Years ago, the Urban Roamer has talked about the neighborhood along Paz M. Guanzon Street, the former Otis Street in Manila’s Pandacan/Paco area, and the sights that can be seen there: the auto dealers, the Robinsons mall, the
Mapua Malayan High School, and Malacañang South. However, embarrassing as it may be, it seems the Urban Roamer forgot to write what is perhaps the most well-known landmark in this part of the city, the old Coca-Cola bottling plant.
But it may have a stroke of luck as well as the old plant went through some significant developments and was transformed into a retail site of a membership superstore chain called Landers. With that said, it is time to revisit this part of the city as we look at how a softdrink plant transformed into a superstore site.
The Coca-Cola bottling plant
The building that would become the Coca-Cola bottling plant was built in 1948. Not much is known about the architect but its architecture was reminiscent of another manufacturing plant located in Manila as well, the Magnolia Ice Cream plant in what is now Carlos Palanca Sr. Street, formerly known as Echague. Coincidentally, or maybe not, both Magnolia and Coca-Cola were owned by San Miguel Corporation. (though technically, San Miguel only had the rights to manufacture Coca-Cola in the Philippines) Also, San Miguel had a carton manufacturing plant around the area where Coca-Cola is located.
The bottling plant soon became a landmark in postwar Manila as it was frequented by school kids as a field trip itinerary. And during Christmas, the plant was all lighted up in holiday glow with its Christmas display and colorful bright lights that reportedly can be seen as far as Malacañang Palace across the Pasig River.
It must be noted that at the time the plant was built, the area surrounding it was still a quiet Manila suburb. But as Manila experienced rapid urbanization, the industrial plants began moving outside the premises of the city, and of the metropolis as well. Coca-Cola downsized its operations in the plant by the 1980s and it eventually was shut down by the 2000s or around that time.
For years after its closure, the plant remained an abandoned property as it was in danger of suffering the same fate as a number of heritage structures in the city. left to decay until it will be demolished in a few years time. That sure was the fear of the city’s heritage advocates when news broke in 2015 that a demolition permit was issued to what seemed to be the new owners of the property.
Fortunately, the old plant building was mostly spared (save for the smaller building at the south) as the demolition work proceeded on the rest of the complex. By the following year, the works have been completed as the old plant was ready to be unveiled with a new look
In 2016, the former Coca-Cola plant was unveiled to the public as a commercial complex managed by a rising membership superstore chain and rival to S&R: Landers Superstore. Make no mistake though, despite the name, Landers is a Filipino-owned enterprise by the same guys behind another rising enterprise Kuya J Restaurant. (And no, Jericho Rosales is not the restaurant’s owner)
What makes this complex unique is that it manages to embrace the old and the new in one complex. The old, symbolized by the former Coca-Cola plant building which was adaptively reused to be a commercial complex where a branch of Kuya J Restaurant (of course) can be found.
And at the farther end of the complex, one can see the new: a sleek and postmodern beauty of the building that is Landers Superstore itself. And the Urban Roamer would dare say it is one of the most beautiful retail buildings one can ever see in the metropolis. In a way, it complements the old bottling plant, at least by not looking as dull and uninspired as other retailers would be wont to do.
This contrast of characters that can be seen in the complex is both stark and appealing at the same time. It offers a sense of hope in the city that not only is it possible to preserve the past and that it is also possible to create something new and unique. More importantly, it serves as a great example that both aspirations are not exclusive to one another and are both beneficial in achieving meaningful growth and development for the metropolis as a whole.
Acknowledgements to Inquirer’s Edgar Sembrano, Inquirer’s Biz Buzz, Philippine Star, and Landers
I use to pass by the bottling plant in the early 80’s while going to school at Paco Catholic. My journey would start at Santol, Sta. Mesa. Take a jeepney along Magsaysay Blvd. and get off at the corner of Legarda. Take another ride at the jeepney terminal beside De Ocampo Memorial, up & down the Nagtahan Bridge, turn right to Guanzon Street and eventually stops at a side street along Paz Street, near the Paco Public Market, just a few steps from Paco Catholic School.