Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bringing back old memories of Escolta

During it's golden days, Escolta was described as " THE STREET with many fashionable shops and department stores that display every item of imported and Philippine origin". It was the shopping capital of the rich and privileged Filipinos who were known as the Ilustrados.  In my younger days-- I would go to Escolta almost daily to fetch my dad who worked at Security Bank and on weekends I would be seen with my friends watching a movie at the Capitol or Lyric Theater.

I still remember  some of the big names before----Savory, Soriente Santos,  Rebullida, Heacock's, Botica Boie, Berg's, Syvel's, La Estrella del Norte, Oceanic ( where we would buy original watches ) to name a few... I had a favorite department store that time--- it was the one located near Quiapo , The Aguinaldo's Department Store. Most of the buildings are gone now... replaced by modern edifices occupied by banks and fast food chains. Yes, Escolta still exists but its glory is gone.

During the Spanish times , Escolta was the most expensive strip of real estate in the land. It is in Escolta where the country's first multi-storied buildings rose. Today, Escolta is in total decay. The banks have moved out. Capitol theater is now a shell. Lyric Theater was demolished and now a school has been built on its site. All the upscale stores that once lined Escolta are all gone.  My stroll down memory lane was a complete let down.

Although there were still a few buildings which I can still see as we walked down the main street. Some of the Art Deco buildings in Escolta still stand to this day.... marred by tangled electrical cables, there were still a lot of eye-catching architectural masterpieces that greeted us as we walked down the street. Here are some of the buildings I saw.....

REGINA BUILDING - This building was built in 1934 by Andres Luna de San Pedro. ( Juan Luna's son ). It was originally designed as a three-story commercial building. When the de Leon family bought the building from the Roxases, a fourth floor was added by Architect Fernando Ocampo -- who was the founder of the UST College of Architecture. This building also housed the world's largest steamship company, Madrigal Shipping.

BURKE BUILDING - This building had the first elevator in the Philippines. It was named after William Burke  who introduced and installed the first electrocardiograph in the country.

CAPITOL THEATER - It was built in 1935. It was designed by Architect Juan Nakpil. The Capitol theater was built in Art Deco style which was a rave in the 1930's. It was one of the two cinema houses along the strip of Escolta... the other one is Lyric ( I tried to look for it --- but unfortunately it was not there anymore )... Capitol Theater had a sitting capacity of 800 and had 2 balconeys. One for Lodge ( this was for group dates ) and Balcony was for lovers... I still remember that there was a beautiful mural in the lobby of Capitol Theater done by Victorio Edades, a national artist... Now this building is nothing else but a dilapidated shell.

SYVEL'S - was a very high end department store then.

I decided to tag along with Iggy, Cris, Camille ( sister of Cris ) and Eleanor to have lunch in Escolta. Iggy and the group decided to take some photos of Escolta. Camille texted to say that she read recently in the papers about a Chinese restaurant that was located in Escolta. The name of the restaurant was Crown Prince Seafood Restaurant. Camille warned us that it had limited parking space so we had to go early in order to find a good parking space near the restaurant.

We were at the restaurant at noon.... it wasn't full at all since it was a holiday in Manila. Camille and Eleanor were there ahead of us and she had ordered already some dishes --- and she told us we can still add to the dishes she ordered. I took a quick look at the menu and decided to just let them go ahead and order whatever they liked. Camille did the ordering..... and this is what we had...

Steamed Shrimps

Assorted Cold Cuts

Bamboo Pith with Chicken Mushroom Soup

Chilled Crab  ( a Chiu Chow specialty )


Pork Brisket with special sauce

After lunch --- we all walked over to the Calvo Building ..The building was built in 1933 -- and it is the Home of the Escolta Museum, where visitors can see miniature models of the art deco buildings in Escolta. The entrance fee is 50 PHP per person. .

This museum was very informative and interesting. It had artifacts, pictures, an assorted vintage bottle collection and scale models of the different architectural buildings of modern Escolta. Let me share some of the photos I took in the museum.

Scale model of Escolta

Capitol Theater

Blue prints of Lyric Theater

and Botica Boie -- the first and largest drugstore in the Philippines in the 19th century.

Then we walked towards the Santa Cruz church... We saw some hawkers selling various stuffs...

Our last stop was at Polland Coffee Shop...were we had coffee and dessert

Mochi balls filled with mongo

our favorite Buchi...

and being the ghost month... Polland had all flavors of mooncake... We ordered the one with Lotus seed.

Escolta became congested in the 80's and lost its aura in the 90's when the super malls and food courts came up in other neighboring municipalities. Eventually, Escolta became a ghost of its former self, especially when the last shopping center, Syvel's closed down.

I hope that one day the city government can set up a commission to study how to bring back Escolta's old glory... Then, maybe I will enjoy another stroll down memory lane...

What are your memories of Escolta????

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