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Tips and Guides

7 Fun Things To Do In Escolta

Go on a daytime tour of this famous Manila street to get a dose of art and design, plus learn a lot about its history!

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Photography: Michael Angelo Chua (Main and Select Photos) Pictorial Direction: Dagny Madamba

Back in its heyday of the 1900s to the 1930s, Escolta had the glamorous distinction of being called the “Queen of Streets” where Manileños went to shop, work, and dine. Time has not been kind to this once-beautiful street, but that will not always be the case now that many groups are working on its revival. Rediscover this short but storied street and area by going on a daytime tour—here’s what you can do while you’re there.

1. Explore its famous plaza.

As you soon as you go down from the Carriedo station of the LRT and head to Plaza Sta. Cruz, the main plaza before Escolta, you’ll immediately spot the Neo-Classical building Don Ramon Santos building. It used to belong to Prudential Bank before Bank of the Philippine Islands bought it. With its detailed pediments, columns, and regal facade, it gives a glimpse to the glamour of the past.

Plaza Sta. Cruz has an iconic landmark called the Carriedo Fountain in front of Santa Cruz Church named in honor of Don Francisco Carriedo y Peredo, a benefactor of Manila’s pioneer waterworks system. This fountain was replicated by National Artist Napoleon Abueva for the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

In photo: Plaza Calderon Fountain, in front of the Binondo Church.

2. Visit a time-capsule-like museum.

Calvo Musuem is another notable place of interest along Escolta. Located in the ornate 1938-erected (but still-occupied) building, this museum of old Philippine pop culture is a virtual cabinet of curiosities with its posters, bottles, and other paraphernalia from the past.

You can also have an unobstructed view of the Manila Post Office if you look through one of the small windows of this museum.

3. See a futuristic structure built in the mid-century.

A futuristic, spaceship-like building designed by National Artist for Architecture Jose Ma. Zaragosa (he also designed the iconic Meralco Building in Ortigas) for The Commercial Bank and Trust Company Building is one of the many conversation-worthy buildings in this district.

Love it or hate it, you can’t help but talk about its form, which is done in an organic-modern “International Style” reminiscent of the works of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s.

4. Discover a secret art gallery.

Panpisco Building along Escolta, which is right before Calvo Building, is another unusual haunt. The establishment is more known for its sale of safety equipment and gear for construction-relation industry, but it also houses an exhibit space called PAN/// spearheaded by 98B COLLABoratory where you get a free preview of the those art installations from their main window.

5. Cross a historical bridge.

At the end of Escolta is the William A. Jones Memorial Bridge—more popularly known as Jones Bridge—which connects Binondo to Ermita. Designed by Juan Arellano (who also designed the Metropolitan Theater and the Manila Central Post Office), it was heavily ornamented with of classical elements reminiscent of Haussmann-era Paris bridges such as human figures and dolphins on plinths.

Heavily damaged during WWII, Jones Bridge was rebuilt retaining the balusters, but with a simpler span and base. This busy bridge has a great vantage point of the Manila Central Post Office.

6. Eat at nostalgic dining spots.

If you want that old mom-and-pop ice cream parlor feel, there’s the hole-in-the-wall Escolta Ice Cream and Snacks at 237 Escolta—a throwback to the pre-war era when Botica Boie was the premier ice cream parlor there.

Near the iconic El Hogar building at the end of Escolta is Polland Café (in photo), a popular shop-cum-café in the corner Escolta is a great choice for those craving simple Chinese dimsum snacks such as the kuchay-ah and siopao. Take home a box or two of hopia as pasalubong.

7. Shop and have a cold beer.

The perfect end to a nostalgia-filled Escolta stroll would be a quick shopping stop at the stores of HUB|Make Lab and a long, cold tall one at Fred’s Revolucion, right at the ground floor of First United Building at 413 Escolta.

You could shop for Eucalyptus plants, furniture, and even perfume here. For a list of stores you can check out, click here.

To read more about Escolta’s renaissance, grab the August issue of Real Living magazine—out now in bookstores and newsstands nationwide. You can also download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details.

Additional photos: Paula de Guzman (Plaza Calderon Fountain) and 98B COLLABoratory's Facebook Page (Panpisco Building).

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