On Sept. 5, 1976, all roads led to the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) as it opened its doors and made headlines as Asia’s first international convention center.
Delegates and guests from all over the world were welcomed to this architectural wonder that was designed by Leandro Locsin, Filipino National Artist for Architecture, and took only 23 months to build. Sitting on a 12-hectare area within the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex in Pasay City, the PICC boasts a most elegant, chandelier-lit lobby, a Reception Hall that can accommodate 5,000 guests, a 3,500-seat Plenary Hall, more than 30 event and meeting rooms, plus a wide range of facilities that can accommodate almost any gathering of any size. It’s equipped with dedicated wired and wireless internet connectivity and everything that makes it an ideal MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) venue. It has prayer rooms for Muslim guests. It’s got a state-of-the-art central kitchen, a cold kitchen, a halal kitchen with walk-in and blast freezers.
PICC is also the proud home of some of the country’s most prized art pieces. In 2003, the PICC Forum, a tent facility, was inaugurated to address the need for an exhibition and event space.
HOST TO WORLD LEADERS AND WORLD-CLASS ARTISTS
Over the past 45 years, PICC has played host to many international conferences attended by world leaders, like the APEC Summit in 1996 and 2015, 112th Inter-Parliamentary Union and related meetings in 2005, ADB Meeting of the Board of Governors in 2012, and ASEAN Summit in 2017.
World-class concert artists have graced its stage, like Burt Bacharach, Luciano Pavarotti, Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, and our very own Lea Salonga. Even saints (Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II) and royalty (Queen Maxima of The Netherlands) once walked through its gleaming, immense halls.
The famed Plenary Hall where most university graduations happen
The eyes of the world were on the PICC when it hosted the 1994 Miss Universe pageant, where Miss India Sushmita Sen ran away with the crown.
Over the years, PICC has undergone several renovations and improvements, updating and upgrading its equipment and facilities.
PICC General Manager Renato Padilla adds, “We have also adopted sustainable practices in our operations, like installing solar panels on our roof decks, converting to LED lights, replacing air-conditioning units to inverter type of technology, and implementing other energy-efficient measures and water conservation efforts to minimize our environmental impact and the carbon footprint of our events.”
PICC Deputy General Manager Roberto Garcia cites 2019 as PICC’s best year yet, with the most number of events and the highest revenue to date. That year, PICC hosted 763 events and was expecting, more or less, the same number of events in the succeeding years. In fact, 2020 saw a strong booking calendar, with events already confirmed. But the COVID-19 pandemic did not spare the Philippines as it swept across the globe.
“The pandemic adversely affected business operations of the Center as a venue for meetings, conventions, exhibitions and special events,” discloses Garcia, who is also chairperson of the PICC COVID-19 Task Force. “While a few government-initiated meetings have taken place at the PICC this year, varying degrees of restrictions on mass gatherings have forced our clients to either cancel or postpone their bookings.”
FACING THE PANDEMIC HEAD-ON
Amid the pandemic, PICC rose to the occasion. PICC continues to be in operation, providing services to its tenants and the general public who continue to make transactions with them. These tenants are the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), National Privacy Commission (NPC), and the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
Over 2 months ago, the One Hospital Command Center moved into the 4th floor of the Delegation Building for its 24/7 operations and the Office of the National Vaccination Operations Center also moved in just 2 weeks ago.
The PICC was one of the first to respond to the governments’ call for the need of quarantine facilities in the Metro when the lockdown was first implemented. In April 2020, the PICC Forum was turned over to the Department of Health to serve as a 294-bed quarantine facility, as it is today.
“While the events industry is finding ways to conduct activities in the new normal, the PICC has deemed it well to maximize the lull in the holding of events by implementing and fast-tracking a number of infrastructure projects to generate additional revenue as well as improve business operations in the future. Amongst these are the rehabilitation of the 4th floor of the Reception Hall and the 3rd floor of the Plenary Hall which will be converted into additional office spaces for lease,” says Garcia.
A grandiose spectacle await guests inside the Reception Hall, taken by Patrick Kasingsing
Aside from the required safety and sanitation measures, PICC also upgraded its WiFi and technology capacities to address the requirements of virtual and hybrid events.
While most companies retrenched personnel due to losses as a result of the pandemic, PICC retained its workforce — yes, no layoffs, no furloughs. A task force committee was created to monitor the health and well-being of PICC personnel and ensure compliance with safety protocols.
Employees underwent RT-PCR tests quarterly in 2020, and 100% of PICC employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19. 99% of its outsourced personnel (Housekeeping, Security, Landscaping, Physical Arrangements, Audio-Video, and Aircon Technicians) have also been vaccinated to date.
PICC staff dressed in their PPEs regularly disinfect the venue as part of sanitary protocols, taken by Basilio Sep
“We have been implementing strict preventive measures within our premises to ensure the safety and security of all employees, clients, and guests,” Garcia points out. “At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, thermo-scanners, personal protective equipment, disinfection equipment, air ionizers, hand sanitizers were procured. In compliance with government-mandated health and safety protocols, wearing of masks and shields, an accomplishment of health declaration forms, and physical distancing are enforced as well as regulations governing the conduct of food and beverage services. Printed signages and LED monitors in public areas bear messages on the guidelines of health and safety. Meeting rooms, offices and public areas are disinfected twice daily with touchpoints being disinfected more frequently throughout the day.”
You will also find isolation rooms at the main entrances of the Delegation and Secretariat Buildings that serve as temporary holding areas in case there are guests who manifest symptoms of COVID-19.
When booking their events, clients are advised on the new guidelines, food and beverage protocols, venue capacities, and logistical requirements. These guidelines are based on industry standards and the protocols of the World Health Organization and Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
For now, PICC is only accommodating clients and guests of tenants to limit the number of people inside the Center and minimize the risk of virus transmission. Dealings are on a per appointment basis and may take the form of a virtual engagement if needed.
Chandeliers lit up as PICC welcomes its guests for the day.
Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the PICC has stood the test of time as a cultural treasure and historical icon. “The PICC has remained as one of the country’s premier event venues due to the support of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which has remained committed to its mandate of operating an International Convention Center with the highest quality of facilities and services,” Padilla reveals. “Our commitment to help our customers create successful events has been key to our success in the last 45 years. Our clients have remained loyal to us because of the excellent service our skilled people provide, before, during, and after their events. Excellent service in Events Management seems to be a natural birthright of all our employees.”
Expect a lot more as you unravel future plans for PICC. Padilla shares, “A two-storey office and commercial building will be constructed south of the Secretariat Building, which will allow us to lease more spaces for government offices and commercial establishments. When the Forum ceases to be used as a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients, it will eventually be replaced with a new, modern, and state of the art building that will have 30,000sqm for the holding of Trade Exhibitions and 60,000 sqm for Office spaces for lease on the upper floors and a multi-storey parking building that will accommodate more than 200 vehicles of event attendees and office space lessees.”
Coming up are more infrastructure projects to address the ever-changing needs of PICC clients, like replacing elevators and converting to sensor-type escalators, constructing covered pathways and service hallways at the Secretariat Building meeting rooms, converting air-conditioning systems at the Plenary and Reception Halls to make them more cost-effective, and upgrading the sewage treatment plant.
Looking ahead, when the PICC celebrates its golden year in 2026, it will be more than a nice MICE venue. “It will be a multi-use facility that’s a mix of the old and the new — a convention center, a house of art and culture, a government office complex, and a commercial establishment,” Padilla muses.
He hastens to add, ” We also plan to continue our environmental stewardship and be more aggressive in promoting our advocacy on environmental sustainability, and to be eventually recognized as a model “green” MICE venue.”
At 45, the PICC shines as an architectural icon, a national cultural heritage, and a priceless gem of a venue.
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