Crystal Arcade

The Crystal Arcade during its heyday. © Arquitectura Manila Photo File

The Philippine capital of Manila was a city of high stature, comparable to those fine cities of the Occident such as Paris, London, and Madrid. The pre-war years have given Manila to acclaim itself as the 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East' whilst Manila's neighbors, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, were backwater outposts of their colonial masters. This is proven by the influx of European migrants and expatriates to the city in the first half of the 20th century. Germans, Spaniards, Americans, British, French, and Russians made Manila their home, at least, until the end of the Second World War. These migrants and expatriates mingled with the Philippine alta sociedad and had the city developed from a medieval Spanish city into a progressive capital of a semi-independent nation.

Shopping around the city is one of the best things to do in Manila. Long before the existence of modern Philippine shopping mall complexes such as Rustan's, Shoemart, Robinson's, and Ayala, the Crystal Arcade is considered the first shopping mall in the Philippines.

Façade of the Crystal Arcade. © Nostalgia

The Crystal Arcade was one of the most modern buildings located along the Escolta, the country's then premier business district. Built on the land owned by the Pardo de Tavera family, an illustrious Filipino family of Spanish and Poruguese lineage, the modern building was designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro, a scion of the latter. The Crystal Arcade was designed in the art deco style, a style prevalent in the 1920s to the 1940s. It was to be one of Luna's masterpieces, with the building finish resembled that of a gleaming crystal. 

The conception of a construction of the Crystal Arcade started in the 1920s as a pet project of Luna. Luna wanted to have the same prestige in the arts and architecture like that of his father, the great revolutionary-painter Juan Luna Novicio. To make such thing possible, he infused the sleek and streamline art deco design with crytal-like glass in his design for the building. 

Andrés Luna de San Pedro (1887-1952) © Nostalgia

The Crystal Arcade was inaugurated in June of 1932, and was the first shopping establishment, or the first commercial establishment that was fully air-conditioned. Its interiors reminded the Philippine elite of the arcades that of Paris, with covered walkways, glass covered display windows and cafés and other specialty shops.

Crystal Arcade interior, adorned with a pair of grand staircases. © Manila Nostalgia/Carmelo Mosqueda 

Inside the Crystal Arcade, one can find the home of the first Manila Stock Exchange, the precursor to today's Philippine Stock Exchange.

 A typical trading day at the Manila Stock Exchange inside the Crystal Arcade. 

According to sources, the Crystal Arcade was used to be owned by its architect, the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro, probably due to the land being owned by his maternal family, the Pardo de Taveras, but was foreclosed by its creditor, the El Hogar Filipino, due to the financial situation that came about during the Wall Street crash and the Great Depression in the late 1920s to the early 1930s. The Crystal Arcade was also planned to have more floors but was eventually scrapped because of lack of funds. 

When the Crystal Arcade opened in 1932, it was the most elegant building in the area as it was constructed with glass which illuminates like crystal at night. Its interiors were also as elegant as the exterior, showing art deco lines and motifs. 

"The Arcade had a mezzanine on both sides of a central gallery that ran through the length of the building and expanded at the center to form a spacious lobby containing curved stairways. Stairs, balconies, columns and skylight combined to create vertical and horizontal movement, as well as a play of light and shadow in the interior. Art deco bays pierced by a vertical window marked each end of the façade and complemented the tower over the central lobby. Wrought-iron grilles and stucco ornaments were in the art deco style featuring geometric forms, stylized foliage, and diagonal lines and motifs." (excerpt from Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial legacies, post-colonial trajectories)

Escolta in 1937. The Crystal Arcade is on the left of the photo. © Nostalgia

In 1941, the Second World War came to the Philippines only hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed. The capital city, Manila, was also bombed by the invading Japanese forces causing damage to the city. The following year, in January, triumphant Japanese forces entered the city despite of it being declared an open city. During the occupation years, the Crystal Arcade was home to Japanese occupation agencies such as the Japanese Government Railways and the Board of Tourist Industry. 

The year 1945, for those who lived in Japanese-occupied Manila, was probably the most traumatic and devastating year. In the months of February and March saw the most bitter fighting in all of the Pacific. Sixteen thousand (16,000) fanatical Imperial Japanese Navy soldiers fought American and Filipino forces to the last man, bringing with them about one hundred thousand (100,000) civilians massacred. The effect of this bitter fighting resulted in the near-total destruction of the City of Manila. More than eighty (80) percent of the city's structures were obliterated, many of them into extinction. The Crystal Arcade, located along the Escolta, was one of the casualties of war, Escolta being one of the areas of fierce combat.

A heavily damaged Crystal Arcade taken immediately after the liberation for Manila. © George Mountz Collection

Shelled-out interiors of the Crystal Arcade. © Nostalgia

Immediately after the liberation of Manila, businesses soon opened even its locations were in shambles. In the Crystal Arcade, businesses reopened and some new businesses found a home in the Crystal Arcade. Only the first floor was occupied with stores and the second floor being a bodega, or storage room of the tenants. Eventually, in the 1960s, the Crystal Arcade was demolished to pave way for the post-war revival of the Escolta. Its successor, the new Philippine National Bank Building, designed by Carlos Argüelles, replaced the Crystal Arcade, the Lyric Theater, and the Brias Roxas Building.

Heacock's Department Store

A typical scene outside Heacock's Department Store along the Escolta. © Manila Nostalgia/John Harper

Long before the existence of today's department stores such as Rustan's, Robinson's, and the ever-famous Shoemart, now known as SM, there were already department stores that were far more luxurious than that of today's. Manila, being the city that boasted numerous feats in architecture, also hosted and boasted the finest shops and stores in all of the Orient. One of these department stores was Heacock's, probably the most recognized and popular stores in the city back in the day.

Heacock's Department Store first became a jewelry store operating under the partnership name Heacock & Freer, two American brothers-in-law from San Francisco. H.E. Heacock, one of the partners, was a travelling salesman originally hailed from Salem, Ohio and first came to the Philippines in 1901 to open a branch of his jewelry store. After arriving in Manila, Heacock & Co. set up shop on the second floor of the McCullough Building at the foot of the Santa Cruz Bridge. Since then, Heacock & Co. became the best known American jewelry store in the city.

H.E. Heacock, one of the founders of H.E. Heacock & Company. © Filipinas Heritage Library

In 1909, the brothers-in-law Heacock and Freer sold the company to Samuel Francis Gaches, a young American entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist who arrived in Manila in the same year as Heacock, but the reason being is that Gaches worked for the American colonial civil service.

Samuel Francis Gaches, president of the H.E. Heacock & Company. © Filipinas Heritage Library

In the post-Gaches acquisition of the company, the year 1910, H.E. Heacock & Co. transferred its operations south, at an old building along the five-block Escolta. The old Escolta shop was renovated and had the most modern storefront in all of Manila with its products displayed in front, a first in the country. Eight years later, in 1918, Heacock's transferred its operations again due to the success of the department store. It moved one block east, along the Escolta corner Calle David. The new four-storey Heacock's Department Store was the most modern of its time. The department store was built on the lot of American businessman William J. Burke, the owner of the Burke Building on the Escolta.

The pre-1918 Heacock's Department Store along the Escolta. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

As the years progress, Heacock's grew larger in terms of popularity and in assets. The H.E. Heacock & Company opened branches in other parts of the Philippines such as in Baguio, Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo. Heacock's, being the country's largest department store back in the day, carried imported luxury goods from the Elgin Watch Company, which carried the brands Lord Elgin, Lady Elgin, and Elgin. Other brands include Remington Typewriters, Rogers Flatware, International Silver, and Frigidaire Refrigerators.

An ad from the Philippines Free Press dated December 1923 from Heacock's Department Store. © Manila Nostalgia/Aksyon Radio La Unión

The year 1929 saw the birth of a stronger and larger Heacock's Department Store. Gaches and the H.E. Heacock & Company started the construction of the one million peso (P1,000,000.00), eight-storey Federal style building on the corner of Calle Escolta and Calle David. The new Heacock Building was designed and constructed by the triumvirate of the Filipino architect Tomás Argüelles, the American W. James Odom, and the Spanish Insular Fernando de la Cantera. Opened a year later, the Heacock Building had the same features that of the old Insular Life Building at Plaza Moraga.

Construction of the new Heacock Building in 1929. © Nostalgia 

In an article of the American Chamber of Commerce Journal in 1930, the new million-peso Heacock Building was described as being one of the tallest in the city. The article also described the interior layout of the department store.

"The main entrance on the Escolta opens into Heacock’s proper, the jewelry store; then comes Denniston’s, the photographic department, with its valuable Eastman agency, and then the office equipment department. The jewelry store is L-shaped; one of the illustrations gives a good view of it.

In the new building the Heacock store occupies the main and mezzanine floors, both handsomely finished and artistically arranged. The second floor is also all occupied by the Heacock company; the offices are there, and the stock, accounting, mail order, wholesale and optical departments. Four rooms on the third floor are given over to stock and records; the other rooms of that floor are rented as offices, as are the rooms and suites of the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. These rooms, all of them desirable because of their location and the building they are in, offer great latitude of choice.

The seventh floor accommodates Heacock’s engraving and printing, watch-making, metal engraving, jewelry repairing and manufacturing departments; also the optical shop, Denniston’s photo laboratories, and stock of the office equipment department.

The basement, under the entire building, counts as the eighth floor. It is to accommodate automobiles during the day. Seventy-five cars will not crowd it; a wide ramp opens from Calle David, egress and ingress are safe and convenient. This public service in connection with the Heacock building will materially mitigate the downtown parking nuisance." (excerpt from the American Chamber of Commerce Journal)

The new million-peso, eight-storey Heacock Building. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes (Retrieved from Arquitectura Manila Photo File)

Interior of the Heacock Building on its opening in 1930. © Nostalgia

The triumvirate-designed edifice only lasted for seven years. In 1937, a powerful earthquake hit the Philippine capital which heavily damaged the Heacock Building. The building suffered irreparable damages which led to the demolition of the eight-storey building. Heacock's shut down its business and was quickly reorganized a month after the earthquake. 

The new edifice, also eight stories high, replaced the old demolished Heacock Building. The new building, built in the streamline art deco style, was designed also by Tomás Argüelles, but with Fernando H. Ocampo and the American George E. Koster.

The new H.E. Heacock & Company Building in 1940. © Manila Nostalgia/Dominic Galicia

The streamline art deco building had the latest in building technology, it had installed pneumatic tubes which could transport small parcels throughout the building without the need of a messenger. The building cost around P800,000.00, which is P200,000.00 cheaper than the triumvirate-designed Federal style building. 

The new H.E. Heacock Building (center) houses Heacock's Department Store and the ammunition storage of the Philippine Army. © LIFE via Nostalgia

The deadly Battle of Manila in 1945 greatly reduced the city into rubble. Escolta, home of the city's financial district, was obliterated by bombshells and gunfires. The Heacock Building was damaged but was reconstructed after the war. 

The war-torn H.E. Heacock Building, 1945. ©

Michel Apartments

The Michel Apartments at its splendor. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Long before the rise of multi-storey residential apartments in post-war Manila such as in Makati, there were already numerous apartments that were as elegant, if not, more elegant, than those of today's, in pre-war Manila. Manila, being the capital of a prosperous Philippine Islands, was once home to many expatriates of different nationalities, such as Spanish, American, British, and German. And within the confines of the modern residential section of Ermita and Malate lies the Michel Apartments, one of the city's top residential apartment.

The Michel Apartments was an art-deco, mid-rise apartment building designed by Francis 'Cheri' Mandelbaum, whose other work was the Rosaria Apartments nearby. Mandelbaum was an American architect trained in Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He also spent some time in the Philippines, coming to the islands in 1904 to work in the Bureau of Public Works with William Parsons, urban planner and architect of the Paco Station of the Philippine National Railways. Also, he worked as a professor of architecture at the University of Santo Tomás in Manila. 

At some time, the Michel Apartments was the tallest apartment building in the City of Manila. 

The Michel Apartments lay in ruins after the liberation of the city in 1945. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Michel Apartments stand nine storeys high on a 1730-square meter lot along Calle A. Mabini in Malate, the residential section of the city where many of the country's pillars in social, economic, and political institutions resided. The Michel was commissioned by Don Pedro Sy-Quia y Encarnacion, a scion of the old and landed Sy-Quia family from the north. The Michel was said to be named after his wife, Doña Asuncion Michels de Champourcin y Ventura, a mestizo from Pampanga.

This year, 2014, the Michel Apartments was hounded with a demolition permit, despite of it being a protected structure under law. The demolition of the Michel Apartments was stopped by heritage conservation activists and citizens alike through the "cease-and-desist order" from the court. But, the demolition of the Michel had already started when the court ruling came out, so it would be of no use.

Destruction of heritage structures should be given the highest priority, as physical heritage is rapidly declining because of irresponsible governance of local leaders. If the government continues to act in a way like they do not give importance to the country's heritage, then these structures will be prey to money-hungry developers.

Admiral Apartments

The Admiral Apartments back in the day, photo probably taken after the war. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/John Harper

The grandeur of pre-war Manila makes people of today reminisce about the past, the past that has been prosperous and plentiful. Manila, being the finest city in the Orient proves its stately grandeur through the representation of the city's finest homes, shops, and imposing structures. Sadly, many of the structures that Manila boasts and had boasted is now being turned into fine pieces of powder as they are being demolished to pave way for the so-called "progress".

Along the scenic Dewey Boulevard, where the pride of the City of Manila, the Manila Bay, is located, there were numerous stately homes and apartments that stood in front of its glowing waters. One of them is the Admiral, located at the corner of Dewey Boulevard and Cortabitarte. The Admiral Apartments had been home to numerous historical figures, both local and global, and had been a witness to the gruesome days of the Second World War.

Admiral Apartments during the post-war years. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Admiral Apartments along Dewey Boulevard, now Róxas Boulevard, was a work of the eminent Fernando H. Ocampo, whose other works include the Calvo Building along Escolta, Angela Apartments in Malate, and the post-war rehabilitation of the Manila Cathedral. Built in 1938 and completed in 1939, the Admiral Apartments was commissioned by Don Salvador Araneta Zaragoza and his spouse, Doña Victoria López de Araneta.

Salvador Araneta Zaragoza and Doña Victoria López de Araneta. 

The Admiral Apartments, after its opening in the late 1930s, was one of the tallest residential building in the city, with eight storeys high living quarters. Because of its height, the Admiral became the focal point of sailors and ships anchoring in Manila Bay. 

Modern-day Admiral Apartments-turned hotel. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

According to Manila society legends, the Admiral was conceived by Doña Victoria's mother, Doña Ana López Ledesma. It was said that Doña Ana was responsible for financing the construction of the Admiral to please and impress the Aranetas, specifically Don Salvador's father Don Gregorio Araneta Soriano, because it has been told that Don Salvador had married Doña Victoria without their knowledge.

The Admiral was designed in the art-deco style, designed by the eminent Fernando H. Ocampo. According to an architectural historian, he described the Admiral of having "an air of quiet elegance with definite Spanish touches in the design of its façade. The apartments were pleasant spacious, airy, and bright rooms. The Spanish feeling became more pronounced in the reception room that opened directly to a side street. Both the furniture and the metal chandeliers reflected a Spanish Gothic style, rather forbidding in its formality." (excerpts from a PowerPoint presentation by Isidra Reyes. Retrieved from Manila Nostalgia)

The features of the Admiral's interiors, such as the main dining halls, were designed with different themes and motifs. "The main dining room, called the Malayan Court, was so-called due to the strong Malayan motif of its design and an imposing mural painting by Antonio Dumlao. The Spanish Room was a reception room while a small dining room called the Blue Room was done in royal blue, old rose, crystal, and silver. A cocktail lounge called the Coconut Grove was decorated with a coconut trees with green light bulbs as fruits, inspired by the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles." (excerpts from a PowerPoint presentation by Isidra Reyes. Retrieved from Manila Nostalgia)

During the war, the couple's own home, the Victoneta Iwas seized by the Japanese and made it their headquarters. So, the couple and their family moved to the Admiral to seek refuge, along with other members of the López-Araneta families. It has been said that Doña Victoria personally did the washing of the dirty linens and taking phone calls as the Admiral Apartments was understaffed. In the last days of the war, the Japanese took control of the Admiral Apartments. With that, the Araneta couple moved out of the Admiral and sought refuge in Baguio along with other members of the López-Araneta family. 

The Admiral Apartments (top center), during the liberation of Manila in 1945.Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Andi Desideri 

The battle for the liberation of the City of Manila left most of the city in ruins. The Admiral Apartments was not severely damaged in the fight for the recapture of the Philippine capital. Shortly before the capitulation of the Japanese forces in the Philippines, top commanders of Allied nations in the Pacific stayed in the Admiral Apartments. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army Douglas MacArthur has made the Admiral his temporary home after his home in nearby Manila Hotel was bombed out during the liberation. The British supreme commander, The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg, uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, also stayed in the Admiral Apartments.

Construction workers demolish the Admiral Apartments. Ⓒ GMA News/Danny Pata

This year, in 2014, news regarding the Admiral Apartments sparked when it was reported that it is being demolished to pave way for a new development, the Admiral Hotel by Anchor Land Holdings. Petitions have been made throughout social media by heritage conservation activists and ordinary citizens alike, saying that the capital city of Manila has already had too much "massacre" of heritage buildings. The petition for the stopping of the demolition had reached the Manila City Hall, but took a blind eye on the issue. So, the developer, Anchor Land Holdings, continued the demolition, much to the disappointment and frustrations of heritage conservationists.

The year 2014 has already been a roller-coaster ride for Philippine heritage. No concrete plans and actions have been laid out by the government for the protection of heritage structures. As long as there are no concrete and stricter laws regarding the destruction of heritage structures, they will fall prey to greedy developers whose aim is to destroy the country's physical heritage. 

De La Salle University St. La Salle Hall

The St. La Salle Hall of the De La Salle University during its heyday. © Manila Nostalgia/Gilbert Jose

Many have either walked past by this building or have walked through its halls. This outstanding structure is the epitome of institutional architecture in the Philippines, mainly because of its classical ornaments such as its white-washed walls and spacious halls. The St. La Salle Hall embodies the spirit of not just of the green and white, but also embodies the triumph of Catholic education in the Philippines.

Lasallian education in the Philippines was established in 1910 when the pioneer brothers arrived. It was not until in 1911 when the Brothers opened a school, which was then called the De La Salle College, at the Pérez Samanillo compound in Calle Nozaleda in Paco. Ten years later, as the student population began to increase and due to the lack of space, the De La Salle College moved to a much wider lot in the southwestern part of the city, along Taft Avenue in Malate.

Construction of the St. La Salle Hall of then-De La Salle College. © Manila Nostalgia/Gaby Tinio

A competition for the design of the new school building was initiated by the Lasallian brothers. Tomás Mapúa, a pensionado architect, won the competition against nine other entries and was awarded with a prize of P5,000.00. Mapúa is the country's first registered architect who was one of the first-generation pensionado architects who studied abroad. Educated in Cornell University in New York, he became one of the country's leading architects during the pre-war years, with projects such as the De La Salle University's St. La Salle Hall and the Philippine General Hospital. 

Tomás Mapúa y Bautista, architect of the St. La Salle Hall. © Prof. Xiao Chua

The cornerstone for the new school building was laid by the Archbishop of Manila, the Most Reverend Michael J. O'Doherty, in March of 1920. The St. La Salle Hall was completed almost four years after, owing to the phase-by-phase construction because of the Brothers' lack of funds. The new school building was officially opened in December 1924.

St. La Salle Hall in the 1930s. ©

According to an article by Arch. Augusto Villalon on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the St. La Salle Hall is the only Philippine structure to be included in the coffee-table book 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die: The World's Architectural Masterpieces. Denna Jones, one of the book's contributors, Denna Jones, have written about the St. La Salle Hall as an epitome of classical and imperial style of architecture not just in the Philippines but also in Southeast Asia. 

"Mapúa's H-shaped, three-story reinforced concrete building is pure Classical expression. A triangular pediment crowns an entablature of cornice, frieze and architrave supported by Corinthian columns to create a three-bay portico main entrance."

"Wide, open-air portico wings extend from either side; the square openings on the third floor balanced over the rectangular openings of the upper floors? balustrade level. Corinthian pilasters and a dentiled cornice unite the floors between each arch."

"The interior quadrangle is similarly ordered but stripped to basic flat elements without benefit of pediment and entablature. A later addition of an exterior green metal slope-roof walkway wraps the ground level on the quadrangle side. The ground floor interior offsets Corinthian grandeur with the geometric simplicity of Tuscan columns, and a square coffered ceiling." (excerpt from, original text by Denna Jones)

The Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

In 1939, an addition was made to the St. La Salle Hall. Mapúa added a chapel on the western-most side of the building. After its completion, it was named as the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament and was dedicated to St. Joseph.

The years 1941 to 1945 were bitter years for the Philippines. The country was unexpectedly and forcibly dragged into war as the Japanese landed on Philippine soil. The capital city, Manila, was bombed by enemy planes. So, La Salle, being located at the far end of the city and being far from the city center of Binondo, Ermita and Sta. Cruz, became a center of refuge for civilians.

De La Salle College, 1945. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

A shelled-out balcony of the St. La Salle Hall. © Prof. Xiao Chua

The Battle of Manila devastated and greatly reduced the Pearl of the Orient Seas into rubble. More than eighty (80) percent of the city's structures were either damaged or ruined. For the civilians, the date 12 February 1945 will forever be etched into their memories. It was when twenty-five (25) civilians and sixteen (16) Lasallian brothers were brutally massacred by the fanatical Japanese forces who vowed to fight to the death in the name of the Shōwa Emperor, known by many as Emperor Hirohito.

St. La Salle Hall shortly after the Battle of Manila in 1945. © De La Salle University

After the liberation of the City of Manila, the St. La Salle Hall was in shambles. Its exterior shelled by belligerent forces, and its halls filled with the stench of death coming from the dead bodies massacred by the Imperial Japanese Forces. Shortly after, the surviving Brothers began to put La Salle back on its feet, introducing more programs into its curriculum offerings. 

At present, the St. La Salle Hall is now returned into its former glory by demolishing the front structure which housed the Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory. Because of the demolition, the University would now have an additional green breathing space.

St. La Salle Hall at night. The Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory has not yet been demolished at this time. © iBlog La Salle

In its 103 years of existence as one of the premiere universities in the Philippines, the De La Salle University's St. La Salle Hall gives us stories to tell, stories that will forever be etched on its halls. The St. La Salle Hall is a witness to the country's colorful past, from the dark days of war to the liberation of an occupied nation, and will still be a witness to the progress of the nation in the future.

The St. La Salle Hall with the Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory demolished. © Aaron Sumayo

First City National Bank Building

A faithful restoration being made at the First City National Bank Building, now known as the Juan Luna E-Services Building. © Interaksyon

Manila, capital of the Philippines for more than five hundred (500) years, is the seat of the country's political, educational, financial, and religious power. It's status as the country's primate city have earned the reputation of being the 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East' and as the 'Paris of Asia', but all these monikers were taken away after the city was greatly reduced into rubble during the dying days of the Second World War. Almost seventy years have past, and the city is still trying to regain its status as the finest city in the East. Here and there, new developments have been sprucing up, not to mention the priceless aspect called heritage. 

The city was once a lively city, with its streets lined with shops and department stores, theaters, banks, and social clubs. In one of these streets, a building called the First City National Bank stood, and still is, standing proudly along the banks of the Pasig River.

Construction of the First City National Bank in the early 1920s. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The First City National Bank Building is a five-storey office building located along the corner of Calle Juan Luna, formerly Calle Anloague, and Muelle de la Industria in Binondo. One prominent building also stands along the thoroughfare which is the El Hogar Filipino Building. The building, a joint project between the International Banking Corporation and the Pacific Commercial Company, sits on a 1,800 square meter lot and is designed by the architectural firm Murphy, McGill, and Hamlin of New York in the beaux-arts style of architecture. Its design is said to be originated from the management of the International Banking Corporation, with its design coming from the trademark bank design of the company in other overseas branches. 

First City National Bank, viewed from the banks of the Pasig River. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

According to University of the Philippines' Prof. Gerard Lico's book entitled 'Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines', it is stated that the First City National Bank's design was a prototype of the other overseas bank branches.

"The bank’s prototype was made up of a row of colossal columns in antis, which was faithfully reproduced for its Manila headquarters. The ground floor was fully rusticated to effect a textured finish. This floor had arched openings with fanlights emphasized by stones forming the arch. The main doors were adorned with lintels resting on consoles. Above the ground floor were six three-storey high, engaged Ionic columns, ending in an entablature topped by a cornice. These six columns dominating the south and west facades were, in turn, flanked by a pair of pilasters on both fronts. The fifth floor was slightly indented and also topped by an entablature crowned by strip of anthemion." (excerpt from Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines)

The First City National Bank Building in the 1960s. 

The First City National Bank Building survived the horrors of the Battle of Manila in 1945. It was one of the few buildings left almost intact. During the post war years, the building was briefly used as the office of Ayala Life-FGU until they completely moved out to transfer to Makati. 

Recently, an interest on the First City National Bank Building was shown after it was bought by a business process outsourcing company to be converted into a call center. The building was renamed as the Juan Luna E-Services Building and is still under restoration. As of this year 2014, the restoration of the building is almost complete and will soon be ready to be leased to its new occupants.

The new Juan Luna E-Services Building currently under careful resotration. © Urban Roamer

University of Santo Tomas Main Building

The University of Santo Tomás Main Building during the pre-war years. © Old Manila Nostalgia via Ram Roy

If there were to be a competition on the best university building anywhere in the Philippines, the best bet would be the University of Santo Tomás in Sampaloc, Manila. Many have bear witness to the building's colorful history. It has gone through the darkest days of war up to the present problems of the university -- flooding. The main building of Santo Tomás has a lot to offer to the community.

The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomás, or UST, is a Catholic university run by the Order of Preachers, or simply known as the Dominicans. It is also the oldest university in Asia, being founded in 1611, even older than Harvard University itself. Many of the Philippines' distinguished men and women have either graduated or have attended at this prestigious university. Heroes like Dr. José P. Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and Emilio Jacinto; statesmen like Claro M. Recto, Manuel L. Quezón, and Sergio Osmeña have all attended Santo Tomás. 

Santo Tomás' new location in Sulucan Hills, now part of present-day Sampaloc. © Flickr/John Tewell

Before being located on its present site, Santo Tomás held its classes inside the walled city in Intramuros, where the old Santo Domingo Church also stood. The university had been wanting to move its operations outside Intramuros because of its ever-increasing student population. The move to a larger site was fulfilled only after three hundred years of being at its Intramuros campus. In 1911, a donation was given to the Dominican Fathers, a 22.1 hectare land located in Sulucan Hills, in the northeastern part of the city. The estate was then a property of the Sisters of Saint Clare, but in the early 1900s, they disposed off the land and sold to developers. One of the buyers, Doña Francisca Bustamante Bayot, donated the land to the Dominicans. The land was bordered by four streets: Calle España, Calle Gov. Forbes, Calle Dapitan, and Calle P. Noval. Because the new campus was more than enough to accomodate its population, the plan was that half of the property was originally intended for Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. However, the plan was not materialized.

Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P., architect and engineer of the Main Building. © Wikipedia

The university received the donation of the Sulucan property in 1911, the tricentennial anniversary of Santo Tomás. In December of that year, the laying of the first cornerstone was made by the Dominican Fathers, headed by the university's Rector Magnificus Fr. José Noval, O.P., and other distinguished guests. 

The development of the new Sulucan property did not materialize until the 1920s due to lack of funds. However, the development of the design had already started. With the development of the new campus went into full swing, the project was handed over to Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P., a Spanish Dominican who was a former rector of the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. Ruaño, a civil engineer, had meticulously researched earthquake-proof engineering designs and had tested them when he designed Dominican friar houses in Baguio and Lingayen. 

Construction for the Main Building started in 1923. Rebars are being installed, as seen in the photo. © Manila Nostalgia/Prof. Vic Torres

Designed in the Renaissance Revival style of architecture, Fr. Ruaño's design for the Main Building was advanced in its time, as some say it still complies with today's National Building Code. Construction started in 1923, but Fr. Ruaño had already spent the last two years procuring building materials such as cement and rebars from Japan. 

"The Sulucan strata consisted of fine sand and loamy clay heavily interspersed with land and marine shells, a situation where the land layers moved at different directions during a tremor. This prompted Fr. Ruaño to combine two methods of laying foundations: Isolated piers were linked with a continuous slab foundation, so that the structures above would sway independently of each other during an earthquake. In five years, 200 workers from Pampanga slowly raised 40 separate small towers that provided the basic framework of what is today?s Main Building (it was called 'New Building' then, there being no other edifice in the campus). Fr. Ruaño kept revising his plans, the latest after a trip to Tokyo in 1926 where he observed the effects of the recent earthquake there and in Yokohama." (excerpt from

Construction of the Main Building taking place, circa 1923-1927. © Manila Nostalgia/Prof. Vic Torres

The Main Building has four floors, plus an additional nine-storey clock tower, which contained the water tanks for the hydraulic engineering laboratory. The building is seventy-four (74) meters wide and eighty-six (86) meters long, with two courtyards on each wing. The main engineering feat of the Main Building is that it was built in forty (40) separate structures so that the building would not easily crumble if an earthquake occurs. Also, an additional floor was added to accommodate laboratories.

The Main Building finally opened in time for the 1927-1928 school year. It was a relief for the university administration as they wanted to de-clog its Intramuros campus as fast as possible. After its opening in 1927, the Main Building, specifically the clock tower, served as the city's "Kilometer Zero" until it was replaced by the Rizal Monument in Luneta. 

Main Building, circa 1928. © Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

After its opening, the university administration moved some of its operations at Sulucan. The colleges of Philosophy, Pharmacy, Education, Liberal Arts and Medicine held classes inside its halls. The university library also moved in Sulucan, occupying its northeast wing. 

Main Building during the 1930s. © Manila Nostalgia/Mon Ancheta

Because of the Main Building's grandeur, it was constructed right at the heart of the twenty-two hectare Sulucan property. It became the focal point of the university, in which the succeeding buildings were all built around it.

Pre-war Santo Tomás came into a halt in 1941 when the Japanese bombed the City of Manila. However, the Japanese occupation of the Philippine capital did not materialize until January of 1942 when the Philippine Commonwealth left Manila for Bataan. For Santo Tomás, war did not spare them from being dragged into occupation. The university was converted into an internment camp, being host to about four thousand Allied and foreign civilian prisoners-of-war, with nationalities such as American, British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Pole, Russian, Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, Burmese, Swedish, Danish, and Chinese.

After its establishment in 1942, the Santo Tomás Internment Camp became one of the largest in the Philippines.

Allied and other foreign internees made shantytowns in one of the Main Building's courtyards. © LIFE/Carl Mydans via Discovering the Old Philippines: People, Places, Heroes, Historical Events

An aerial view of the Main Building. Take note of the cramped shanties built in and around the Main Building. © Manila Nostalgia/Mon Ancheta

During the Japanese occupation of Santo Tomás, the university grounds literally became a miniature city. The Japanese had established a government inside, appointing an American named Lemuel Earl Carroll as its head. According to accounts, the internees owed so much to Carroll, stating that his leadership received favorable approval from the internees.

A Japanese propaganda photo depicting life inside Santo Tomás. © Santo Tomas Internment Camp/Lou Gopal

In February of 1945, the combined Filipino and American armies made an assault on the City of Manila. They first took Santo Tomás with the belief that the Japanese will execute all internees as they retreat from the capital. As the American tanks and troops advanced through the campus, they were met by Japanese resistance. The Japanese took the Education Building and held two hundred (200) internees hostage. After negotiations made by a British missionary named Ernest Stanley, the Japanese agreed to leave Santo Tomás and rejoined with other Japanese units in Manila.

The flag of the United States is draped at the canopy of the Main Building, signifying the liberation of the Santo Tomás Internment Camp from the Japanese. © LIFE/Carl Mydans via Wikipedia

The war had left most of the city into rubble. Santo Tomás, however, was not heavily damaged during the liberation as it was still host to a number of Allied war prisoners. After the war, life had returned to normal, students went back to school after a three and a half years hiatus. 

University of Santo Tomás Main Building circa 1945. © Flickr/John Tewell

In 1952, during the silver jubilee of the Main Building, an addition to the Main Building was made. Through the initiative of then-Rector Magnificus Fr. Ángel de Blas, O.P., fifteen (15) statues of famous saints, philosophers, and other personalities of the arts and sciences were installed at the pedestals made long before. In the original plan, Fr. Ruaño had purposely built pedestals to put in statues, but it was only made into fruition years after his death. The statues, measuring three meters in height, were sculpted by the great Francesco Riccardo Monti, an Italian expatriate and then-dean of the University of Santo who also made a number of significant works in Manila's buildings such as in the Manila Metropolitan Theater, Capitol Theater, Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company Building along Calle San Marcelino, and the Quezón Memorial.

THE INITIATOR AND THE SCULPTOR: The University's Rector Magnificus, Very Rev. Dr. Fr. Ángel de Blas, O.P. (left), and the master builder Francesco Riccardo Monti (right) © Anna Filippicci

In 2010, a year before the quadricentennial anniversary of the University, the National Museum of the Philippines declared the Main Building, along with other important structures in the University, as National Cultural Treasures.

Ideal Theater

Ideal Theater during its pre-war heyday. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Manila was a city which served as a model of pre-war prosperity. Its other Far Eastern neighbors such as Singapore and Hong Kong were no match to Manila's outstanding beauty. The city boasted the finest shops, restaurants, theaters, and institutions that made it earn the title 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East'. Along the fabulous Avenida de Rizal, known to many as the Avenida, there are numerous theaters to choose from. One of these theaters was the Ideal, considered by Manila's alta sociedad as one of the best theaters in the city.

The Ideal Theater was an art-deco masterpiece designed by the National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio in 1933. The theater, owned by the Roces family, in partnership with Teotico, Basa, Tuason, and Guidote families, has been operating since 1912, with the first theater made out of wood. 

 Pablo Antonio y Sebero, architect of the Ideal Theater. Ⓒ History of Architecture

As mentioned, the Ideal Theater was commissioned by the Roces family to Pablo Antonio, one of the second-generation Filipino architects who came back after studying or training overseas. Antonio's commission on the Ideal made an impact to his career. Later on, he would design other Manila landmarks, such as the Far Eastern University, White Cross Orphanage, and the post-war Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park. 

The Ideal was then the exclusive exhibitors of MGM motion picture films in the Philippines. Ⓒ Paulo Alcazaren

The Ideal projected an art-deco style of architecture. This type of architectural style was prevalent in the 1930s, wherein cinemas and theaters were designed using this style. One of its interesting features is that it boasted a streamline design -- that is, it was adorned with smooth curves and finishes. After its completion in 1933, the Ideal became one of the city's best theaters. Because of its location along the Avenida de Rizal, many theaters soon rose on its grounds. Rival theaters such as the State, Ever, and Avenue owned by the Rufino family built their theaters along Avenida de Rizal. 

The Ideal (center), and the Roces Building (left), taken sometime in the late 1930s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Ideal Theater's proscenium. Take note of the streamline design of the arches. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

During the Japanese occupation, the Ideal, along with other theaters in the city did not feature Hollywood films, but instead showed Japanese films and stage plays used for propaganda. 

Filipinos welcoming the Japanese as they paraded triumphantly in the newly-captured city of Manila. The Ideal Theater can be seen on the left. Ⓒ Alfredo Roces

The liberation of the City of Manila in February of 1945 brought great suffering to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. More than fifty percent of the structures in the city were either damaged or completely ruined. The Ideal was one of the structures in the city that was not totally devastated during the month-long battle. 

Avenida de Rizal after the liberation in 1945. The Ideal (left) and State (right) theaters can be seen. Ⓒ Flickr/Beyond Forgetting

Post-war rehabilitation came immediately after 1945. Many of the city's destroyed structures were either rebuilt or completely demolished to pave way to new and modern structures. The Ideal was rebuilt, along with other movie theaters in the city. In fact, movie theaters were the first to be rebuilt as many people demanded entertainment. 

Ideal Theater in the early 1960s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Jess Espanola

The emergence of air-conditioned shopping malls such as Quad and ShoeMart paved way to the decline of the standalone movie theaters. In the case of the Ideal, and other theaters located along the Avenida, it was due to the construction of the elevated Light Rail Transit in the 1980s. 

The Ideal, once the gem of Rizal Avenue's theaters, closed down in the 1970s and was demolished to make way for shopping arcade.

The Ideal Theater taken sometime in the 1970s. Ⓒ The Urban Historian

La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory

The Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory in Binondo. © Arkitekturang Filipino via Pinterest

Pre-war Manila was a haven for architectural beauty. Structures dating from the 16th century Spanish architecture up to the 20th century American style architecture, Manila had it all. The city's numerous edifices made it as the 'Paris of Asia', and the 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East'. But all that monikers were taken away when the city was wiped out during the dying days of World War II. Since then, Manila has never regained its status as the finest city in the Orient.

On the northern part of the city lies Binondo, considered as the city's business district and home to the world's oldest Chinatown. One of the most imposing structures one can find during the pre-war years was located in this part of the city, the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory.

Two imposing structures adorn the Plaza Calderón de la Barca, the Hotel de Oriente (left), and the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory (right). © Nostalgia 

The La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory was a three-storey, Neo-Mudéjar structure located along on the right of Binondo Church along the Plaza Calderón de la Barca. Like its neighbor, the Hotel de Oriente, the La Insular was also designed by Spanish architect Juan José Hervas Arizmendi, under the command of its owners, Don Joaquín Santamarina and Don Luis Elizalde. 

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].

Juan José Hervas Arizmendi, architect of the imposing La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory. © Manila Nostalgia/Paulo Rubio

The La Insular was established sometime in the 1880s after the abolition of the tobacco monopoly by the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines. Its owners, Don Joaquín Santamarina, Don Luis Elizalde, and their associates formed the La Insular Tobacco as a result. 

 La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory. Photo taken from the Plaza Calderón de la Barca in front of the Hotel de Oriente. The Binondo Church can also be seen in the background. © via Manila Nostalgia

One of the most distinguishing features of the La Insular was its neo-mudéjar style of architecture. Only a few structures in the city were designed in the neo-mudéjar style, one being the former Augustinian Provincial House in Intramuros. The La Insular stood out from the rest of the structures located along the plaza due to its tall archways and projecting balconies, which were adorned with intricate lampposts. In its interior, the La Insular sported a broad staircase and a courtyard.

A wiped-out Manila in aerial view. The La Insular`s ruins is nowhere to be found as it was completely consumed by fire in 1944. © Flickr/John Tewell via 

In 1944, a fire destroyed the beautiful La Insular cigarette factory. It was never again rebuilt due to the liberation of Manila in 1945. 

El Hogar Filipino Building

The El Hogar Filipino, one of the city's oldest American era structures, now on the verge of destruction. © Historic Preservation Journal

'Every building has its own story'. Yes, everything, from people to buildings, each has its own story to tell. Structures, though they are non-humans, have also experienced what humans had experienced, such as wars, revolutions, calamities, etc. Buildings, especially old ones, are reminders of a particular era that they were in. So, they are meant to be preserved as they are our physical gateway to the past. The City of Manila boasts many structures that tell stories, many of which have seen the capital transform from an ever loyal Spanish city, to a vibrant American Pearl of the Orient Seas, and to a colorful yet chaotic capital of the Philippine Republic.   

The El Hogar Filipino Building is one of those structures that tell stories of the past. The building has seen numerous events, from the American insular government to the Philippine Commonwealth, from the Second Philippine Republic to the liberation of the city, and finally the independence of the country in 1946.

An old colored photo, probably a postcard, of the El Hogar Filipino Building. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The El Hogar, known in Spanish as the Edificio El Hogar Filipino, is a five-storey office building designed in the beaux-arts/renaissance/neo-classical styles of architecture. Located along Calle Muelle dela Industria by the Pasig River, the El Hogar is flanked by the First City National Building on the right, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building on its rear and was designed by Spanish-Filipino engineer Don Ramón José de Irureta-Goyena Rodríguez. The El Hogar was built sometime between 1911 and 1914, which it was said to be a wedding present in celebration of the marriage of Doña Margarita Zóbel y de Ayala, sister of patriarch Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala, and Don Antonio Melián Pavía, a Spanish businessman who was titled as the Conde de Peracamps

Don Ramón José de Irureta-Goyena Rodríguez, architect of the El Hogar Filipino. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

Don Antonio Melián Pavía, el Conde de Peracamps, and owner of the El Hogar Filipino. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

The El Hogar Filipino was owned by Spanish businessman and Conde de Peracamps, Don Antonio Melián Pavía. According to the Cornejo's Commonwealth DirectoryMelián was born in the Canary Islands in Spain on May 21, 1879. From Spain, he sailed to Peru in 1903 where he held posts in the insurance company La Previsora and in the Casino Español de Lima. In 1907, he married Don Enrique In 1910, he sailed from Peru to the Philippines and established the El Hogar Filipino and the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros together with his brothers-in-law Enrique and Fernando Zóbel y de Ayala. 

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]

A group photo of the El Hogar Filipino leaders and employees. The Conde de Peracamps is seated at the center, with Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala (seated, fourth from right), and his brother Don Fernando Zóbel y de Ayala (seated, third from right). The description reads: Sr. Melián, with the directors and employees of El Hogar Filipino whose company was founded by the said gentleman. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

The El Hogar (left), and the First City National Bank Building (right) viewed from the other side of the Pasig River. © Manila Nostalgia/Ingrid Donahue via Lou Gopal

The El Hogar housed the Melián business empire, such as the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros, Tondo de Beneficiencia, Casa de España, Casa de Pensiones, and El Hogar Filipino. Other tenants of the El Hogar include Ayala y Compañía, and Smith, Bell and Company. The Filipinas Compañía de Seguros moved out of the El Hogar in the 1920s after the completion of its own building at the foot of the Jones Bridge in Plaza Moraga, a short walk from the El Hogar. 

The El Hogar during the 1920s. © Philippine History and Architecture 

One of the building's interesting features is that the building has its own garden courtyards, not one, but two. Another feature that make the El Hogar unique was its mirador, or balcony. From the El Hogar's balcony, one can see the Pasig River, the southern part of Manila, which includes the walled city of Intramuros, Ermita, and Malate. Also, the El Hogar's staircase is considered as one of the most ornate in the city, with a sculpted merlion, a symbol of the City of Manila, as its base. 

The El Hogar's intricate staircase grillwork, which included a sculpture of a merlion, a symbol of the City of Manila. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

A memorial plaque in which encases the El Hogar's time capsule. The plaque reads: Excmo. Sr. Don Antonio Melián y Pavía, Conde de Peracamps. Funadador de 'El Hogar Filipino' 1911. It has been reported that the plaque has been removed, and so as the time capsule. © Manila Nostalgia/Stephen John Pamorada 

The El Hogar survived the Battle of Manila in 1945 and only suffered minor damages. In the post-war years, the lending company El Hogar Filipino had closed down, along with other Melián businesses, leaving only the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros. Because of this, the Meliáns sold the El Hogar to the Fernandez family, and the El Hogar was rented out to other companies. The building was finally abandoned as an office building some decades ago. Since the Muelle dela Industria area had a chaotic, Brooklynesque vibe, it became the set for films and television shows. 

El Hogar and the First City National Bank Buildings in the late 1960s. © Definitely Filipino

Just this year, news involving the El Hogar sparked when it was reported that it was sold to a Chinese-Filipino real estate developers, which reported that it will demolish the El Hogar because of the building's stability, and be turned into a condominium. The news spread like a wildfire throughout heritage conservationists, cultural advocates, and ordinary citizens alike. Heritage conservationists had written to both the city government of Manila and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, or NHCP, to stop the demolition of the El Hogar. Because of this, a petition to stop the demolition was created. As of today, 730 supporters have already signed the petition. The new owner of the El Hogar however, who was not named, said that they do not have plans of demolishing the El Hogar, but will use it as a warehouse instead. 

Details of the El Hogar. One can see the beaux-arts elements such as arched windows present in the building. © Historic Preservation Journal

The El Hogar's mirador gives it a unique charm, and one can view the Pasig River and other areas of the city. © Historic Preservation Journal

It is our responsibility as citizens to preserve and take care of the built heritage our forefathers left. They may seem not significant to many, but they also have witnessed numerous triumphs and challenges the country experienced. They may be inanimate objects, but they also have its own character and its own story to tell. If these buildings could talk, we believe that they are pleading to us citizens right now to help save them. 

At Arquitectura Manila, we educate Filipinos of our glorious architectural past through this website. As heritage conservation advocates, we believe that all heritage structures, not just the El Hogar, be given justice as it we are only its caretakers. If the El Hogar was to be restored, it should be turned into something productive, just like its neighbor First City National Bank, maybe something like a boutique hotel, or New York-style apartments with cafés and restaurants on its lobby. And, who knows, the El Hogar may be host to the country's first standalone luxury boutique?

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

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. 

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 was 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

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

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. Ⓒ

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

Ramón Magsaysay Center 

The Ramon Magsaysay Center during the 80s. © Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation

The Ramón Magsaysay Center is an eighteen-storey edifice built in honor of Philippine President Ramón Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash in Cebu in 1957. The brutalist edifice is located at Roxas Boulevard facing the famous Manila Bay and its sunset. The center currently houses the Asian Library and the offices of the Ramón Magsaysay Award Foundation, the governing body of the Ramón Magsaysay Award, Asia's Nobel Prize.

The RM Center during the 1970s. Viewed from Roxas Boulevard. Note that the Silahis International Hotel/Grand Boulevard Hotel is in its construction progress. © Flickr/rubiopr27

Built in 1967 at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Dr. Joaquin Y. Quintos St., the Ramon Magsaysay Center was designed by Arturo J. Luz & Associates, in consultation with Italian-American Pietro Belluschi and Alfred Yee Associates, both from the United States and pioneers in designing pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete building structures.   

The Ramon Magsaysay Center was the first structure in the country to sport column-free structural concept. The design used pre-cast and pre-stressed beams like a tree rooted on the ground. © Arkitekturang Filipino

That early, the building designers decided to adopt the use of a novel structural system -- the pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete beams and multiple in-place floor slabs and wall panels. The main column of the building is the cast-in-place concrete shear wall core (Moment Frame) over deep concrete piles. This structural system is resistant to lateral forces due to earthquakes or wind load. In effect, the building is designed like a big tree with the columns as its deep-rooted trunk that sways with the wind and the movement of the ground. For elegance and engineering integrity, secondary pillars were installed all covered with travertine cladding.

Ramón Magsaysay Center viewed from below. © That Happy Day  

The center's pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete beams which acts like a trunk rooted on the ground. © Urban Roamer

The Center's spacious reception hall. © Karl and Dianne Sarte

A statue of President Magsaysay placed on the lobby of the building. ©

The credo of President Magsaysay. © Urban Roamer

The exterior of the Ramón Magsaysay Center was designed to withstand the salty environment that surrounds the building. It was clad with travertine marble slabs embedded in the frame of the building. These types of materials require minimal maintenance but still gives an elegant view of the building.

Manila City Hall

The Manila City Hall at night. © Panoramio/jsantiago

Civic and government edifices built during the American occupation would always stand out, as it reminds us of the importance of these institutions. The Manila City Hall is one of the key government buildings constructed in American Manila. 

The Manila City Hall during the Japanese occupation, circa 1942. Photo taken from the walled city of Intramuros. © Flickr/Beyond Forgetting

The Manila City Hall during its construction stage, taken from the Legislative Building along P. Burgos Drive. © Manila Nostalgia/Ingrid Donahue via Lou Gopal

The Manila City Hall was designed by architect Antonio Toledo and was built in 1939. The city hall is adorned by a hexagonal tower with three clocks on three of its facets. After its completion, the building received negative reviews for its lack of aesthetics, lack of entrances and how the clock tower was placed.

The elevation plan for the Manila City Hall's iconic clocktower© Arkitekturang Filipino

The City Hall's courtyard during the Japanese occupation, circa 1942. © LIFE via Arkitekturang Filipino

Sadly, the City Hall was not spared from the ravages of war. During the Battle of Manila, the city hall was heavily damaged from shelling. 

The shelled city hall viewed from Burgos Drive. ©

The city hall after the Battle of Manila in 1945. © Flickr/ Beyond Forgetting

Manila City Hall's tower bombed out by artillery shells during the dying days of the war in the capital. © Tumblr/MLQ3 

After the war, the city hall was rebuilt through the War Reparations program of the United States and was criticized due to the shape of its floor plan which looked like a coffin or a shield of the Knights Templar. According to urban legends, it was made to look like a coffin to pay homage to those who died during the Battle of Manila.

The city hall's clocktower as viewed from the courtyard. © L' Heure Bleue

The courtyard. © Senor Enrique

One of the city hall's balconies facing the National Museum and Taft Avenue. © The Hippie Mum

Manila's iconic clock tower in the present time. © Wikimedia Commons

Old Legislative Building (National Museum of the Philippines) 

The old Legislative Building during the pre-war years. ©

The old Legislative Building is, without a doubt, the best example of neo-classical architecture in the Philippines. It has been the place for the country's statesmen for decades, it has witnessed wars, demonstrations and calamities.

The Legislative Building during its construction in the 1920s. © Arkitekturang Filipino

The building today is the present National Museum of the Philippines. Located on Burgos Drive, this imposing edifice stands across the old walled city of Manila (Intramuros). Originally designed by the American Ralph Harrington Doane and Filipino Antonio Toledo in 1918 to be the future National Library as intended for the Burnham Plan of Manila.

An aerial view of the walled city of Intramuros. In the foreground is the Legislative Building. © Flickr/John Tewell

The building's front and side portion colonnaded with beautiful Corinthian columns. © Pinoy Shooter

The construction of the building started in 1918, but had delays because of funding. In 1926, the Philippine Legislature decided to move into the building and thus changing the layout of its interiors. The interiors of the structure was designed by the great Juan Arellano, who also built several Manila edifices such as the Post Office Building and the Manila Metropolitan Theatre.

A plan for the City of Manila done by the American urban planner Daniel Burnham. The positioning of the government edifices is seen near the old walled city. © Wikipedia 

The Legislative Building was completed in 1926 and was inaugurated on July 11 of the same year. Both the Philippine Legislature and the National Library occupied the building. The total cost of construction was $2,000,000.00 or P4,000,000.00 in 1926 value.

The Session Hall of the Senate, circa 1926. © Official Gazette

"The Old Session Hall of the Senate of the Philippines is a chamber like no other in the country. Soaring three stories to the top of the Old Legislative Building, the hall was clearly intended to be nothing less than a secular cathedral – a temple of wisdom for enlightened debate and the making of laws.

During the early 1920s in the American colonial period, when the architect Juan Arellano was revising the plans of Ralph Harrington Doane in order to convert the building from the museum and library it was originally designed to be the seat of the legislature, the Senate was led by Manuel L. Quezon, the leader of the movement for Philippine independence from the United States. It is highly probable that Senate President Quezon exercised much influence over the design of the chamber where he would preside over the body that he himself had helped establish in 1916. With his strong personal aesthetic, well-known taste for grandeur, and deep belief in the need to promote confidence and respect by the Americans in the nascent all-Filipino institutions, it is easy to picture Quezon working with Arellano on the dimensions and decoration of the Session Hall. Whatever the case, the result was breathtaking with the combination of the lofty space with its mezzanine galleries for the public and the dizzying range of precast ornamentation crowned by a magnificent hardwood ceiling."

The Legislative Building viewed from Burgos Drive. ©

"The most impressive features of the hall, taking full advantage of the architectural space, are undoubtedly the series of Corinthian columns and pilasters, the main wall above the rostrum with its fretwork and garlands, and most of all, the sculptural groupings surrounding the top of the hall. This ornamentation and all other decoration in the Hall was the work of the most celebrated Filipino sculptor of the time, Isabelo Tampinco—a contemporary of Juan Luna and Jose Rizal—and his sons Angel and Vidal. Tampinco gave full rein to his deep knowledge of classical sculpture, as well as to his personal artistic mission of Filipinizing many of the traditionally Western elements and motifs of the neoclassical style. The result, an entablature of great lawmakers and moralists through history and allegorical groupings, was and remains to this day an outstanding and unique achievement in Philippine art.

 Filipino masses gather outside the Legislative Building for the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth and its first president, Manuel L. Quezon. © Flickr/Sepia Lens

The standing figures of the entablature represent great lawmakers and moralists of history ranging from antiquity and Biblical times to the twentieth century, and include Kalantiaw and Apolinario Mabini on the East (Main) Wall; Pope Leo XIII and Woodrow Wilson on the West (Rear Wall); Moses, Hammurabi, Rameses the Great, Li Si, Augustus and William Blackstone on the North (Right) Wall; and Solon, Averroes, Justinian, Manu, Charlemagne and Hugo Grotius on the South (Left) Wall. Surrounding the cartouches on all four walls are allegorical groupings representing sovereignty, progress, arts and culture, industry, trade, farming, education, and so on." (excerpt from Official Gazette)

An aerial view of the inauguration of President Manuel L. Quezon outside the Legislative Building. © The Kahimyang Project

Manuel L. Quezon's oath as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Notice the ornate podium of the Legislative Building. © Flickr/Manuel Quezon III

In 1935, the Legislative Building became the place of inauguration of the newly-established Philippine Commonwealth. Also, this is where the late President Manuel L. Quezon was inaugurated. 

The Legislative Building before the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth. © via Nostalgia Filipinas

According to the description, it is a massive rectangular building which has a central portion flanked by two interior courts. The central portion houses both the Lower and Upper Houses. On the main floor, the House of Representatives held its sessions there while the Senate is on the third floor. The senate chamber has a fifteen (15) meter high ceiling. On its walls are statues of Filipino heroes and legislators, and on the two wings of the building are the offices of the legislators.

The ever-beautiful central facade of the Legislative Building adorned with Corinthian columns, ornate carvings and statues. © Facebook/Paulo Alcazaren via Nostalgia Filipinas

A two-storey, four-columned portico adorned the entrance of the Legislative Building. Over it is a triangular pediment with sculptures representing Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Law, Education, Commerce, and Agriculture. On each end of the building is a two-columned portico complimenting its central facade. The sculptures were designed and made by Otto Fischer-Credo, a German expatriate who resided in the Philippines during the pre-war years. He was recalled back to Germany during the war years to be an artist for the Third Reich, and did sculptures for Adolf Hitler and SS chief Heinrich Himmler.

The front pediment of the Legislative Building containing sculptures representing Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao (center), Law and Education (left), Agriculture and Commerce (right). © Arkitekturang Filipino

The Japanese occupation of the Philippines meant a halt to the existing Commonwealth Government. The Japanese had set up a Japanese-Sponsored Government headed by the late Pres. Jose P. Laurel. The building was used as the assembly hall of the puppet government. The speaker of the National Assembly was Benigno Aquino, Sr., grandfather of Pres. Benigno 'BS' Aquino III.

 A motorcade for Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in front of the old Legislative Building on May 5, 1943. © Manila Nostalgia/Rene Dominguez 

The Legislative Building became the home of the Japanese-Sponsored Republic of the Philippines. It became a home to Japanese propaganda. © Arkitekturang Filipino

A colored photo of the Senate chamber during the Japanese occupation. On the podium speaking is Sec. Jorge Vargas. Take note of the Japanese military officer seated. © Presidential Museum and Library

In February of 1945, American troops entered Manila trying to liberate the city from the Japanese Imperial Army. The battle became the worst urban fighting in the Pacific, sweeping eighty (80) percent of Manila's buildings. The Legislative Building was not spared from total annihilation. Because of its massive size and thick walls, it became the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army. The Americans shelled the building until it was totally destroyed. Only the central portion of the building stood but still had major damages. 

A 2000lb bomb being dropped by American bombers onto the City of Manila. © WWII in Color via Nostalgia Filipinas

A colored photo of the destroyed Legislative Building. © Presidential Museum and Library

The war-torn Legislative Building. Note that the left portion of the building was still standing. © Flickr/John Tewell

The Legislative Building (center), together with the Manila City Hall (left) and the Philippine Normal School (right), in ruins after a heavy battle for the city. © Flickr/John Tewell

Manila became an urban battlefield in which 100,000 civilians were killed. Many of Manila's imposing structures were destroyed such as the Post Office, the Agriculture and Finance Buildings, the UP campus, etc. After the Philippines became an independent nation in 1946, the United States aided the Philippines with some $400,000,000.00 of war damage payments, another $120,000,000.00 for public works and left a total of $100,000,000.00 worth of war surplus.

Reconstruction of the Legislative Building is underway. © 

The reconstruction of the Legislative Building started in 1949 until 1950. The building was renamed from "Legislative Building" to "Congress-Republic of the Philippines". The post-war version of the building was not as accurate as the pre-war version. The original plans were not followed, the once colonnaded facade having the full, engaged columns were replaced with a less ornate pilasters. 

The post-war Legislative Building. The building was rebuilt using the same dimensions, but with lesser ornamentations. ©

After its reconstruction, Congress once again held its sessions until 1972, when Proclamation 1081 (Martial Law) was implemented by President Ferdinand Marcos. The building was re-inscribed with the name "Executive House" which was lent to different government agencies such as the Office of the Prime Minister on the fourth floor, the Office of the Ombudsman (Tanodbayan) on the third floor, the National Museum on the second floor and the Sandiganbayan (Peoples' Advocate) on the first floor. 

Leaders of SEATO member nations gather outside the Legislative Building in Manila during a summit in 1966. Notice the less ornate portico of the post-war structure. © Flickr/Manhhai

The Senate, House of Representatives and other various government agencies occupied the Legislative Building until 1997 when the Senate relocated its offices at the GSIS Building in Pasay, making the National Museum its only occupant. The "National Museum act of 1998" was turned into law which makes the Legislative Building, together with its adjacent buildings, the former Agriculture and Finance Buildings under their care. 

In 2010, the Legislative Building was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Also on the same year, the National Museum began the restoration of the Session Hall, returning its pre-war grandeur. The hall's restoration was completed in October, 2012.

The newly-restored Senate Session Hall of the Legislative Building. Restoration of the Session Hall was completed in 2012. ©

Manila Metropolitan Theater 

The Met's facade during its pre-war glory. © Flickr/John Tewell

If anyone was to be asked 'What is the most beautiful theatre you've seen in Manila?' probably the answer is the Metropolitan Theater, or simply the Met. The Met hosted several operas, plays, and concerts of pre-war Manila. Situated across Plaza Lawton (now Liwasang Bonifacio), this magnificent Art Deco gem is considered as the 'Grand Dame of Manila's theatres' for its ornate architecture.

A front elevation of the Met. © Arkitekturang Filipino

The Met is one of the few surviving examples of art deco architecture in the Philippines. The theatre is an example of Philippine art deco for its native designs and carvings. Built in 1931 by Juan Arellano, architect of many Manila landmarks such as the Post Office Building, the Legislative Building, Jones Bridge and among others. 

The Met sometime after its reconstruction during the 1970s. © Manila Symphony Orchestra 

The Met was inaugurated on December 1931 and has a seating capacity of 1,670 (846 in the orchestra section, 116 in the loge section, and 708 in the balcony section). During its prime, the Met was home to the Manila Symphony and also home to operas, vaudevilles, and zarzuelas. Its stature as the 'Grand Dame' made the Met a gathering place for Manila's 'alta sociedador high society.

The Met's exterior adorned with intricate art Deco tiles inspired by indigenous designs. © Tumblr/Indio Historian (Indio Bravo)

The Met's facade was a stunning piece of art. Its exterior is adorned with intricate designs inspired from Philippine flora. The sculptures within the Met was done by Francesco Riccardo Monti, an Italian expatriate who also made the statues atop the University of Santo Tomas' Main Building and the mourning angels atop the Quezon Memorial. 

One of the Met's bronze statues depicting Siamese dancers. The statues were sculpted by Italian expatriate Francesco Riccardo Monti. © Philippines Blog 

The neglected proscenium of the Met. © Cosplay Rune
The Met's intricate facade is seen through its grills and stained glass windows. © Gustavo Thomas Theatre

The Met's art deco architecture is simply one of a kind. Minarets inspired from Islamic architecture gave it a Filipino touch. © Philippines Blog

Unfortunately, Manila was ravaged by war and most of Manila's buildings were obliterated, including the Met. It was reconstructed again during the Marcos administration in the 1970s, but ownership disputes between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the City Government of Manila made the Met be closed once again. Calls for reconstruction were made by heritage enthusiasts to save this magnificent gem. It is sad to see the Met (and other heritage structures) being neglected by our own people. When will we Filipinos learn how appreciate our heritage? 

The Met in ruins after the Liberation of Manila in 1945. © Tumblr/Manila 

Manila Central Post Office Building 

Manila Post Office Building's most famous photo, along with the grand Jones Bridge. © Arkitekturang Filipino 

The Post Office during the American Occupation. © Arkitekturang Filipino 

 The Manila Post Office Building stands proudly along the banks of the Pasig River and has witnessed many of the nation's historical events, from the American occupation to the Battle of Manila in 1945 up to the present time. Its elegance made Manila the 'Best City in the Far East'. Constructed in 1925 and designed by the great Juan Arellano, together with American Ralph Doane and fellow Filipino Tomas Mapua, is built in neo-classical architecture, which is one of the greatest examples of American colonial architecture in the Philippines.

The foundations for the Post Office Building is being started. Take note of the newly-built beaux-arts Jones Bridge in the center which makes the Post Office and the Jones Bridge a perfect match.  © Arkitekturang Filipino/John Tewell 

The Post Office building was only one of many government edifices envisioned by the famous American urban planner Daniel Burnham. His plan was to pattern Manila after Washington DC and make it the 'Paris on the Prairie'. According to Filipino urban planner Paulo Alcazaren that "He (Burnham) placed the National Capitol at the Luneta with supporting offices around it, and even more government offices in a string composed of the National Library, the National Museum, the National Exposition Building (the Philippine equivalent of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC), and finally the National Post Office by the river". The Burnham Plan of Manila was not able to be realized because of then Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon making a new capital of a much-larger and grander scale which is now Quezon City. 

Aerial view of the northern part of the city as construction for the Post Office Building is underway. © Nostalgia

The Post Office Building sits along the banks of the Pasig River and by the Plaza Lawton across. It is flanked by the Manila Metropolitan Theatre to its northwest, two bridges spanning the Pasig River, the Jones and the Sta. Cruz (now MacArthur) bridges which serve as entry to the then-grand Taft Avenue with its tree lined walkways. The Post Office Building has a rectangular shaped mast adorned with fourteen Ionic columns and has two semi-circular drums on both sides has an atrium in the middle which provides natural light and ventilation.

The Post Office Building taken from P. Burgos Drive in 1941. © Flickr/John Tewell

A perspective of the Post Office Building drawn by its architect, the great Juan Arellano. © Arkitekturang Filipino 

After its completion in 1931, the Post Office Building won praises abroad, as far as New York from the famous Mckim, Mead and White.

Aerial view of the City of Manila and the Post Office Building, after its completion in 1931. © Nostalgia

The Post Office Building survived its pre-war beauty until in 1945, the Battle of Manila occurred. The building became a Japanese fortification because of its massive size and thick walls. Artillery from the American forces bombarded the Post Office until the Japanese had retreated towards the Walled City of Intramuros.

The Post Office's facade during the Battle of Manila in 1945. Manila was the second most devastated city after Warsaw. © Flickr/John Tewell 

Aerial view of the ruined Post Office Building from the Pasig River. The Metropolitan Theatre can also be seen. © Nostalgia 

 The liberation of Manila in March 1945 had cost more than one hundred thousand civilian deaths and eighty percent of Manila's buildings were destroyed. Government edifices such as the Legislative Building, Manila City Hall, University of the Philippines and the Post Office Building were either burned or obliterated. Manila's reputation as the 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East' was completely wiped out within a month of fierce fighting.

The Post Office Building during the Philippine Independence Day Parade in July 1946. © Nostalgia

The United States aided the Philippines with some $400,000,000.00 of war damage payments, another $120,000,000.00 for public works and left a total of $100,000,000.00 of war surplus. 

The Post Office Building after its reconstruction, c.1950. © Nostalgia

In 2012, a government official said that there are plans for converting the Post Office Building into a five-star hotel. The group behind the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, which was also a post office, is in talks with the Department of Finance. The Philippine Postmaster General explained that the maintenance cost of the building is too much and due to advancing technology, fewer people are sending mail the traditional way.

The Post Office Building in the present time. ©