Before the posh districts of Makati and Taguig, there was Escolta Street, which was then Manila’s premier commercial location. Although it may seem to have been forgotten by today’s generation, many believe that this historical street still has its charm to attract people and even revive commercial activities.
Several efforts by various groups were made recently to breathe new life into the historic street and recently, the Museum Foundation of the Philippines organized an architectural walking tour of Escolta to rediscover not only its rich history but also the architectural beauty of the once famous buildings around it.
“Our group is very focused on heritage, we always go to support all these tours that do raise awareness about cultural heritage. I think Escolta is definitely a part of our cultural heritage, beautiful buildings by those Filipino architects from the early part of 20th century all the way down to the 1950’s. You have a whole range from neo art deco to more modernist buildings and this was the financial and commercial hub of Manila, it is a very important place,” Lisa Periquet, Museum Foundation of the Philippines Vice President for Cultural Study Tours told InterAksyon.com.
According to the foundation, Escolta street became a cradle of commercial establishments such as banks, cinemas, department stores among others which were housed in art deco style buildings. These kind of architecture was dominant in the Philippines in the 1920′s and 1930′s as designed by some of the country’s renowned architects namely: Andres Luna de San Pedro, Juan Nakpil, Jose Maria Zaragoza, Fernando Ocampo, Luis Araneta, Tomas Arguelles, Carlos Arguelles and Leandro Locsin.
“I’m a Filipino architect and what brings me back to Escolta repeatedly is that it has a kind of a thought of how architecture in this country began, of how it started and how it relates to the Filipino architecture in general and architecture of today. I think it is good to know the sources. As Rizal said, you have to know where you came from and where you’re going,” shared former Vice President of the Heritage Conservation Society architect Dominic Galicia, the one who led the architectural tour.
Galicia, who is also actively involved in activities reviving Escolta, said that the historic street is very much promising because it has something other places don’t have.
With this, there are current projects not only confined in creating awareness about the historical value of the street as well as the importance of its heritage but also in bringing back a vibrant commercial activity in the area.
One of these efforts is the Juan Luna E-Services building, the former First National City Bank in Binondo is currently being restored to host Business Process Outsourcing businesses such as call centers. Although being renovated, the aesthetics of the building are being preserved.
“There is life here but we want to bring more of a commercial life, more of a business life here that used to thrive in this area,” said Galicia.