Sunday, March 30, 2014

Capitol Theater

The ever-beautiful Capitol Theater along the busy Escolta. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Pre-war Manila was a city of entertainment, its streets lined with nightclubs, cabarets, theaters, cinemas, and social clubs. The city had so much theaters that some were built right in front or beside each other. So, along the stretch of the beautiful Escolta is a first-class theater that many members of the alta sociedad prefer, which is the Capitol Theater.

The Capitol Theater sits on prime land at the western side of the Escolta, once the country's premier business and shopping area north of the Pasig River. The Capitol Theater is one of the city's many cinema theaters, but not the Escolta's only cinema as its rival (later sister) theater Lyric is only two buildings away from the Capitol.

A photo of the Capitol during its grand opening. © Nostalgia

The Capitol Theater was built in 1935, and a masterpiece of National Artist Juan F. Nakpil de Jesús, who also designed the Pérez Samanillo Building together with the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro. It was designed and built in the art-deco style of architecture, an architectural style that was prevalent in the 1920s and 1930s. The Capitol had a total of eight hundred seats, and one of Manila's air-conditioned theaters. One interesting feature of the Capitol was its design. Inside the theater, Nakpil made use of double balconies, which was then a rare architectural design. Its lobby adorned murals designed by the triumvirate composed of Filipino modernists Victorio C. Edades, Carlos V. Francisco, and Galo B. Ocampo. According to documents, Nakpil originally commissioned Edades to work on the mural. Edades then chose 'Botong' Francisco to be his assistant, who then brought with him Ocampo. The three had just returned from the United States and hoped to change the Philippine art scene long dominated by the masters Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino. 

Capitol Theater's mural called 'Rising Philippines' adorned its lobby. From L-R are: Carlos V. Francisco, Severino Fabie, Galo B. Ocampo, Victorio C. Edades, and Arch. Juan F. Nakpil. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

There are other interesting things about the Capitol Theater. Its façade has two bas-relief sculptures designed by Italian sculptor and expatriate Francesco Riccardo Monti. Monti's other works also include the bas-relief sculpture called 'Furies' at the old Meralco (then Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, now the Manila Electric Company) Building along Calle San Marcelino, sculptures atop University of Santo Tomás' main building, and the sculptures at the Quezón Memorial in Quezón City.

Escolta corner Calle Nueva. The Capitol Theater can be seen on the right side of the photo. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The bas-relief at the Capitol portrays two Filipinas in the tradional Filipiniana attire. Both sculptures are placed on both sides of the theater's façade.

"The Capitol Theater, designed by Juan Nakpil in 1935, explicitly portrays Filipinas in the native garb on the front elevations. The women, set within a tropical landscape, evoke a faraway rural and bucolic place very much different from the urbanized and built-up setting of the commercial district of Escolta in Manila. If the situation is closely inspected, the Filipino designers employing art deco were not considered as part of the “rural folk” being represented in the stylistic ornamentations, but rather were metropolitanized architects who were in fact part of the “new” cultural elite of cosmopolitan Manila (Salamanca 1968, 91-92). Thus, they were not necessarily experiencing in their daily lives the “rural” and “native” imagery that they were enacting." (excerpt from Heritage Conservation Society)

Monti's bas-relief sculpture featuring Filipinas in tradional Filipino attire. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Capitol was owned and operated by theater moguls Vicente and Ernesto Rufino, whose family owned many theaters throughout the city such as the Lyric, State, Grand, Ever, and Avenue Theaters. But, according to José Victor Torres' 'Manila: Studies in Urban Cultures and Traditions', the Tuason family first owned the Capitol through their purchase of the Eastern Theatrical Company Inc.

"The heirs of Demetrio Tuason first engaged in show business by purchasing the Eastern Theatrical Enterprises which owned the Fox Theater and operated the Metropolitan Theater. The Tuason family then put up the Eastern Theatrical Co., Inc. The encouraging results prodded the heirs to build the Capitol Theater at the Escolta which was inaugurated in 1935. This also became the new office of the family company. The company also purchased the Lyric Theater from the Peoples Bank and Trust Company in 1939. This acquisition made the company sole owners of the two modern movie houses at the Escolta.  The Lyric Theater in itself had an interesting history. In 1917, the Exhibitor’s Exchange, which was owned by the firm of France and Goulette, built the first Lyric Theater on the side of the old Botica Boie at the Escolta. It was remodeled in 1927, changed ownership in 1935 and remodeled again in 1937. President of the Eastern Theatrical Co., Inc. was Jose Tuason and Nicasio Tuason was General Manager." (excerpt from Manila: Studies in Urban Cultures and Traditions)

The Capitol and the Escolta viewed from inside a shop also along the majestic street. Photo taken sometime in the late 1930s. © Nostalgia

A colored photo, probably a postcard, of the Escolta business area. The Capitol is on the left side of the photo. © Arquitectura Manila Photo File

Escolta and the Capitol during the mid-thirties. © LIFE via Flickr/Beyond Forgetting 

The Japanese occupation came about in 1942, with the defeat of the combined Filipino and American forces in Corregidor. During the war years, the Escolta still continued to be the center of gravity in the city. Since most theaters in the city featured American films before the war, they were banned from being showed by the Japanese High Command. The Capitol instead showed local films, live production acts, and Japanese propaganda tools. It has been said that Fernando Poe Sr. was a film producer in the Capitol during the Japanese occupation.

Conducting an air raid in December, 1941. © Nostalgia

The Battle of Manila had ravaged more than eighty percent of the city's infrastructure, displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians, and left one hundred thousand civilians dead. The Capitol was one of the unfortunate buildings that were damaged, though not as destroyed as her neighbors like the Crystal Arcade, Cu-Unjieng Building, and the Masonic Temple. 

An aerial view of the Escolta-Binondo-Sta. Cruz areas showing the extent of damages done by both American and Japanese forces. The Capitol (encircled) can also be seen. © Flickr/John Tewell

Life at the Escolta came back to life after the liberation of the city. The Capitol was renovated and was once again up and running until it ceased operations decades ago. This was the trend of movie theaters in Manila during the late 1970s to the 1980s, where standalone theaters close due to the opening of shopping malls that include movie theaters. Today, many standalone theaters no longer feature blockbuster films, but rather operate underground where soft pornographic films, or bomba, are shown.

Recently, the Capitol's interior has been abandoned, leaving only its façade. Several small business establishments and a restaurant used to operate inside.

Art-deco detail of the Capitol Theater. © Super Pasyal

There are initiatives done to preserve the historic Escolta. The Escolta Commercial Association is an organization composed of owners of business establishments along the Escolta. Also, another intiative called 'Hola Escolta' was made in 2012 which seeks the revitalization of the Escolta. 

Here at A.M., our goal is to educate the Filipino people about Manila's glorious architectural past. These built heritage are a part of our nation's history, may it be signifcant or not. To do this, we must preserve the architecture of the past as we are its stewards. We do not own these historic structures, we are only taking care of it for the next generation.  So, in the words of Ayala Corporation President and COO Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Miranda: "Your focus is always on the legacy, on the history, and really looking forward to the next generation, and making sure that you pass the baton in the same way that it has been passed on to you.

The Capitol Theater, circa 2012. © The Filipinas

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pérez Samanillo Building

The Pérez Samanillo Building during the early pre-war years. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The City of Manila was a very lively city, filled with theaters, clubs, restaurants, parks, beautiful residential homes, and magnificent office buildings. The city would not become the best in the Orient if not for its diverse population, a city and a nation filled with many nationalities such as Filipino, Spanish, American, British, Japanese, Chinese, German, etc. Because Manila was the center of economic activity in the Philippines, massive edifices were built to house institutions that are drivers of growth. In pre-war Manila, architects had to push their creativity skills as the city demanded too much buildings to be built in designs that will stand out.

The magnificent thoroughfare of the Escolta, once the seat of economic and social activity, would not be complete with the addition of the ornate Pérez Samanillo Building standing proud on its fine sidewalks.

The Pérez Samanillo Building (right), together with the old Roxas Building (now the Regina Building, left) during the late 1920s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

The Pérez Samanillo Building, originally called the Edificio Luis Pérez Samanillo, sits along the Escolta and Calle David. The building, together with the Regina Building across the street, serves as entry to the Escolta from Plaza Goiti in Sta. Cruz. Built in 1928, the Pérez Samanillo was designed in the art-deco/art-nouveau style through the partnership of the great architects Andrés Luna de San Pedro and Juan F. Nakpil de Jesús. The owner of the building is its namesake, Don Luis Pérez Samanillo, a Spanish businessman whose father, Don Manuel Pérez Marqueti, was credited for the developent of Paco in the 19th century. The Pérezes owned the famed Hotel de Oriente at the Plaza Calderón de la Barca, the hotel where Dr. José Rizal stayed when he was in Manila, and the Casa Pérez Samanillo in Barcelona, where it was reported that the Caudillo Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde witnessed the 'Victory Parade' after the Spanish Civil War. 

The Pérez family suffered ill-fated events as the patriarch, Don Luis Pérez Samanillo was killed by the communists during the Spanish Civil War, and his son, Luis Pérez de Olaguer-Feliú was killed by the Japanese in Manila during the Second World War.  

Don Luis Pérez Samanillo, owner and namesake of the Pérez Samanillo Building. Ⓒ

The building stands at the former property then-owned by Don Manuel de Azcárraga Palmero-Versosa de Lizárraga, brother of Gral. Marcelo de Azcárraga Palmero-Versosa de Lizárraga, the only Spanish Prime Minister of Filipino descent. 

Note: Names are written in standard Spanish naming custom. Spanish names are written without the Filipino 'y'. So, for males (or single females), it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]. For married females, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]de[husband's family name]. For widows, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name][husband's family name]

An advertisement for the Pérez Samanillo Building featured in a pre-war magazine called Excelsior. Another advertisement of the same layout was published, but in Spanish. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The building was one of the most modern in its time, owing to the building's glass façade. As a family-owned property, the building housed the offices of the Pérez Samanillo business operations in the Philippines, which was operated by Don Luis Pérez Samanillo's son Luis Pérez de Olaguer-Feliú. Another interesting tenant of the Pérez Samanillo Building was Berg's, a pre-war department store and one of the city's largest. One can find imported toys, lastest fashion trends at Berg's. Berg's was located on the south-east of the building, facing Estero de la Reina and Plaza Goiti. Also, the Spanish Consulate in Manila had its offices in the building.

The liberation of the city in 1945 obliterated most of downtown Manila's buildings. Luckily, the twin Luna masterpieces, the Regina Building and the Pérez Samanillo Building were spared from further destruction and only suffered minor damages. 

The twin Luna masterpieces, the Regina (left) and the Pérez Samanillo Building (right) suffered minor damages after the Battle of Manila in 1945. Ⓒ Photobucket/raphaelmempin

As the post-war years came, business and commerce were again flourishing in the Escolta area. Berg's Department Store was reopened and continued its operations. The Pérez Samanillo was rebuilt but with less embellishments. The ornaments on its top floor were removed to make way for the construction of a sixth level.  

Berg's Department Store during the 1950s. Ⓒ Flickr/John Tewell

Berg's Department Store on the ground floor of the Pérez Samanillo Building. Photo taken sometime in the 1950s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Today, the Pérez Samanillo Building is now renamed as the First United Building after it was purchased by the Sylianteng family, the same family who bought the Regina Building across the street. The building is also where art collab organization called 98B holds their Saturday Market Fairs. Also, a couple years ago, an initiative called 'Hola Escolta' was launched to help promote the Escolta as a tourist destination.

The Pérez Samanillo's ornate staircase. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

We at A.M. fully support the initiatives done by all sectors of society in reviving the historic Escolta. Any rehabilitation and resurrection of the Escolta will be gladly supported by our team at A.M.. We just hope that the rehabilitation of the Escolta would not make use of demolition as a tool of 'development' and modernization, but rather make use of existing structures to preserve the glorious architecture that the city is proud to have.

The Pérez Samanillo Building in the present time. Ⓒ Mole In The Foot via Arquitectura Manila Photo File

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Calvo Building

The beautiful beaux-arts Calvo Building along the Escolta. © Arquitectura Manila Photo File

The old business districts of Binondo and Sta. Cruz always remind us that all structures that once stood on its streets were designed in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to the eyes of pedestrians. Of the two districts that boasted its buildings, the Escolta in Binondo definitely gets the upper hand. The five-block long narrow street was once hailed as the 'Fifth Avenue' and the 'Wall Street' of the country as it played an important role in shaping the country's economic, social, and cultural aspects. Because the Escolta gained popularity among Filipinos and foreigners alike, it hosted some of the city's (and the country's) best structures designed by Filipino architecture masters such as Luna de San Pedro, Arellano, Antonio, Ocampo, Argüelles, and more.

Along the stretch of the Escolta, there is a building partially-hidden because of her neighbors' sheer size, waiting to be discovered. It is the Calvo Building. The Calvo Building was a three-(now four) storey building on the corner of Escolta and Calle Soda. Built in 1938 in the beaux-arts style by Fernando H. Ocampo, and his partner Tomás Argüelles, the Calvo was owned by real estate businesswoman Doña Emiliana Mortera vda. de Calvo. 

Architects Tomás Argüelles (left), and Fernando H. Ocampo (right) © Kapampangan Biographical Dictionary

The Calvo is located along the magnificent Escolta, facing her neighbors the Crystal Arcade, Capitol Theater, and the Brias Roxas Building. At a cost of P300,000.00, the construction materials used by the Calvo Building were supplied by well-known establishments such as steel bars supplied by the Republic Steel Corporation, where it was represented in the Philippines by Atlas Trade Development Corporation; cement was supplied by Rizal Cement owned by Madrigal y Cía of the late Senator Vicente Madrigal López, and doors supplied by Gonzalo Puyat & Sons. 

A newspaper special article on the opening of the Calvo Building in 1938. © 98B

After its opening, some of the country's leading institutions set up their offices in the building. The Philippine Bank of Commerce had its offices on the ground floor, the law offices of Aquino and Lichauco attorneys-at-law occupying half of the second floor, and the offices of Araneta and Company on the third floor.

The Calvo also housed Luisa's, a pre-war soda fountain house and a favorite among Manila's alta sociedad.

Calvo Building during the pre-war years. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Calvo Building (third from right), viewed from the other side of the Pasig River. Other edifices such as the old Insular Life Building and the Filipinas Building can also be seen on the photo. © Manila Nostalgia/John Tewell via Lou Gopal

The post-war years saw the rebirth of a new and modern Escolta. Calvo's neighbors such as the Crystal Arcade, Brias Roxas, and Lyric are now gone and replaced by modern structures such as the Philippine National Bank Building. The Calvo Building became the home of American journalist Robert 'Uncle Bob' Stewart's Republic Broadcasting Service, forerunner to DZBB, where it held its first broadcast. 

Detailed mascarons of the Calvo Building drawn in ink. © Flickr/strangero19

Today, the Calvo Building now hosts to the Escolta Museum and the offices of the Escolta Commercial Association. The association, which composed of owners whose businesses are located at the Escolta, seeks to rehabilitate the area and revitalize it as a tourist area. The Escolta Museum is located on the second floor of the building where one can see the street's colorful history through photographs and other memorabilia. Also, the museum carries a scale model diorama of the Escolta and other adjacent areas. 
The interior of the Escolta Museum lined with scale model buildings. © Fitzgrace Manila

Detailed shot of the Calvo Building. © David Montasco

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Natividad Building

The ever-beautiful beaux-arts Natividad Building along the Escolta. Ⓒ

The Escolta was long been known as the country's equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue and Wall Street combined, as it hosted numerous office buildings, shops and department stores, banks, theaters, and restaurants. Buildings that were erected on this famous strip were designed by illustrious architects such as Luna de San Pedro, Argüelles, Nakpil, Ocampo, and Antonio. One building along the famous five block thoroughfare boasts itself as one of the most simple yet elegant pieces of architecture built -- the Natividad Building.

The Natividad Building, built in the beaux-arts style of architecture, was designed by Philippine-born Spanish architect Fernando de la Cantera Blondeau. His other famous work was the old Insular Life Building on the foot of Jones Bridge between Plaza Moraga and Plaza Cervantes. The Natividad is located along the Escolta corner Calle Tomás Pinpin, and is one of only two who sport beaux-arts architecture along the Escolta, the other being the Calvo Building a few meters away.

Arch. Fernando de la Cantera Blondeau, architect of the Natividad Building. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

Before the building was named Natividad, it was the Philippine Education Company Building during the pre-war years. Its lower floors were rented out and became the stores of Hamilton Brown Shoe Store and H. Alonso Boutique, which carries the famous Florsheim Shoes. Hamilton Brown was a famous pre-war boutique shoe store catering to menswear, ladies wear, and tailoring services. The upper floors was where the Philippine Education Company used to be. The Philippine Education Company Inc., or PECO, was a pre-war bookstore which sold books, magazines, fine stationary, and novelty items.

The then-Philippine Education Company (PECO)/Hamilton Brown Building at the corner of the Escolta and Calle Tomás Pinpin during the 1930s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/John Tewell via John Harper

Another photo of the Philippine Education Company/Hamilton Brown Building at the same point-of-view, which was taken during the 1930s. Ⓒ Nostalgia

The battle for Manila in 1945 had destroyed more than eighty percent of the city's infrastructure. Luckily, the PECO/Hamilton Brown Building was not razed to the ground, but only suffered minor reparable injuries. 

The PECO/Hamilton Brown Building (third from the left) suffered minor injuries during the bloodbath Battle of Manila in 1945. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/John Harper

The post-war years saw the closing of the building's anchor tenants, the Hamilton Brown Shoe Store and the Philippine Education Company Bookstore. Because of this, the building was vacant and was bought by Pampangueño millionaire Don José Leoncio de León, the man whose family also bought the Regina Building from the de Ayala-Roxas family back in 1934. Don José renamed the building Natividad, in honor of his second wife, Natividad Joven Gutiérrez de León, sister of his first wife Regina. During the family's ownership of the building, it became the offices of the Insurance Commission, an agency of the government which oversees the insurance industry in the country.

The trees add to the Natividad's Parisian vibe. The building and the whole of Escolta would be great if it were turned into a boutique hotel or maybe a standalone Louis Vuitton boutique. Ⓒ The Filipinas

Today, the Natividad Building is still standing proud along the Escolta, as it is one of the remaining edifices that are still in use. A tourist, or even a local, would feel a Parisian vibe in the area because of the presence of the Natividad. With its beaux-arts architecture and pastel-colored façade, it is definitely one of the city's beautiful structures. Though the Natividad is not as ornate as its neighbors along the Escolta, it really gives a character in how life was during its nearly one hundred years in existence.

Here at A.M., heritage conservation matters. Because the Manila city government had announced its plans earlier this year that it plans to rehabilitate the Escolta-Binondo area, we at A.M. would like to express its all-out support for this plan. In our opinion, we would want the Escolta to regain its former glory, on a modern perspective. To realize this, we would like to suggest that the historical buildings be preserved and turned into something useful and create revenue, such as a boutique hotel, al-fresco dining spaces, or who knows, maybe the Metro's first standalone Louis Vuitton, Prada, or Hermes boutique. 

This angle of the Natividad really gives off its Parisian vibe. If the rehabilitation of the Escolta pushes through, it would be beautiful if coffee shops and al-fresco dining spaces adorn its lower floors. Ⓒ

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Regina Building

The Regina Building along the Escolta, c. 2014. Ⓒ Flickr/mrbinondo

We all know that the pre-war City of Manila was considered as the best city in the Far East, at par with those in Europe and in the Americas. Visitors who came into the city were amazed on what the city has to offer. In fact, when the Japanese paraded their troops in Manila, they were envious that Manila was way more beautiful than their own Tokyo. We owe our gratitude not only to the people who worked hard to make the Pearl of the Orient Seas one of the best, but we also have to recognize the structures that made our city unique. 

The pre-war business districts of Binondo and Sta. Cruz boast a number of beautiful office buildings. One of these buildings is the famed Regina Building along the famed Escolta. 

The predecessor of the Regina Building, the old Edificio Roxas on the corner of the Escolta and Calle Banquero facing Plaza Sta. Cruz. Photo taken sometime in 1905. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Before the present Regina Building was built, another building stood on its location. The old Roxas Building was located opposite the Pérez-Samanillo Building, occupying a block from Calle David (now Burke St.) to Calle Banquero. The building had two wings, with the concrete building facing Calle David and the Pasig which was occupied by the offices of the Roxas y Cía, and Pedro P. Roxas y Cía. The other wing faces the Estero de la Reina and Plaza Sta. Cruz which a quaint coffee shop called Victoria Café occupies. The owners of the old Roxas Building were the de Ayala-Roxas family, specifically Doña Carmen de Ayala Roxas de Roxas, widow of rich man-nationalist Don Pedro Pablo Roxas Castro. 

Note: Names are written in standard Spanish naming custom. Spanish names are written without the Filipino 'y'. So, for males (or single females), it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]. For married females, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]de[husband's family name]. For widows, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name][husband's family name].

Pre-war map of the Escolta-Binondo business district. The concrete Roxas Building is on the top right hand side (24), while the old building is the letter 'L'. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal via John Harper

Da. Carmen de Ayala Roxas vda. de Pedro P. Roxas Castro, heiress to the Roxas-de Ayala fortune and owner of the old Roxas Building. Ⓒ Ayala Corporation

The de Ayala-Roxas matriarch and heiress Doña Carmen de Ayala Roxas de Roxas died in 1930. As a result, the Roxas family sold the property to Don José Leoncio de León, a prominent industrialist from Pampanga. The old structure facing the estero was demolished and was replaced by a concrete building.

The old and new Roxas Buildings (left) in the 1920s. The old bahay na bato building has been renovated (the previous photo shows that the house had a third storey). The newer building facing Calle David can be seen at the back of the old building. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

The Regina and the Pérez-Samanillo Buildings act as the entrance to the Escolta from Plaza Sta. Cruz. Ⓒ The Philippine Star

The building was designed by two architects, Fernando H. Ocampo, and the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro. Ocampo was credited in designing and renovating the existing concrete building while Luna was the one who designed the new building facing the estero and Plaza Sta. Cruz. One of the tenants of the building was Pacific Motors, dealer of General Motors vehicles in Manila.

Pacific Motors dealership at the Regina Building facing the Pasig along Muelle del Banco Nacional. Ⓒ University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

The before and after photos of the renovation of the Roxas Building. Ⓒ Arkitekturang Filipino via Isidra Reyes

In 1934, the new building was completed. Designed in a mixed neo-classical and beaux-arts styles by Andrés Luna de San Pedro. The new building annexed the old building facing the Pasig. The building was renamed as the Regina, in honor of José Leoncio de León's wife, heiress Regina Joven Gutiérrez Hizon de León. The building became the offices of the de León businesses of Pampanga Sugar Development Co. (PASUDECO) and National Life Insurance Co.

The war in 1945 brought destruction to the city. The block-by-block, street-by-street, building-by-building, and room-by-room fighting lost more than 80 percent of the city's structures, with the Escolta-Binondo business area inflicting the most damage. Unfortunately, the Regina was not spared in the battle. However, it only had minor damages and was repaired afterwards.

The Regina Building (left), and the Pérez-Samanillo Building (right) partially damaged during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Ⓒ Photobucket

The post-war years saw a new era for the Regina Building. Most of the de León businesses were housed in the Regina and its sister property, the Natividad Building. Today, the building is still owned by the heirs of Don José Leoncio de León of the PASUDECO wealth.

        The Regina Building during the 1950s. Ⓒ Nostalgia

An express of interest over Escolta's rehabilitation as a tourist spot was raised after the victory of incumbent mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada. Also, a tour entitled #VivaManila was conceived by celebrity tour guide/activist Carlos Celdran. He aims to restore the former glory of Manila's historic districts, which includes the Escolta-Binondo business area. We at A.M. fully support the plans of the city government of Manila in restoring of not only of the Escolta, but the rehabilitation of the city as a whole.

The Regina Building in 2006. Ⓒ Heritage Conservation Society

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A.M. Shorts: E.A. Perkins Residence

 'El Nido', the Eugene Arthur Perkins residence along Dewey Boulevard in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

In pre-war Manila, houses of illustrious families were designed by well-known architects according to their elegant tastes. Their homes were either designed in the renaissance, art-deco, beaux-arts, or the traditional Filipino bahay na bato style. But one house stood out among the rest, and this was the El Nido, the residence of Eugene Arthur 'E.A.' Perkins, and his wife Idonah Slade. The house and the family became the center of intrigue among Manila's high society because of domestic quarrels between Eugene and Idonah.

The owner of the house, E.A. Perkins, was the first American envoy to the Royal Court of Siam (Thailand's counterpart of the Royal Court of St. James). Born in Bangkok in 1888, he went to Manila and became a partner of the law firm DeWitt, Perkins, and Brady. In 1935, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's father Alfonso Ponce Enrile joined the firm and was renamed DeWitt, Perkins, Brady, and Ponce Enrile. Their law firm was located in Edificio Soriano (formerly as the Geronimo de los Reyes Building) in Plaza Cervantes. 

E.A. Perkins (right), checking the shipment of Lepanto gold with Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank manager W. Webster (right) in 1949. Ⓒ Nostalgia

The Perkins residence was designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro in the Moorish Mediterranean style. The house, which faces the Manila Bay, was located in the residential section of Ermita, where homes of prominent Filipino and expatriate families once stood. As their home stood out among the rest, it won the title of The 'Most Beautiful Home of 1928', a year before the Zóbels won theirs a year later.

Dewey Boulevard and its environs in the 1920s. the El Nido was located at the corner of Dewey Boulevard and Calle Divisoria (now Salas St.). Ⓒ Nostalgia

  The penthouse living room of the Perkins residence in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

One of the rooms inside the El Nido. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes 

When the Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935, the American governor-general had moved out of Malacañang Palace and was replaced by a High Commissioner (an equivalent of an ambassador). The High Commissioner was in need of his own residence. So, in 1937 when the newly-appointed High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt arrived in Manila, Attorney E.A. Perkins offered his El Nido to be McNutt's home until a permanent residence for the High Commissioner is finished. 

President Manuel L. Quezón (left) enjoying cigarettes with American High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt (right). Ⓒ

In the 1950s, shortly before E.A. Perkins died, he sold his property. The new owner had the El Nido demolished and was replaced by an apartment known as the L&S Building, which was designed by Alfredo Luz.