I spent March 30th (Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday) with a special walking tour of Escolta, Manila. Together with my helper, Racquel, I explored what was once the country’s premier business and retail district with a DIY photo walk.
Our first stop was the Sta. Cruz Parish, which welcomes the faithful to the historical district.
Then, it was time to visit heritage buildings and appreciate fine architectural details.
The Regina Building and First United Building are just two of the remaining (and well-maintained) heritage buildings in the area. The latter has become particularly popular with millennials as it houses a community museum, coworking space, a cafe, bar, barbershop, indie boutiques, and offices.
It is an intersection of our cultural origins and adaptive reuse.
The First United Building has just turned ninety years old.
The building hosts several events such as parties and gigs on nights and weekends.
The community museum features the restored office of the late Sy Lian Teng, who was the building’s late owner.
It is a testament to the man’s resilience and enduring business acumen which has influenced the building’s and Escolta’s trajectory.
With today’s gigantic malls, it is mind boggling that our retail behavior has been largely influenced by Escolta and the building’s very own Berg’s Department Store. It sold the finest RTW for women, which at that time was a modern innovation in Southeast Asia (most women still had made-to-order clothes at that time).
The 1950’s refrigerator still works today! It is used during events in the building.
The building has beautiful details which are rarely seen on today’s more practical structures.
I also checked out my college friend Daniela Calumba’s store at the building’s ground floor. Her eponymous handmade jewelry and organic line of toiletries have been making waves for their handmade production process.
I got an amulet from her partner Alaala Sala’s line of vintage accessories.
The space is collectively known as HUB | Make:Lab.
The place is a retail haven for objects that will delight the vintage connoisseur.
There are stamps too from all over the world.
As a history geek and vintage enthusiast, this building was a treasure trove for me!
We continued our walk to other parts of Escolta.
My grandfather, who is an accountant, used to have an office at the Madrigal Building.
We took a detour to Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world.
We cooled down with some excellent milk tea at 80 Memories Tofu House.
We also dropped by Binondo Church to pray for our intentions and to give thanks.
I was fascinated with the lost graves of Bindondo, where the city’s original Chinese elite were interred.
We also went to the Calvo Building, which houses the Escolta Museum. It is also the original site of the GMA Network.
We made one final stop before going home. The Manila Post Office, which I have toured earlier this year, continues to remind passersby that history is everywhere, and that it can literally connect us all together.
Escolta was once known as the Queen of Streets. With its enduring beauty and continuous significance, it remains to be an important part of our country’s rich culture. It is also a reminder for us to innovate and rise above the wars that destroy us.
Like Escolta, we must never forget who we really are.