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


  1. A very nice article indeed! Kudos to you and Arquitectura Manila!

  2. Very enriching, encourage more architects to join your passion, conservation of our heritage go. go. go.

    1. Thank you! If only future architects like me will take care and preserve our built heritage, and not just demolish them. Architects should not only make money and a name for himself, but should also give back to the community by preserving these structures.

  3. Curioso encontrar este artículo.. Pérez Samanillo era mi bisabuelo.

  4. Rolando F. JuliandaMarch 21, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    Ano po ba ang name ng building na may Singer Sewing machine store sa Escolta near corner of Nueva Street, na binago noong 1930's na ginawang Capitol Theater. Maraming salamat.

  5. I just pass by the building and saw a cool bistro and some classy stall it looks awesome.

  6. Thanks for this blog. Very informative.

  7. Dear Mr. Paulo Rubio, we wouls like to request your permission to include the Pérez Samanilllo building photo in a corporate video we are creating for our late founder, Mrs. Esther Vibal, who joined our Creator on Nov. 28, 2020. We are now doing a tribute video for her that will be uploaded on Vibal's FB and Youtube socmed. Please be assured that the material will be properly attributed. If you need further information, you may contact me at

    Thank you and Happy New Year!