art Deco period. Note the polygon-shaped mirrors that have been beveled, also in reference to the Art Deco period | Paola Aseron
The restored and renovated Rizal Memorial Coliseum. The restored and renovated Rizal Memorial Coliseum | Paola Aseron

Highlights of the book are new Art Deco specimen that they’re able to document in very unlikely places around the country. Among the places decorated in this style are government facilities and even cemeteries, which Ivan says a lot of people aren’t aware of. “I enjoyed discovering a lot of Art Deco in the cemeteries because it seems like people took it to death. So when they had their tombs, it was all designed in the Art deco style,” he shares.


He cites some of his favorites, like the Daku Balay in Bacolod, which is the biggest Art deco house in the archipelago. “They knew it was there, but nobody really celebrated its design. But turns out, it has a very fascinating story—a very impressive masterpiece of domestic Art deco architecture in the country,” Ivan relates. It even inspired the cover of “Deco Filipino,” along with other Art deco revelations like the Bulacan Provincial Capitol in Malolos, mixed with other local design elements.


Getting your hands on "Deco Filipino” is a grand tour of a rich art heritage from the olden times, relieving the times of its importance and recognizing its contribution to our culture. 

You can purchase a copy of the book online through the ArtPostAsia website for P2,550.


Photographs by Paola Aseron