Welcome Manila nostalgia fans !

This is my first post about Manila, my birth city and where I grew up. I left after high school and settled in Seattle but memories of the past still linger on. Memories, like the landmarks of this city slowly fade and disappear but hopefully with your help, we can dredge up and share stories and pictures of the past.

What’s my motivation ?
One may ask, why ? Well, for me it’s a link to my past. The buildings, streets, theaters, schools, restaurants and other familiar places that I saw back then. Places that entertained, fed, guided me through my younger years. Even the names of streets have changed so when I return to visit Manila, I sometimes find it hard to locate old haunts. So, I tell the taxi driver, who’s about 30 years old, I want to go to Isaac Peral. He looks at me completely befuddled. Ano ? He says. Let’s see, what do they call it nowadays ? Aah, United Nations Avenue. Dewey Boulevard ? Roxas Boulevard.

Well, let’s do a little sightseeing, shall we? I ask the driver to please go “downtown”. Downtown, ba ? Ah, you mean Escolta ? Yes, I want to see the Capitol and Lyric theaters. I want to pass by 67 Escolta where my parents had their jewelry store in the Fifties, Gem Gift Shop– right next door to the M.Y.San restaurant.

My uncle, Prem, in front of our store.

Our store, Gem Gift Shop. Next door to the right was M.Y.San Restaurant.

Their storefronts rebuilt against the destroyed Crystal Arcade building – not restored mind you, just sort of built over the bad parts. I still remember the badly torn up cement and rebar sticking out in some places. It was finally torn down in the early Seventies and a bank building erected in its place. Our store was just to the left of the Escolta Restaurant (M.Y. San). 

Escolta in the Fifties was the place to shop with department stores such as Assandas, Heacock’s, Syvels, Walk Over, Ang Tibay’s, and not to forget my favorite, Botica Boie.

The large Makati malls were still decades in the future. Cartimar Market had just opened. A few modern grocery stores like the Acme Super Market on Padre Faura and the “new” Acme in Forbes Park were patterned after American-styled grocers.

Acme Super Market-1953

The “new” Acme Supermarket in Forbes Park.

My mom of course, would shop at the palenkes (usually the Paco market) with their open-aired fresh meat stalls (buzzing with flies), fresh fish, live chickens and produce because, well, it was cheaper.

The Escolta in the Sixties looking east towards Sta.Cruz church.

Avenida Rizal in the Sixties.

Still optimistic, I direct the driver to drive down a bit further to Avenida Rizal. I’d like to see the Ideal, State, Dalisay, Avenue and Odeon theaters. As you can tell, I was quite the movie nut when I was a kid.

Rizal Avenue in the Sixties.

“Wala na”, the driver says. Huh ? You mean they’re all gone ? Okay, never mind. Please drive south past the old Post Office, the City Hall…let’s see the old Jai Alai building with the famous Skyroom restaurant. Sadly, as we drive past the vacant lot where this beautifully retro landmark stood, I now realize the impact of Manila’s modernization.

Jai Alai building on Taft Avenue.

Yup, gone-gone-gone ! Why do you suppose that is ? Why do we give up the past altogether then wax nostalgic of how it used to be ? Have we truly given up our heritage and legacies ? Well, no I don’t think so. We’re building new ones all of the time – the beautiful suburbs of Makati, Quezon City and past the city limits to Tagaytay even. But if we could have saved just a bit of the old to blend in with the new, perhaps Manilans may have retained a bit of the “Pearl of the Orient” of the old days. You think ?

So I will continue this blog and include old photos of my favorite parts of the city, the buildings that made up the magic of Manila both pre-war and post-war. I hope you’ll be interested to contribute your stories and photos to this site. It should be a wonderful memorial to a beautiful city.

Next issue: The Crystal Arcade on the Escolta.

 

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71 Responses to Welcome Manila nostalgia fans !

  1. Victor U. Lopez says:

    Those are great pictures of those I have seen, I have not been to the Escolta area since I last went to those areas maybe 25 years ago, alot have been changed and alot no longer there or have been destroyed and removed like the Jai Alai Building about 15 years ago.Many areas to be changed with higher and newer buildings. Maybe best to go over there and see what has been placed.

  2. Victor U. Lopez says:

    can also use the above email address….

  3. lougopal says:

    I hope the plans to restore the Metropolitan Theatre goes through. That’s one building that must be kept.

    • ANTONIO JOAQUIN says:

      Hi Lou,
      So magnificent and moving pictures of my youth having been 11 years old when World War II broke out. We lived in Arlegui, a block away from Malacanang Palace. Yes, I was born and raised in Manila and suffered the three and one half years of Japanese Occupation. It is was a heavy heart that I report the destruction of the art deco edivice the Jai Alai building and fronton where precious and bitter sweet memories not only of mine but that of my entire family were reposed. In fact, the Jai Alai was one of the better places where we weathered the war years. Then, after the war during my high school days we would take our dates to the Jai Alai Skyroom ballroom where we dine and dance to the music of Serafin Payawal and his orchestra. Serafin played a mean violin too. Yes, I knew him and other musicians who played in many nightspots during the war for my Dad was one of them. Ping Joaquin, Jazz piano player and bandleader led a bad at the Savoy Theatre, later to change to Clover Theatre. He played there as musical director for over thirty years when Don Jose Zarah the rich Portuguese choreographer, owner, and director decided to retire. That was the end of the Clover theatre’s history and Papa Ping was out of a job. But I was able to get him a job as manager of the Philippine Columbian Club where he worked for about 7 years.

      • Amadio Arboleda says:

        Antonio Joaquin, I knew your mother, Sarah, very well. She accepted me and Johnny Wilson (later to become a movie actor and vice mayor of Makati) as members of her Far Eastern University college drama group in 1953 even though we were still in FEU Boy’s High School. We appeared in radio dramas several times and, more importantly, were cast in significant roles in the 1954 production of the first Philippine Broadway musical “South Pacific”. Your mother’s belief in us helped to put us on the paths we took in our careers. Also, I believe Fred dela Rosa is your brother-in-law and was a classmate at Boy’s High and a fellow staff member of the High School Advocate newpaper.

        • ANTONIO JOAQUIN says:

          You are so right, Mr. Arboleda. Mama Sarah was the first manager and director of Far Eastern University’s Radio and Drama Department – which was ahead of other universities at the time.
          I was already teaching at the FEU by 1954 in the Institute of Arts and had subjects later on when Communiction Arts subjects were added.
          FEU at the time used the facilitiees of DZBB managed by Bob Stewart and once each week the FEU produced a one hour show as part of the program of rado students which included Eddie Ilarde, Pete Roa, Dado Roa, and Ethel Boots Wilson.

  4. Connie says:

    I remember quite a few of the landmarks and streets you mentioned in your blog having moved to Manila in 1957 and stayed their until I graduated from the American School in 1968. My father worked for Firestone International. Mom used to take us all over Manila by taxi while Dad was working. She’d take my little brother and me out to the movies downtown when we were little. Later we went to the Rizal Theater in the 60s. That is also torn down. My sister Donna got to go back to Manila on a mission trip in February. She was only 11 when she left. She got to stay in Makati two nights and was able to get into San Lorenzo to see our old house. Except of course a new house was being built on the site. That was the second new house built since we lived there. Progress.

  5. Chris Larsen says:

    Love your first blog on Manila past and present. I moved from Cebu to Manila when I was one year old. Spent 3 1/2 years in STIC and returned after the war. Manila was my home until 1963 when my Dad retired as GM of Stanvac, now Petron. Even though I was in Manila with you in February, I missed seeing most of the wonderful places full of great memories which your blog has brought back to life for me. Keep up the good work. Chris

  6. Johnny Green says:

    Great pictures! Many memories. Born and raised there and left for the US after AS graduation in 1964 to go to ASU (Arizona State). Then back in Manila in the 80’s with Continental Airlines (which owned/operated Air Micronesia). Thanks Louie!

  7. Please send the link to stories about the Crystal Arcade. Thank you.

  8. Please post any stories about the Crystal Arcade. Thank you.

  9. Rick Gonzalez says:

    Thank you Lou, good memories.

  10. I used to love going down to the “big” theaters like Ideal, Odeon, etc. The Rizal theater was no match for them. I don’t recall which theater it was but I rode my first escalator at a downtown theater and also saw my first Panamora film there. When I came to the US in 1970, I could not believe how small most U.S. theaters were compared to Manila.

    • lougopal says:

      Was it the Cinerama ?

    • willy palarca says:

      Steve, Cinerama was the first movie theatre (in fact, I think the first building in the Philippines) with an excalator and they exhibited wide-screen films like “How the West was Won”. Cinerama was at the corner of Quezon Blvd and Azcarraga (now CM Recto Ave). The building’s still around but now rented to retail shops. –willy

  11. Laura ESTELLE Fisher says:

    Good job,Lou,and one that I’m glad someone is doing. I hope everyone with old photos will contribute. Just one small criticism. I think you are trying to hard to be PC. It was bad enough that Manila lost so much of its historic legacy during the war but the philosophy behind everything that has been willfully destroyed or intentionally not kept up or allowed to go to seed should be censored. I live in Europe so I have seen that is possible to forge ahead and continue to build ground-breaking avante-garde architecture and housing and offices and infrastructure WITHOUT eliminating cultural landmarks which all generations,past and present can share and identify. I don’t think you need to be so conciliatory towards the people who build,use and destroy buildings as if they were discardable tissue paper. A city,a country ,is not only the people but a physical,tangible visible landscape. Altering this beyond recognition is to tamper with the country’s or the city’s essence.

    • lougopal says:

      Well said Laura !

      • ANTONIO JOAQUIN says:

        I agree Laura and praise you on our awareness and concept of cultural landmarks of a country or city. My uncle Nick Joaquin considered by most as an authority on Old Manila was with me the moment we could cross the bridge in Nagtahan in 1945 and we walked towards Intramuros and when he saw just entering it the degree of destruction by MacArthur’s artillery he wept like a child and sobbed. Such was his love for the old walled city where he would attend DAILY MASS in different churches in it. Alas, we Filipinos in government still have to learn to preserve old buildings and other artistic works as part of our heritage. My reaction when I learned fo the destruction of Jai Alai by a former mayor was of utter disappoitment sof the person especially because he is related to me. We must get rid of barbarians who oaspire for government positions for they need cultural development to be respect as government officials.

        • Laura Fisher Alvarez says:

          I don’t know when you wrote your testimony of your Uncle Nick Joaquín’s reaction to the total destruction of Intramuros ,but I have only this moment seen it.
          I found it very moving. I well understand the tears your uncle wept. Thank you for sharing that memory with us.

  12. seyer says:

    i love the pictures? i would like to inquire if you have any “real” pictures of the lyric theater before it was gone? all i can find is a colored rendition and if there is any picture on the net, it is just a portion of the side wall of lyric is that can be found. i am amazed by this building. i hope you can help us heritage lovers see a real and up close picture of this lost glory.

  13. george reyes says:

    wow that was great! it was a walk down memory lane. cant wait till your next chapter. by the way, with your permission can i repost it in my facebook so some of our friends and kababayans can also reminisce those glory days of old manila? maraming salamat lou!

  14. george reyes says:

    THANKS LOU for allowing me to repost your wonderful piece about old manila. am sure a lot of pinoys, especially the old timers, will be teary-eyed seeing those unforgettable places during their (and our) time.

  15. miguel concepcion says:

    Hi! Fantastic pictures and nostaslgic memories abound. Thank you…

    I was wondering if you have pictures of the jones bridge. I could not find much in the web and would love to find any article or website about the jones bridge?

    Thank you

  16. lougopal says:

    I’ve just received a wonderful email from a dear friend, Peter Parsons.
    “Hey, everybody, this is a gem of a collection. From the inspired soul of Lou Gopal. The world of us interested people is indebted to him for this lovely history and the visual archives–many thanks, Lou. Just shows what can be done!!! It makes me cringe every time we drive past the old Metropolitan Theater. It looks about the same today as the photo of it taken in 1945. But at least it has not yet met the fate of the Jai Alai.”

  17. Ian Sy says:

    Hello, may I request higher resolution pictures of Avenue Rizal? I’d like a copy of the day and night pictures you have here. Please let me know! Thanks!

    • lougopal says:

      Ian, I have sent you photos of what I have via separate email. Please give me credit if you publish them.

  18. Thank you for sharing these pictures from the past. My mom and I use to shop in Cartimar weekly. I loved this place and still remember the pet stores at the back of the parking lot where I use to buy our pet fish and turtles.
    I remember my mom walking so fast one day..that I actually got lost. It was so scaary for me as a young girl.
    I would love to see them build something quaint like a Cartimar again.

  19. Jorge R. Vergel de Dios says:

    Thank you for the memories! Really very nostalgic and one could see how the Pasig River was so clean then. The Acme Supermarket was located on Padre Faura St., not on Isaac Peral, since it was just walking distance from our home on Dakota St. or Adriatico St. today. How I wish we could go thru those places once more…maybe in heaven?

    • lougopal says:

      Jorge, you are absolutely correct. My memory is starting to dim as I get older. Thank you for pointing that out. I’ll make the correction. I’m pleased you enjoyed the article. Those were magical days for me too!

  20. Leopoldo Cuisia says:

    In the 60’s I would take take a jeepney from our house in Malate to Avenida Rizal to watch movies. Jeepney ride then was 10 centavos and a movie in orchestra was P 1.20. I remember the first movie shown in Ever theater when it was built. It was Night People starring Gregory Peck and followed by Prince Valiant starring Robert Wagner. Ideal theater was known as the home of MGM films. In the summers with nothing to do, I would walk from Malate, the corner of San Andres and Taft all the way to Avenida Rizal and then back home. These theaters downtown had relatively large screens. In Malate, we had a neighborhood movie house called Gaiety. The movie schedule in this theater changed every two days except thursday. That way they were able to bring all of the movies showing downtown to our little old movie house. This was later converted to a gay night club, appropriate considering the name of the movie house. Last I saw 5 years ago, the building was condemned.

    Some of my classsmates and I into baseball and we would try to get our hands into any magazine or book containing baseball. I would walk up and down Avenida Rizal, Raon, Quiapo, Escolta, Dasmariñas looking for baseball stuff in newstands and bookstores. If I found any, I’s bring it to school on Monday to show it off with my classmates. Those were simple uncomplicated pleasures in those days.

    • lougopal says:

      What wonderful memories Leopoldo. I used to go to the Gaiety too. I remember my first date was there and the whole movie I kept trying to figure out how to put my arm around my date’s shoulders! Thanks for sharing !

  21. Emily Abonal says:

    Thank you for sharing those wonderful nostalgic photos/memories – very well written. Botica Boie was my favorite hang out too where we would eat on the 2nd floor. And those theatres – Ideal and State – we frequented them in the 70’s since my good friend’s father worked with the Rufino theaters. Of course we saw movies for free and had free popcorn too.Keep up the good work!

  22. Larry Ng says:

    RE: Why do we give up the past altogether then wax nostalgic of how it used to be ? Have we truly given up our heritage and legacies ? Well, no I don’t think so. We’re building new ones all of the time – the beautiful suburbs of Makati, Quezon City and past the city limits to Tagaytay even. But if we could have saved just a bit of the old to blend in with the new, perhaps Manilans may have retained a bit of the “Pearl of the Orient” of the old days. You think ? – LG

    This is just a note of appreciation for you, Lou. I appreciate the time and effort you have put into this project. Your attention to detail and historical accuracy is commendable. You leave the other websites about old Manila far behind, praiseworthy as they may be, because you have experienced both the old and the new Manila.

    Those who have lived the cosmopolitan life of pre-war Manila are the ones who experience the greatest pain over the transmogrification of our city. It has become a city where mindless commercialization of space is evidence of the saying that if you do not know where you came from, you do not know where you’re going.

    Thanks again for bringing the old back to us. It helps us to temper the new with the old. Makes for more value, more meaning in our lives.

    • lougopal says:

      Larry –
      Thank you for your very kind comments. I’m so pleased that you find my site interesting. I’ve found this not only quite fun but very educational in bringing me up to speed on Manila’s landmarks. I wished I had the interest to really stop and admire them when they were still there but this tribute and sharing it with others sort of makes up for it.

  23. Victor Feria says:

    Being born in Manila in the midst of war I find it fascinating that you still have the mementos of the old Manila. I was born in Lepanto Street, between Cataluña and P.Noval. It as about a block and a half from U.S.T. In fact I was baptized at the university chapel. I love how you described Manila with such accuracy and detail.

    • lougopal says:

      Thank you for your very kind comments Victor. I’ve learned so much more about Manila through the research. It’s really helped me appreciate my birth city and all that I loved about it.

      • Victor Feria says:

        Just curious, where did you attend high school? I graduated 1960 at San Sebastian College. The picture of Avenida Rizal showing Ideal Theater reminds me of my two brothers. On one lazy hot afternoon we decided to watch a movie. We did not know Dr. No then but went in the movie to cool off anyways. We enjoyed the movie and the airconditioning 🙂
        I will try to look for old pictures of Manila if I can find one in my archive.
        Thanks for sharing.

        • lougopal says:

          I went to the American School in Pasay, class of 1962. I was a movie nut ( still am) and went to the Ideal, State, Avenue, Capitol and Lyric theaters often. Please share your photos if you can. That would be great !

  24. ROBERTO ARIAS says:

    Remembering the Good Old Jai-alai fronton in Taft Ave. in Manila. I used to play amateur Jai-alai during my younger years.
    T’was one beautiful Art deco architecture then…..until atienza, mayor then, decided to have it demolished…and for what!
    What a shame! Thanks for the memories anyway.

    • ANTONIO JOAQUIN says:

      Sorry to say that this so called Manila Mayor is a nephew of mine with, apparently,l no sense of history, imagination as to what such a memorable edifice would do for oour country and people. Sigh. Politics can warp minds I tell you.

  25. Lito Ligon says:

    That picture of the old San Antonio Plaza in Forbes Park is how I remembered it in my childhood. Its far more diffrent today than it was in that picture. It has undergone two succeeding renovations. Was the ACME the predecessor of the United Supermarket? I remember the United Supermarket both in Forbes Park and along Mabini

  26. Emil Magtuto says:

    Mr. Gopal, though many were gone, and neglected, you’re helping us saved those long lost gone Manila landmarks remain in our minds and hearts. Generations of Filipinos will appreciate that! I’ve seen lot’s of those places in Manila – I used to stroll along its streets, particularly Escolta, Avenida, Carriedo, Sta. Cruz, and Quiapo area. Just like what you feel my friend, I miss the “old” Manila! It was from Camara in Escolta where I bought may pair of shoes that I wore during my high school graduation.

    Please continue to post your beautiful memories of Manila. Your work is deeply appreciated.

  27. Melvin Mangada says:

    Thank you for posting these lovely pictures! May I re-post some of them in social media sites like Instagram and Twitter?

  28. Corina Schmelkes says:

    I would love to have your e mail to send you a diary you might enjoy about the Philippines. I was born there but left when I was ten months old. I went back with my family two years ago. I have enjoyed all of your writings, pictures and comments about the Philippines. Thanks for sharing!!!
    Have a nice day,
    Corina Schmelkes (Daughter of Norbert W. Schmelkes -Ottie- One of 14 Czechs who helped the Guerrillas win WWII – Went through the Death March of Bataan, but fortunately survived!)

  29. Corina Schmelkes says:

    I would love to have your e mail so that I can send a diary I wrote when I returned to the Philippines 70 years after I was born. My dad was Norbert W. Schmelkes – Ottie- was one of the 14 Czechs who helped the guerrillas win WW II. I left the Philippines when I was 10 months old previous to WWII. Have a nice day, Corina Schmelkes

  30. Les says:

    Hi Lou,

    Shared your blog in FB! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Les

  31. Yourj Benig says:

    it’s such a wonderful blog! Seeing those photos made me realize that Manila has a unique identity which other cities in asia never had. that’s why it’s called the “Pearl of the Orient” – As a 14 year old guy who was born in 1998 and grew up in Makati City. I can definitely tell the comparison between the two cities. Prewar Manila and Makati City today, a bit similar ^_^ But today’s Manila is a dirty place, full of illegal settlers, well, some high rises are being built but those are not appropriate on that city. I wish Ermita will be transformed again like Forbes Park. I wish Manila will restore it’s glory. I wish —- those condominiums be gone and bring back those historical places. Condominiums are way too inappropriate to be built in a historical city. London and Paris may have Apartments but not all of those apartments are high rise. they can build condominiums or flats that blend in with the original architectural design of the city which is Neo – Classical and Art Deco. Well, that’s just my opinion. No one cares though until I reach 18. ^_^

    • lougopal says:

      Thank you for writing Yourg. I love your vision for Manila but I don’t agree that no one would care because you are only 14. On the contrary, the future of Manila belongs to you and people of your generation and should you choose to take responsibility, you can make the difference by making your voice heard. The city managers need to plan now for the Manila you would like to see 20 years from now and perhaps you may actually be that city manager or Mayor. Keep at it ! More power to you.

  32. Luis (Chato) Mañeru says:

    Hola primo, I can’t believe I haven’t put my two cents worth here yet. As a fellow maternal descendent of the Zaragozas, and a history buff, lemme congratulate you. Well done, indeed! I always shed a tear when I trip the ancient light fanastic with you .. having our jewelry made in Gems, buying my bike at Assanda’s, taking the G-Liner from San Juan to San Beda at Mendiola/Legard then on to either Avenida Rizal (right) or Quiapo (straight) ahead and Escolta .. sigh .. I shall share more pics with you through email. Un abrazo, your cuz, Chats!

  33. Toby Canlas says:

    Lou, I love every posting you made., I now live in Santa Barbara, California since 1977, I am totally impressed those 1950s and early 60s picture the decades that i remembered most of my teen age year, there where several photos that i enjoyed looking are Botica Boie, Berg Dept. Store, Acme Supermarket, Lyric Theater ,Swiss Inn ,Taza de Oro and other well known restaurants, Churches, Hotels surrounding Manila. Thank you so much and i will have my children and Apo’s to look at it to know how Manila was in 1920s to present.

  34. Corazon Lopez Guila- Lutz says:

    Enjoyed very much!
    Thank you and all the best !!!
    Sincerely,
    Cora Guila – Lutz

  35. MCSalanga says:

    Dear Sir,
    I write to ask if you have anything on a group of 4 ladies back in the late 1950’s who used to perform at Clover Theater alongside ReyCard duet and a few others (i.e. if my memory serves me right because I had just heard the story as it was passed down the grapevine)… They were called ROSEANGELS COMBO… I would really like to find out more about them if it is at all possible… I would like to attach a picture but am unsure if I am allowed. Thank you, sir, for your time and wishing you all the best! God bless!

  36. Thanks Lou for this wonderful series about old Manila. I was born in 1955 and raised at the Ermita district. My mother owned the Alexander’s gift shop located at 1121 A.Mabini St. I studied at Ateneo De Manila with my older brother. My two sisters went to St. Paul.
    Our house faced the Astoria Apartments building and I remember going to United Supermarkets to buy cookies, soda and read their comics. Other businesses of my childhood memories are Tesoros, Viscarras, Oriental Handicrafts (where I bought stamps for my stamp collection ) Rataan Fine Art Gallery, Rolling Pin bakeries, Gloria’s nightclub, Adrianos Furniture, Philippine National Bank. I remember the food vendors going door to door, the old lady who sold steamed plantains, the chinese vendor selling taho, the vendors selling green mangoes with your choice of bagoong, balut vendors and buying fresh hot pan de sal at the Chinese grocery store every morning. I remember the fun times at Luneta Park where we scaled the Rizal Memorial ( now off limits with a guard) , strolling Dewey Boulevard and swimming in the bay ( now too polluted to swim in) riding the double decker busses, jeepneys etc . Do you still remember how to tell them to stop, you had to make a shishing noise with your mouth?
    Other memories are how hard it was to get water from the municipal system. We had to install a heavy duty water pump and a large water tank since water only comes sporadically with little pressure. My father died of cancer in 1962 and my mother remarried again in 1967 to my Spanish stepfather who co-owned the Dulcinea Spanish pastry shop. I remember the reception was at Swiss Inn. My mother decided to move the entire family in 1968 to Honolulu due to increasing violence in Manila and before the imposition of martial law. I have been back once in 1996 and surprised to see our house still standing and our water tank still in place! I plan to return again next year.

    • lougopal says:

      Fred – what a wonderful collection of memories. I remember all the places you mentioned. Was our neighborhood unique in that it offered such a plethora of stores, restaurants, and many things that a kid loves or was it the era ? Perhaps both. Thanks very much for your comments.

  37. Jojo de la Rama says:

    Manila had a character of it’s own, nowadays when the big boys do something it’s a character not ours. Some of the big boys are partnering with a hostile country, a joint venture in electric transmission, mass transit, shipping, mining, etc. someday we would need to get a visa to visit the MOA area because they will be owned by China.

  38. Amadio Arboleda says:

    Antonio Joaquin, I knew your mother, Sarah, very well. She accepted me and Johnny Wilson (later to become a movie actor and vice mayor of Makati) as members of her Far Eastern University college drama group in 1953 even though we were still in FEU Boy’s High School. We appeared in radio dramas several times and, more importantly, were cast in significant roles in the 1954 production of the first Philippine Broadway musical “South Pacific”. Your mother’s belief in us helped to put us on the paths we took in our careers. Also, I believe Fred dela Rosa is your brother-in-law and was a classmate at Boy’s High and a fellow staff member of the High School Advocate newpaper.

  39. Amadio Arboleda says:

    Thank you so much for your blog and FB page Lou. Manila of the fifties (actually, 1948 to 1956) changed my life forever. I was not born in the Philippines. I came from Staten Island, New York, three years after the end of that terrible occupation of the Philippines. I was staunchly opposed to going to the Philippines from what was at the time the “center of the universe”, but my Filipino father was determined that his Amercan-born children should be educated in the culture and language of the Philippines before reaching high school. My siblings and I did not expect much from the Philippines having found almost nothing about it in the library other than negative images of natives in loin clothes and farming villages.

    Manila was an eye-opener. Certainly, there were the initial shocks as we disembarked at Manila Bay and saw the quite visible destroyed government buildings not too far from the Manila Hotel. However, within few days we discovered the beauty of Manila in it’s abundant verdant greenery and graceful low buildings that seem to blend in seamlessly with the natural surroundings. So the next eight years, from 1948 to 1956, were spent developing my Filipino self and my intellectual underpinning, first at Far Eastern University Boy’s High School, then at Ateneo de Manila College (it was not yet a university). We lived in San Juan del Monte, Rizal, which was, for all practical purposes, a part of the city of Manila given the short time it took (in those days) to drive to downtown. So, I spent my spare time learning about and loving this wonderful city on the Pasig. And while the sights were indelible for me, it was the people who brought it all to life. The buildings and places were unforgettable because they were linked to the people we got to know and mingle with within them. A wonderful blog indeed!

  40. Jocel Fernandez says:

    Hi Lou,

    I’m only about half your age but I do love reminiscing about Manila in it’s heyday. My dad used to take me with him to work at the Burke Bldg. in the Escolta area on Saturdays. After that we’d visit his friends who were working at the Avenue theatre along Avenida and then he’d take me along to see the latest movie. I remember I was about 10 years old back then and I believe the exposure to the locale contributed to my fondness of Art Deco structures.

    I went on to college in the Intramuros area and used to drop by my mom’s work along Recto Ave. The stories and photos in your posts opened my eyes and saw the glory days of Manila; the city and the capital.

    Kudos to your blog! I love reading memoirs and I’m looking forward to more of your stories.

  41. Ginny Santiago says:

    I am an academician and I do research on Philippine family businesses. I would be interested to learn more about what has happened to the businesses of yesteryears. I find the stories in this blog quite fascinating. Can I get into conversation with anyone interested to share either through e-mail or face-to-face>

    • lougopal says:

      You might consider joining my Facebook Manila Nostalgia group. Discussions and photos abound on local businesses. I will send you an invitation.

  42. R Gutierrez says:

    Thank you for these great pictures Lou. We also had a store in Escolta shown in your sixties picture showing ABEL’s store where I use to buy Sarsi and a muffin called “makabayan”. Our store was right behind it – a Philippine handicraft gift shop. I remember going to Fairmont parlor which was in front of MY Sans where we use to buy their yummy chicken pie. On the right side of ABEL’s store was a bowling / pool place beside the Pasig river. Thanks again.

  43. Sean says:

    Hi Lou,
    Do you know where the Acme in Forbes Park was located?

  44. Rowena says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories and researching about Manila’s past. There’s a dearth of info about what life was like before Manila became a seething megapolis full of squatters, etc … I lived there until I was 13/1982 and sometimes feel nostalgic about the way it was back then (no traffic, even Ermita felt safe back then as we used to ride a jeepney to watch movies after dinner) and now it’s just so chaotic, polluted, etc … it feels depressing to return and stay in Manila and so we don’t – we built a house in the province.

  45. james sy says:

    my mom kept on telling me that manila before was better than today, so i searched for manila’s lost landmark and i found your blog! thanks for sharing. We moved here in Canada since 1990 Perhaps my mom felt nostalgic for the warm home we had before. a lot in manila have been changed. i also bumped into an article in Propertyasia.ph about manila’s lost landmark and how they look today. https://www.propertyasia.ph/newsroom/2015/12/06/take-a-look-back-at-manilas-lost-landmarks/ thanks for sharing, atleast i can now understand my mom when she reminisce about manila

  46. Krisha Cielo says:

    Wow! I’m amazed at the old photos of Manila. Parang napaka-peaceful, simple lang ang buhay.
    You know what, I actually like the 50’s though I was born 1985.
    I like old movies like from Sampaguita Pictures. I like old songs as well especially in the 50’s. There’s something in the 50’s that captured my heart. I don’t know, I guess I’m an “old soul”… Thank you for posting those photos, sana inalagaan ang mga gusaling iyan or ni-restore kesa naman magtayo ng mga bagong buildings. Mas naappreaciate ko pa ang ganyang mga gusali & scenery kesa sa mga “modern” gusali ngayon.
    Keep it up sir!

  47. joy says:

    Hi Mr. Gopal,

    Enjoyed your blog. Would you have some details on the brands of the tableware and flatware sold at La Estrella del Norte,La Puerta del Sol or even at Berg’s. I would appreciate inputs and if any of your readers have knowledge of families or collectors who may want to unload these artifacts date ca 1930’s or earlier for a house museum.

    Much thanks…

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