It was a hot and humid noon when I arrived at Carriedo LRT station and crossing Plaza Sta. Cruz, a glimpse of two imposing buildings that looked like sentinels, standing guard right after the bridge. Regina Building, a neoclassic architecture stood proud. Across it, the equally elegant First United Building with its beautiful art deco details.
The street in between was abuzz with people, hovering around tents, bazaars, walking around while a stage for an afternoon’s mini concert was being set up. Another group was following a guide as they toured to learn more about this historic strip and its imposing architecture.
Calle de Escolta, from its founding in 1594 has flourished as a street of commerce when Chinese migrants from the mainland trooped to Manila to make their fortune as the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade was in full swing. A merchant’s street, an international emporium where almost everything from Asia and Europe found its way into its many busy shops.
From the close of the 19th century to the prewar years, it was the place of many firsts: first ice cream parlor, first elevator, first business addresses of some of today’s known brands and for a time. It was the center of finance. But it lost its luster and businesses started to shift to Makati in the 60s that slowly, it has degenerated into shuttered buildings and some are now warehouses.
And now, plans to revive the Escolta district are afoot with several activities and events geared towards awareness and conservation of which, #selfiEscolta, the buzzword that Saturday was just one among many. It’s not easy work but with the team up of different organizations within the district, arts and heritage conservation groups under the Escolta Revival Movement, there is hope that in the future, if not soon, Escolta District will once again flourish.
Interested to know more about Escolta and the efforts for its revival? Check out the FB page Explore Escolta.