Escolta: Rise and Fall (and Rise Again)

Escolta Street in Manila, known as the central business district of Manila during the Spanish and American periods, is located at the southern part of Binondo; along the bank of the Pasig River. During the Spanish occupation, Escolta served as a dropping point for traders coming from China and Mexico, and during the American period, it flourished as the premiere business district in the country. The street also became an entertainment hub, having one of the most cinemas and theaters in the Philippines.

It was once home to elegant buildings designed by Juan Nakpil, Andres Luna de San Pedro, and Fernando Ocampo. Their buildings also marked the growth and decay of the street.

The El Hogar Filipino Building in its current state. Built in 1914, the neoclassical-inspired building was one of the most beautiful structures in Manila.

The beautiful El Hogar Filipino (or, simply, El Hogar) built in 1914 was one of the early examples of neoclassical-inspired architecture in the country. It was originally a wedding gift for the heir of the Zobel de Ayala clan from a Spanish businessman named Antonio Melian Pavia. The building housed several businesses owned by the Melians and Zobel de Ayalas, and also used to be the home of other businesses after the Melian family sold the building after World War 2. Today, the El Hogar still stands in its original location. Abandoned and forgotten, and in the face of being demolished. It is now owned by Ritz Premiere Corporation.

Detailed view of El Hogar. Some of the intricate designs were lost due to either natural or man-made damages.
A clothesline at the side of El Hogar. Informal settlers began to live outside the building, at the curb side of the road.

Many informal settlers have resided at the curb where El Hogar stands. Some of these settlers set up their businesses to make a living.

One of El Hogar's "No Trespassing" signs. The iconic structure was bought by Ritz Premiere Corp. in 2014.

Designed in the International Style of architecture by Carlos Arguelles, the PNB Building is considered as one of the tallest buildings in Metro Manila when it was completed. It housed the original Philippine National Bank (PNB) office, hence the name. The building was established in 1962 and was razed by fire last January 2015, which weakened its foundation; and was eventually demolished under the instruction of the city government of Manila. Today, only a portion of the building remains.

The remains of the old Philippine National Bank (PNB) Building. In 2015, a fire razed the structure that weakened its foundations and was demolished last January 2016 under the orders of the city government of Manila.

A hidden ruin stand perpendicular of Escolta Street: the ruins of Quan Kee Chauk & Co. located at Poblete Street. According to a 1939 directory by Manuel Cornejo (can be viewed online), Quan Kee Chauk & Co. was a distributor of cocoa. Little else is known about this Art Deco-inspired building.

The remains of the Quan Kee Chauk & Co. building. The company was known as a distributor of cocoa during the Commonwealth period.

Many of Escolta's architectural heritage still stands today being reused or rehabilitated, with the purpose of regaining its status as a central business district. Two of which are notable:

One of Escolta's iconic buildings: the Regina Building. It used to house insurance companies.

The Regina Building located in front of the Perez-Samanillo Building, is also an example of a neoclassical-inspired building. The architect of the building, Andres Luna de San Pedro, is known as the son of the famous painter, Juan Luna. The building used to house many insurance companies and it now houses an office of Unionbank.

Elegantly designed in the Art Deco style, the Perez-Samanillo Building (now known as the First United Building) used to be where the first department store in the country, Berg's, stood. It was erected in the 1920 and was also designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro in collaboration with Juan Nakpil (who also designed the Metropolitan Theater, another Art Deco structure). After the war, the First United Corporation bought the building from Ernest Berg and thus the current name of the building. Today, it houses the second branch of Fred's Revolucion resto-bar (the first branch is located at Cubao, Quezon City); and Hub, an arts and crafts flea market curated by the artist collective, 98B.

Fred's Revolucion's Escolta branch only has a few customers compared to their Cubao Expo branch. It is located at the first floor of the First Union Building, Escolta Manila.
Local craft beer sold at Fred's. The intention of putting Fred's in Escolta was a part of the revival of Escolta along with many of its neighboring businesses that have set up their base in the historic street.
Created By
Anton Maza
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