Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Historical Walk Through Binondo and Escolta Part 2

After rehydrating we proceeded with the tour by appreciating the Chaco Building still along Plaza Cervantes.

Chaco Building, Quintin Paredes, Manila, Philippines

Between the 1900s and the 1920s, Plaza Cervantes in Binondo was the place to make a statement.

It was there that banks, financial cooperatives, and corporations would set up their headquarters. Among them was the firm of Uy Chaco.

The company was set up by Mariano Uy Chaco, who made a fortune supplying hardware to the colonial government. By 1910, Uy Chaco decided to retire and go back home to China. He left his son, Uy Vet, in charge of the family business.

Uy Vet took the firm in a new direction by becoming the local distributor of American-made tools and hardware supplies. He apparently did well enough that by the mid-1920s he was able to build a new corporate headquarters. Uy Vet hired Andres Luna de San Pedro to design the new office building.

Luna de San Pedro’s artistic pedigree was impeccable. He was the son of patriot-artist Juan Luna. Having just returned from studies in Europe, the young architect’s style was heavily influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. The five-story building he designed for the firm featured a corner domed tower, which originally had several clocks. The structure went on to become the district’s most distinct landmark after the Binondo Church.

People who grew up in Binondo during World War II would remember the building for a different reason. Due to its height and corner-lot location, the Japanese army used it to station some of their machine guns. It is said the guns were always trained on Jones Bridge in case of an attack from that direction.

Today, the building houses the Binondo branch of the Philtrust Bank. The bank now limits activities to the ground floor as the upper floors are unusable; the building’s internal steel framework is already rusting away. Despite an advance stage of decrepitude, there are still no plans to demolish the Uy Chaco Building. But any facelifts— such as the recent fresh coat of paint—are superficial.

Some say it’s as if the building has cancer. Let’s hope time doesn’t run out on this historic Binondo landmark.
After Chaco Building, we walk past the Original Savory Branch opened after the war in the 1950's.

Savory Chicken

In 1950, the four Ting brothers started a small panciteria in Quiapo. The panciteria served only the lomi at first. After the World War II, they decided to expand their menu to serve more Filipino and Chinese dishes to their loyal customers.

The Ting brothers developed a special recipe for the fried chicken and gravy that became popular not only with the Chinese community, but to the Filipino families as well.

After 60 years, theOriginal Savory’s first branch located at the foot of Jones Bridge still continues to serve the old recipes passed on by the forefathers, maintaining the flavor that elevated its fried chicken to an emulated status.
Right across was another post war building where a branch of BPI now resides.   Unlike the San Nicholas to Escolta route, the buildings here are right beside one another, although I recommend that you try to cross the street for better appreciation of the structure.

The next building we went to was Capitol Theater.

Capitol Theater

 Architect Juan Felipe Nakpil
    Location Escolta, Manila
    Typology Commercial
    Construction 1930s

The Capitol Theater, situated in Escolta was built in the 1930s with an approximate seating capacity of 800.
This theater had a double balcony, which is a rare architectural design.
With an art deco style by the architect, the theater's facade has reliefs of 2 muses done by Francesco Monti.

Right beside Capitol theater is the old PNB Building.  Which is equally historical and exemplifies green technology of the 60's.

Right in front of the PNB Building is the Calvo Building.

Calvo Building

In 1950, the Calvo building was home to the studios and corporate offices of the Loreto de F. Hemedes, Inc., later renamed Republic Broadcasting System. Robert “Bob” Stewart of the Uncle Bob fame sent the first signals of radio station DZBB from a makeshift studio on its 4th floor. Seven years after in 1957, that company moved to its current location along EDSA in Quezon City and is now more known as GMA 7 - the Kapuso network.

Calvo Building also houses the Escolta Museum, but be mindful of its schedule. Its only open at 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday except holidays.

Next building right at the corner of T. Pinpin is the Natividad Building.

Natividad Building

During its heydey, the Insurance Commission found its home here. (Source: Honesto General). The building is still pretty much in the best of conditions. Together with the neighboring Calvo, the Natividad has been described as beaux-arts in its style, a style that began in France in the 1800s or thereabouts.

Opposite Nativiadad, on the same side is the First United Building.

First United Building

One of two sentinels to Escolta that stand after the Estero de la Reina is the simple but elegant 6-storey Perez-Samanillo Building. Built in 1928, it is now knowm as the First United Building.
A fine example of Art Deco, the building was designed by Paris-born Andres Luna de San Pedro, the same designer of the St. Cecilia Hall of the 100-year old St. Scholastica College, and the Chapel of the Crucified Christ (c. 1927) of St. Paul University (along Pedro Gil St.) De San Pedro is the son of artist and Philippine hero Juan Luna and Paz Pardo de Tavera. It is currently owned by the Sylianteng family who bought it in the 1960's.
Its gates feature the distinct chevron design, while its facade feature the strong lines of triangles and squares broken by stylized floral patterns. It's now sporting a white color, but articles said that it used to sport a coral pink hue, although it's been explained that this was only during former city mayor (now, city mayor once again) Alfredo Lim. The current owners said that when they bought the building, it already sported its current color. (Source:

On the opposite side stands Regina Building.

Regina Building

It is said that the Regina is one of the first examples of structures built with reinforced concrete - something the Americans introduced in these earthquake-prone islands. Along with the nearby building, the equally beautiful Perez-Samanillo Building, the Regina was designed as a three-floor affair by Andres Luna de San Pedro (Note: this information needs verification). Later, when the De Leon family bought the building from the Roxases, a fourth floor was commissioned and was designed by architect Fernando Ocampo, one of the pioneers of modern Filipino architecture known as one of the Thirteen Moderns. He took Civil Engineering, University of Santo Tomas; and Architecture, University of Pennsylvania). He founded the UST College of Architecture in 1930.

That ends the Escolta part of the tour, but we continued further on the area of Plaza Sta. Cruz.

The first building was the Roman Santos Building.  I remember this as Prudential Bank before but now its the of a BPI Branch.

Roman Santos Building

Carriedo Fountain

 Monte De Piedad Building

Since we are already at the Sta. Cruz end of Ongpin, we took a break for a taste of the many things that Chinatown has to offer, Pansit.  We went to one of the original panciteria in the area, Delicous along Soler St.

While walking our way back, we cant help but look around the other food best taken in Binondo.
When in Chinatown
The best restaurants to visit are the ff:
Tasty Dumplings (Porkchop with rice)
Chuan Kee (Kiampong, asado, adobo egg, noodles)
Eng Bee Tin (Hopia, Tikoy, Pastillas and a lot more)
La Resurrection (Tablea Chocolates)
Mr. Ube (Noodles)
Estero (Froglegs, Noodles, Seafoods)
Wai Ying (Curry Beef Brisket, Noodles, Dimsum, Siomai)
President (Shrimp Salad)
Star Fastfood (Budget Meals with kiampong, viands and free drink and soup)
Panciteria Manosa (Pansit, although a bit oily)
Delicious (Noodles, Fried Rice, Fried Chicken)
Ramon Lee (Chicken)

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