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9 Buildings in Escolta Where You Can Relive the Country's Past

by Joseph Bawar

Way before BGC or Ayala CBD became the bustling hotspots they are today, Escolta was the go-to place to see and be seen.

INSTAGRAM: archiechiang

Dubbed as “The Queen of Streets”, Manileños would flock to Escolta to shop, work, and dine making it a leading commercial district starting from the 1800s to the early 1930s. Fast forward several years later, Escolta has become a casualty of the modern times and somehow lost its appeal.

Thanks to the recent initiatives of conservationist groups and individuals, Escolta is having a renaissance. Old buildings are now being occupied and being reused for business giving the younger generation the chance to rediscover its glorious past. Read on for a list of buildings you can visit this side of Manila!

1. Don Roman Santos Building

INSTAGRAM: ysabeldedios

Named after Prudential Life’s founder, this building has been occupied by several establishments ever since it was built in 1894. Designed by Juan Hervas, it is now the location for the Sta. Cruz branch of a local bank. It incorporates Neoclassical and Renaissance architectural style in its design.

Fun Fact: The clock displayed on the façade of the Don Roman Santos Building was made in Strasbourg, Austria. And yes, it still works!


2. Regina Building

INSTAGRAM: iamchingdee

Previously known as Roxas Building, the Regina Building was designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro (son of Juan Luna). It is one of the few buildings in the area that combines Beaux-Artes and neoclassicism style. The building is surrounded on its two sides by two bodies of water, Estero de la Reina and the Pasig River.


3. First United Building

INSTAGRAM: clauliberan

The First United Building, formerly known and still commonly referred to as Perez-Samanillo Building, is an Art Deco building on Escolta Street in Binondo, Manila. It was designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro, son of renowned painter Juan Luna, and was once the tallest building in Manila when it was completed in 1928.

At present, it houses several artsy shops and establishments which all take part in the Escolta Art Fair and Escolta Block Party. This is also the site of the 99 Collab Community Museum.


4. The Calvo Museum at Calvo Building

INSTAGRAM: rylejustinuy

If you’re in for some Manila nostalgia, a visit to the Calvo Museum in Escolta should be included on your list. It was opened in 1938 and located right across the old Capitol Theater. Calvo Museum is like a time capsule: items on display range from old bottles to photos of Carnival Queens as well as lyric sheets of popular Filipino songs.

Did you know that the building where Calvo Museum is located was also the birthplace of GMA radio station DZBB?


5. The Commercial Bank and Trust Company Building

INSTAGRAM: melaniobulakenyo

Who would have thought that somewhere in Escolta, with its deco-inspired and beaux arts architecture, one can find a saucer-like structure?

Designed by Jose Maria Zaragoza, who also designed the Meralco building in Ortigas, the building used to house the Commercial Bank and Trust Company.


6. Capitol Theater

INSTAGRAM: heyivann

Another art deco masterpiece by National Artist Juan Nakpil, the Capitol Theater is one of the two stand-alone theaters this side of Manila (the other one being Lyric Theater).

It used to accommodate 1,100 people in its air-conditioned double balcony which is quite a feat during the time it was built. Also found inside Capitol Theater’s lobby is a mural entitled Rising Philippines created by several National Artists namely Victorio C. Edades, Carlos V. Francisco and Galo B. Ocampo.


7. Burke Building

INSTAGRAM: jakecrisostomo

It was designed by notable architect Thomas Arguelles and completed in 1793. Named after philanthropist, William J. Burke, the building is also known as the location of the first elevator in Manila.


8. El Hogar Building

INSTAGRAM: nowwatchmeneyney

Built in 1914 and located at the corner of Juan Luna Street and Muelle dela Industría in the Binondo district, El Hogar Building was designed by Ramon Irureta-Goyena and Francisco Perez-Muñoz. It was built as a wedding present of Antonio Melian y Pavia, third Count of Peracamps, to his bride Margarita Zóbel de Ayala, who was a sister of Enrique Zóbel de Ayala.

Contrary to what most people think, El Hogar was not a hotel. Rather, it used to house several establishments such as the Sociedad El Hogar Filipino, a financing cooperative founded by Melian, and the offices of Smith Bell and Company.


9. Juan Luna Building

INSTAGRAM: eldryjohn

Adjacent to the El Hogar is the Juan Luna Building (also known as the Juan Luna Plaza). It was also known as the Pacific Commercial Company Building, First National City Bank Building, and the Ayala Building. The five-storey building was designed by American architects Murphy, McGill and Hamlin of New York City and Shanghai at a cost of two million pesos.

On May 28, 2018, a fire broke out at the nearby Land Management Bureau Building. By 8AM, the fire has reached the Juan Luna Building affecting portions of the third and fourth floor.


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About Joseph
An art/ design junkie by heart who loves museums, DIY, and coffee.

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