HUB: Make Lab, A New Escolta Landmark

Escolta is a neighborhood that is already familiar, especially to the regular readers of the Urban Roamer. For the past few years, we have roamed this neighborhood and looked at some of the interesting spots in the area which used to be the city’s financial and commercial center, with some no longer standing today while others manage to survive albeit struggling to find their place in a city constantly endangered by unchecked urbanization.

In the past there have been events like monthly Pasyal activities and the Saturday Future Market which were conceived to get people visiting Escolta again. While there was some successes made, they were sadly not enough and it became clear that more is needed to be done. Thus just last week, Escolta saw what could be described as the next phase in the ongoing fight for the district’s rehabilitation. It was the opening of the HUB: Make Lab at the First United Building.

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From Crystal Arcade to PNB Building to…Gone? The Saga of an Escolta Address

Escolta itself is a street has bore witness and reflected as well the ups and downs Manila’s history: from the glorious past, to the steep decline, to the present struggles and some triumphs of rebirth it is experiencing at the moment.

While we have buildings such as Calvo, Regina, and First United to tell us the resilience of this old commercial and business district in the midst of these shifts in the city history, if you want to learn more about the more tragic side these shifts have caused, we have this particular address in Escolta we will be looking at today. Continue reading


A Visit to the First United Building Community Museum

So much has been said about Escolta Street and its glory days as a premier center of commerce in Manila, its eventual fall from grace after World War II, and the current efforts to revitalize commercial activity here again. With the state of things in the city these days, such efforts are admittedly a tall order. Nevertheless, the work continues with much vigor and passion, thanks to the various groups and individuals with their unceasing love for Escolta and their common dream to see it reclaim its glory as Manila’s “queen of streets.”

interior of Escolta’s First United Building

One of those stakeholders happen to be the owners of the First United Building, the Syliantengs whose have been deeply rooted in Escolta beginning with their patriarch, Sy Lian Teng, an entrepreneur who ran Escolta’s (and Manila’s as well) premiere department store, Berg’s. As a tribute to Escolta’s heritage, the Sylianteng family’s passion for Escolta, and to honor the legacy of the patriarch who has made an invaluable contribution to this street, a community museum was opened last May 16 this year in the premises of the building: the First United Building Community Museum.

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The Arches of Manila Chinatown

The last Araw ng Maynila was an occasion to formally inaugurate the new Manila Chinatown arch located in Plaza Moraga at the foot of Jones Bridge in Binondo, Manila. It is said to be the world’s largest Chinatown arch at 63.8 feet high and 74 feet wide (1.62 meters high and 1.88 meters wide if you prefer the metric system) and was installed as part of an effort for tourism and the revitalization of Chinatown and the city in general, which has been the cornerstone of the administration of former president turned city mayor Joseph Estrada.

Nevertheless, not everyone is thrilled to have it, even the Filipino-Chinese community in the city, mainly because of the inscription in the arch. The Chinese characters on the arch are rendered in Pinyin as “zhong guo zheng“, meaning literally “China Town.” Take note, China Town and not Chinatown, so this part of Manila is being implied in this inscription as an outpost of China. And we all know how cordial the relations are right now between the Philippines and China. Continue reading


El Hogar Endangered?

The attack on Philippine heritage sadly is not letting up. Latest reports suggest of a possible demolition of yet another heritage building in Manila, the El Hogar Filipino Building (more popularly known as the El Hogar) at the corner of Juan Luna and Muelle de la Industria Streets in Binondo.

Even if you would not know at first the name of the building, its architecture is something that has surely caught your attention, especially whenever you are at that part of the city, with its unique Beaux-Arts/neoclassical style architecture and its peculiar look of having a fourth floor penthouse sticking out. Indeed it has become a Manila landmark since it was built more than a hundred years, a landmark that we may soon lose. Continue reading