Contrary to popular belief, the first Independence Grandstand was not originally located on the present site of the Quirino Grandstand but on the area close to Dewey Boulevard right across the Rizal Monument and the flagpole. It was completed in 1946 for the ceremony of the declaration of Philippine independence from the United States on 4 July 1946. Juan Arellano designed the original grandstand in the neoclassical design with ornate elements added to the structure such as a triumphal arch at the top with two "wings" that shaded the main galleries, a stage in the form of a ship's bow with a carved figurehead of a maiden representing freedom, and two other figures, representing a Filipino and a Filipina, that stood about 10 meters (33 ft) tall behind the stage and the central gallery.
The current grandstand
The grandstand was later demolished and a new one was built further away from the old site near the breakwater and the Manila Bay where it stands to this day. Designed by Federico Ilustre, supervising architect for the Bureau of Public Works, the new Independence Grandstand's design was patterned after the Arellano-designed grandstand, (including the triumphal arch) with a simpler design (without the ship bow stage and the statues) and some Art Deco influence in the canopy compared to the original. The structure was completed in 1949, in time for the inauguration of President Elpidio Quirino. Years later after his death, the grandstand was renamed in his honor.
Quirino Grandstand was expanded over the years to accommodate more people, and the triumphal arch was eventually gone. Work in the 1990s brought about a return to the structure's neoclassical roots with the addition of some neoclassical elements in the expansion area.
The Quirino Grandstand has been the traditional venue for annual Independence Day activities as well as that of many Philippine presidential inaugurations since the 1949 Quirino inaugural. In addition, the grandstand has also been a site for many civic, religious, sporting, and political gatherings. It served as the main venue of the World Youth Day 1995 closing liturgy, the 2000 Gregorian Millennium New Year Celebrations in the country, the 2005 Southeast Asian Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and the concluding mass of Pope Francis's visit to the Philippines in 2015.
The grandstand grounds was also the site of the Manila Hostage Crisis which strained relations between Manila and Hong Kong for a time. Also, it also served as a venue for GMA Network's Christmas Special, Sing For Me, in 2007. In popular culture, the grandstand also featured in the commercial for KFC's First Filipino Colonel, Ronaldo Valdez.
- Macaraig, Twink (host) (28 June 2010)."Grandstands and Grand Plans".The Explainer. ANC..
- Alcazaren, Paulo. "Grandstands and grand public spaces", The Philippine Star, 10 July 2010.