From Bank to BPO: The Tale of Juan Luna E-Services Building

At a time and place when heritage conservation is the last thing on the minds of many people, it uplifts one’s heritage-loving spirit whenever there is a story of heritage that has been preserved and restored for a new generation’s appreciation. It is also good to know that we are hearing some more of these stories thanks to a growing awareness on the need to presere our colorful past.

Today, the Urban Roamer is happy to present another such story here. Known before as the First National City Bank Building, it has been given a new lease of life ready for the future with a new name to reflect its rebirth: the Juan Luna E-Services Building.


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The Twin Sentinels of Escolta

If you’re coming from Santa Cruz making your way to Calle Escolta, you can never miss the sight of these two buildings that will welcome you to this historic street from the foot of the bridge crossing the Estero de la Reina. Sharing some common architectural features and a heritage of an American colonial past, these buildings were, and still are, the prominent addresses to be in this historic street. Today, we shall check out these twin sentinels and learn more about them in this entry.

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Reminiscing the cinematic glitter: the old movie theaters of downtown Manila (Final part: south Santa Cruz and Binondo)

At the height of the glory days of downtown Manila, movie theaters were sprouting not only along Rizal Avenue but also in nearby streets as well in the downtown area as a whole.

Binondo-Sta Cruz theaters

One such street, Florentino Torres, which ran perpendicular to Rizal Avenue was once home to two prominent movie theaters, the Deluxe and Republic theaters. Republic was no longer standing by the 1990s as a commercial building that bears its name stands today. Deluxe, which was a landmark in itself in its twilight years thanks in part to its proximity to Ambos Mundos Restaurant, was gone during the mid-2000s and a modern-looking commercial building now stands in its place as well.


the former Deluxe Theater

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Reminiscing the cinematic glitter: the old movie theaters of downtown Manila (Part I- an introduction)

Before came the blight, there was the bright. The bright that shone from the dozens of neon signages that illuminated the cityscape which was downtown Manila. For the people who lived in those bygone days, those neon signs were a form of welcome, a respite from those day-to-day struggles or whatever issue of the day that was bothering them.

from Flickr: Rizal Avenue in the 1950s. note some of the movie theaters that used to stand there

The bright lights would lead them right into a movie theater where they can enjoy the latest movie released in town. Or it could be a comedy act or some performer who will be having a show for that day. Yup, some of those theaters serve a dual purpose as well.

From the early 20th century up until the 1970’s, downtown Manila was home to dozens of movie theaters that made it become the entertainment hub of sorts of the city. Unlike what it is today, each movie theater has something different to offer in an effort to stand out and beat the competition, so to speak. Some would hire the best architects of the day like Juan Nakpil or Pablo Antonio to design their theaters. Some would make arrangements to make their theater become the exclusive venue for movie studios, both local and foreign, to show their films. One can imagine how vibrant and cut-throat the business was back in the day. Continue reading


Divisoria: Manila’s shopping mecca

Since it’s Christmas, the Urban Roamer presents to you one of Christmastime’s favorite shopping destinations. Then again, this place is an all-time favorite shopping destination

Juan Dela Cruz Band’s “Divisoria”

If there can only be one place that would be named as THE shopping mecca in the metropolis, it would not be some fancy mall or high-end shopping district. For many not only in Metro Manila but perhaps in the entire country as well, nothing equates shopping more than that famed district in Manila that we call “Divisoria.”

But of course, Divisoria itself needs no further introduction. It has become such an iconic landmark destination that every one in the metropolis is familiar with, at the very least. It originally pertained to the area that is part of San Nicolas district, particularly the area near the district’s boundary with Binondo, hence the name “divisoria” which meant division or boundary. In recent years though, Divisoria grew that its boundaries today are no longer clearly defined as it encompassed the southern tip of Tondo and the northwest area of Binondo. Continue reading