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Escolta Street tour shows retro architecture and why it’s worth reviving as a gimmick place

Old Escolta Street sign. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

Old and rusty Escolta Street sign. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

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.

Some foreigners who are interested in Escolta joined the architectural tour. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

Foreign tourists interested to learn more about local history and architecture joined the Escolta street tour. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, 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.

Perhaps one of the most famous building in Escolta is the Capitol Theater which was built in the 1930's. Designed by Juan Nakpil in art deco style, the theater has a double balcony, which is a rare architectural design. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com

Perhaps one of the most famous building in Escolta is the Capitol Theater which was built in the 1930′s. Designed by Juan Nakpil in art deco style, the theater has a double balcony, which is a rare architectural design. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com

“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.

A pre-World War II building built in 1934, the Regina building's interior has an elegant metal staircase and has maintained what offices look like during pre-war times. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

A pre-World War II building built in 1934, the Regina building’s interior has an elegant metal staircase and has maintained what offices look like during pre-war times. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

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.

Formerly the First National City Bank, Juan Luna E-Services building is its way on being a call center hub. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

Formerly the First National City Bank, Juan Luna E-Services building is its way on being a call center hub. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

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