I just celebrated my 69th birthday and as old age creeps, I can’t help but reminisce further on the wonderful coming of age years I had in Manila.
In the mid-Fifties, we lived in the Malate district on Remedios Street, just a couple of blocks from the Malate Church and school. Oh, I must have been 8 or 9 that one Christmas season and for some reason, I felt I just had to have a BB gun. In fact, a Daisy “air rifle” they called it. You pour BBs in a hole by the barrel, cock it, aim and shoot. It’s that easy. However, we lived in a crowded area with nothing to shoot at – but wait, there’s the Malate School and look at all those windows !
Yes, I did shoot out a couple of windows. Why, you ask ? Because I was 8 or 9 and they were there. Apparently hiding in the shadows was a nun who was on guard and alerted this criminal activity. With a savage pull on my ear, she hustled me off to the office of someone in authority, perhaps God herself. Well, to make matters worse, they called my mom, who was working at our store (Gem Gift Shop) on the Escolta, and advised her of my wrongdoing. She said that couldn’t possibly be correct because I had personally assured her that buying THIS particular “air rifle” was safe and furthermore, I promised her it couldn’t fire BBs. Ah well, not only was I guilty of shooting out the windows, I was also guilty of lying about the BB gun.
That was not the only major event of that year though, because my parents decided it was time to stop renting and own our own home. They bought a lot quite some distance from our Malate neighborhood. It was called Makati and there was a new suburban neighborhood called San Lorenzo Village. We were all very excited. We moved in around 1957. Unfortunately, my father only enjoyed our home for less than 2 years as he passed away in January 1959.
In 1947, the government created the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation (RFC). The RFC provided credit facilities for the development of agriculture, commerce and industry and the reconstruction of properties damaged by the war. Later named Development Bank of the Philippines. By the mid-Fifties, RFC continued to offer loans to qualified Filipinos to encourage businesses to grow and people to become homeowners. My mother, being Filipina, took the opportunity to apply for a mortgage on our home. Below, Carlota sitting in the front patio of our new home. The lot was on Melantic Street. A friend of the family, I think his name was Lebrun, was an architect and designed our home. It was a two-floor, four-bedroom home and more importantly, it was ours. It was a lovely home painted light yellow with decorative stone at the front entrance, a small yard in front and one car garage. The water pressure was low as with most homes in the Manila area. The thing that stands out in my mind was taking a shower in the upstairs bathroom and of course, just when you have soap in your hair and eyes, you run out of water. I would have to yell, “Tuuuubiiig !” and miraculously, the water started flowing again !
Below, my mom Carlota and dad, Gopal in front of our new home (behind the photographer). Notice all the new construction on the opposite side of our street.
(Above, our maids posing in front of our home.)
San Lorenzo was a refreshing change from living in Malate. Here, everything was new, like nothing we’ve ever seen in Manila. Even the temperature was a bit cooler. Less population and fewer buildings, I guess. My bedroom faced the front street. Two walls held windows that provided great cross ventilation. Nowadays, with all the skyscrapers, businesses and density of homes, the power required to drive all those air conditioners and lights, plus heavy traffic must affect the ambient temperature as it seems now so stifling.
Driving along Pasong Tamo, one could see new factories and warehouses pop up but the area was still in the process of being developed. The first wire factory to operate in the Philippines was Albert Awad’s American Wire and Cable that started up their operations there in 1955, later moving to a larger manufacturing site along the South Superhighway, Parañaque City. There were still empty fields surrounding San Lorenzo. My friends and I would play “guerra” and occasionally even find leftover ammo from the real war. The lot next to ours was still empty. One day I was playing there and stumbled across a real Japanese machinegun – the kind that would sit on a tripod. I cleaned it up and painted it. Of course it was well rusted and couldn’t fire but when I played war with my friends, I was the only one with a real machine gun !
I just bought this guitar from a music store in Raon. I had ambitions of becoming the next rock and roll star (Embarrassing, isn’t it ?). My ambitions never materialized, thank goodness, but this photo does give you an idea of how open the San Lorenzo neighborhood was around 1958.
We boys also had many excursions out to Ft. McKinley past Forbes Park, where the Philippine Army was headquartered. Carefully avoiding security, we would forage the grounds, and usually come up with left over ammunition or armament. Dangerous certainly, but to a 12 year old boy, this was adventure ! Sadly, I’ve heard of a couple of boys from my school that were seriously hurt.
This large tract of land was acquired by the U.S. Government in 1902 and named Ft. McKinley after Pres. McKinley. When the Japanese occupied the Philippines in 1942, Fort McKinley was taken over and occupied as their military camp until the end of the war in 1945. On May 14, 1949, Fort William McKinley was turned over to the Philippine government. It was made the permanent headquarters of the Philippine Army in 1957 and was subsequently renamed Fort Bonifacio after the Filipino hero, Andres Bonifacio.
The American Cemetery and Memorial is still located there and maintained by the U.S. government. With a total of 17,206 graves, it has the largest number of graves of any cemetery for U.S. personnel killed during World War II and holds war dead from the Philippines and other allied nations. In the early 18th century, Macati was more or less referred to as swamp land; Macati meaning “when the tide has receded” due to its northern boundary along the Pasig River which regularly overran its banks. In 1914, legislation was passed to shorten its name simply to Makati. Before the war, there was nothing to distinguish the area other than Ft. McKinley, the Santa Ana Hippodrome and John Canson’s Sta. Ana Cabaret, billed as the largest nightclub in the world.
Don Jose Bonifacio Roxas y Ubaldo (part of the Ayala-Roxas family) purchased the Hacienda San Pedro de Macati along with its large tract of land for ₱52,800 in 1851. It remained a sparsely populated town until the late 1930s, when Enrique Zobel de Ayala heard that the construction company L.R. Neilson Co. proposed to the government to build an airport. Being a special aide to President Quezon, Zobel parlayed his connection and offered approximately 40 hectares of the family’s Hacienda San Pedro de Macati as a possible site for the facility. The airport was completed in 1937 and took 1000 men, 80,000 gallons of asphalt and six months to complete the field. The principal runways were laid out on what are now Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue. The passenger depot was constructed on what is now Pasay Road; between the two runways was the airport tower and passenger station, designed in the shape of an airplane.
It was named after its builder and principal investor, L.R. Nielson. Laurie Reuben Nielson was a British man born in New Zealand who arrived in Manila with his wife in the mid 1930s. He and his American wife, Annette, had two sons. In Manila, his first goal was to establish a business, thus the creation of the firm L. R. Nielson & Co. He was mainly involved in the securities and stock brokerage business, mining, and importing. Nielson was also part of the board of “The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.”
Left – Len Coote and L.R.Nielson display their handball trophies at Wack Wack Country Club (courtesy of L. Nielson)
I received an email from Nielson’s son, Lindsay, who wrote an article about his family and their subsequent experience during their internment at Santo Tomas. “Nielson Airport played a strategic role in the battle for the Philippines. The two military airports, Clark Field and Nichols Field, had been bombed but our little civilian airport was spared although it was constantly being strafed. Later in the war it went on to become the headquarters for the Far East Army Air Force.” Above: L.R. Nielson (front with white suit) enjoys his despedida party at the Wack Wack Country club. (courtesy of L. Nielson)
While his family was interned at Santo Tomas, L.R. Nielson was sent to Hong Kong imprisoned with other British Nationals where he died. Lindsay writes, “My mother, brother and I were ordered to leave our home on Dewey Blvd. on magnificent Manila Bay to the newly converted University/Prison Camp for American prisoners of war. We were initially allowed only those possessions that we could ultimately bring with us.” After being liberated, they were repatriated back to the U.S. and met by their families in San Francisco.
Manila International Air Terminal was the only commercial airport in Manila from 1937 to 1947. Philippine Airlines, then owned by Don Andres Soriano, operated domestic flights from Manila to Baguio and Paracale with 9-passenger twin-engine planes flown by American and Filipino pilots. I still remember venturing out past the edges of Ayala Avenue, you could still see some remaining portions of the runway macadam. The site is now the Filipinas Heritage Library.
Then war broke out. After over three years of Japanese occupation, the invaders were defeated but Manila lay in ruins. Thousands were left homeless and the problem exacerbated when hordes of people from the provinces immigrated into the city, eager to find jobs. In addition, the birth rate rose dramatically. From a prewar count of 450,000, Manila’s population vaulted to more than two million by July 4, 1946. Living quarters were at a premium as reconstruction efforts struggled to rebuild and renew the desolated city. People began to look outwards towards the city’s edges.
Born in Manila the son of a Scottish father and a Filipina mestiza mother, Joseph R. McMicking married into the Zobel family that owned a thousand hectares of open land in Makati. McMicking had a vision. Seeing the complete destruction of Manila, especially the devastated neighborhoods of Malate and Ermita, he envisioned a residential subdivisions and a financial center that would replace Manila’s downtown area.
Below, left to right: J. R. McMicking, Alfonso R. Zobel de Ayala, Enrique O. Zobel
The post-war move of the Manila Polo Club from its prewar Dewey Boulevard location and the low land prices at ₱8 per square meter attracted more affluent families into the first community, Forbes Park. San Lorenzo Village was developed in 1954 for upcoming middle class families. It was quintessential suburbia with a mix of Filipino and American families. Many of my friends lived close by. Down the street were the Stullers, the Hamms, the Litwins and Judy Budd and her family lived at the corner of Hidalgo and Melantic. Her father worked for Goodyear. Their home is shown below (courtesy Judy Budd Stevenson).
An older friend of mine in those days was Dodjie Laurel who lived on Ponce Street. He was a great guy with great toys. At that time, he had a ’62 Corvette and a twin-engined go-kart. Every once in a while, he would indulge me by allowing me to borrow his go-kart which I’d tear down Pasong Tamo on many occasions. He was always friendly towards us teens; a sort of mentor. We used to drag race at an informal track somewhere in Mandaluyong. (update: I’ve just been informed that was on Ortigas Ave.-thanks to Jay Gutierrez). He was passionate about motor sports and raced regularly. Dodjie Laurel perished in a flaming death in the Macau Grand Prix on Nov. 19, 1967 at only age 35. I remembered him fondly and always loved his old Corvette so I ended up getting a similar one. I still have it today.
In 1956, the Philippine Airlines Pilot Union (ALPAP) comprised of over 200 former Philippine Air Force and U.S. Air Force pilots requested a subdivision from the Ayala Corporation. Mainly through the efforts of Capt. Anthony O’Brien who was the current president of ALPAP and with the support of McMicking, Phase 1 of Bel-Air Village was opened in 1957 at the price of ₱15 per square meter for pilots and ₱30 per square meter for non-pilots.
Above my mom, Carlota with a couple of her friends taken by the Luneta around 1940.
Bel-Air Village officially became the third subdivision to be developed by the Ayala Corporation. Capt. O’Brien chose the name Bel-Air as the pilots wanted a name that included the word “air”. The streets were wider, cleaner and lined with trees and grassed sidewalks. The homes ranged from modest to grand and were designed in a more modern, airy style with gardens, yards and low walls to attractively display the homes. Of course, these were all “gated” communities with security guards stationed at all entrances to keep the “riff-raff” out. As these communities grew to house the rich and nearly rich and the BMWs and Mercedes filled the garages, the walls grew taller, more security guards were employed and more armed checkpoints sprung up.
We even had a park in San Lorenzo – pretty much an empty field when it opened but they installed monkey bars and assorted little rides for the kiddies. It was also where the local teens hung out. My buddies and I formed a basketball team called “The Vampires” – actually I was what they called their manager (whatever that entailed). Recognize anyone in the photo below ?
(Below the view from our home out onto Melantic Street.)
But in the Fifties, it was still a simpler life. I remember catching a jeepney from the corner of Taft and Highway 54 (EDSA) that took me right into San Lorenzo. I recall that one of the first stores to open in the area was a branch of the Acme Grocery Store at the entrance of Forbes Park. It fit right in, being a modern supermarket in the American style. The overhead view of Forbes shows the Acme at bottom left just across the street from the Franciscan Santuario de San Antonio church (photo thanks to Lito Ligon).
A sort of open strip mall called Makati Commercial Center was built at the crossroads of Makati and Ayala Avenues in the late 1950s. A new theater, Rizal Theater, was built at the corner of Makati Road and Ayala Avenue.
It was one of the most modern theaters I had seen, with its cold air conditioning including balcony seating where young teens might meet, hold hands and even steal a kiss. It even had a small restaurant off the lobby called Leila’s.
Rendering and model of Rizal Memorial Theater designed by Architect Juan Nakpil which was intended as part of the Rizal Memorial Cultural Complex originally intended for completion by 19 June 1961, in time for Jose Rizal’s birth centennial. Due to lack of funds, the theater was not built but redesigned as the Rizal Theater at the Makati Commercial Center, now demolished. (Thanks to Isidra Reyes)
Along Makati Road was also the Nomads Club where I happened to watch my dad with other British and Indians playing cricket there on Sundays. To this day, I have no conception of how cricket is played but it was fun watching my non-athletic dad hit with that weird looking bat.
I spent many a day at the San Lorenzo Park which was located next to Assumption which had moved their elementary grades from their Herran location in 1958. The following year, the school opened its doors to college-bound young women, and the College moved there in 1959. I wonder if I enjoyed the park as much as I enjoyed checking out the cute girls in their uniforms ? (photo below thanks to Lito Ligon)
Getting around Makati required transportation – it was big. Nothing like living in the city where the sari-sari was just around the corner, the Malate Church was two blocks away, the Paco Market, the Gaiety Theater and a lot of restaurants and stores on Mabini were a short jeepney ride away.
(Below – aerial view of Makati Commercial Center with Ayala Ave. on the left heading towards Forbes Park – late 1960s) In Makati, you needed a car. Public transportation did not abound, especially if I wanted to go see some of my friends like Johnny Green or Baby O’Brien who lived in Bel-Air Village or the Awads and Winters girls in Forbes or visit the “Teen Room” at the Polo Club. So what was I to do ? I was 13, the driving age was 18 at the time. Well, mom sent our driver to the City Hall and with a few appropriately placed pesos, I was the owner of a brand new driver’s license. Wow – now I was loosed onto society with our 55 Chevy Bel-Air.
The Makati area actually had its own motorcycle Police unit. The only catch was you had to have your own motorcycle to be part of that unit as the Rizal province (Makati was made part of greater Manila in 1973), didn’t have enough budget at the time to buy them all the appropriate equipment. The motorcycle patrol used to hang out at the crossroads of Highway 54 (EDSA) and McKinley Road with their assortment of Harley Davidsons and Indians. These were big bikes with foot clutches and gear shifts by the massive gas tanks. My buddies and I would traipse over to where the police sat languidly in the shade of large trees, and beg to ride their bikes…borrow them, so to speak. With a smile, a wink, and a nod plus a couple of cartons of blue seal cigarettes, we were off. Two or three of us on large Indian motorcycles with plastic windshield and POLICE written on them and skinny little boys driving to their hearts’ content. Ah…those were the days. How on earth did we ever get away with that ? (Above photo is the exact spot they hung out. )So, in 2012, my wife and I returned to Manila and stayed at the Dusit Thani in Makati. A friend sent their car over to pick us up for a wonderful dinner at the Luchangco’s beautiful home in Forbes Park. It’s a short drive but the traffic stalled out on Ayala Avenue. While we were waiting I mentioned to the driver that at one time, I had gotten a speeding ticket on Ayala for going 85 mph. As you can see from the photo above, there wasn’t much traffic then. He looked at me incredulously, thinking I was just kidding. I said, “Talaga naman !” It was in 1961. We both laughed. He wasn’t even born yet.
I went to the American School located in Pasay on Donada Street. So, every day, the bus leased from Don Bosco would pick us up and we would make the short journey down Pasay Road past the Don Bosco school to Pasong Tamo, then Buendia to Taft and finally to Donada Street. The bus would pass by the Don Bosco Technical Institute. It was a private Catholic school operated by the Salesians of Don Bosco. It was a smaller school at the time, built in 1955, starting out as a grade school with only a couple of buildings and basketball court but at a prime location on the edge of San Lorenzo Village and Pasay Road.
As our student population grew, the old Donada campus was abandoned for the new American School in Bel-Air. Elementary grades started in June 1961 with high school classes starting in 1962. The new campus offered modern buildings, air-conditioning, cafeteria and large grounds. The style was more reminiscent of an American-style school.
Our school paper featured the move, “On Tuesday June 20, 1961, the Elementary School opened with an enrollment of 647 children in Grades Kindergarten to VI.” The name was later changed to International School of Manila and a beautiful new campus relocated to Ft. Bonifacio.
My mom and I left Manila for good in 1962 after I finished high school. I still miss that old school. It is now occupied by Arellano Law School. A group of us alumni visited in 2012. It looked pretty much the same. Ah, the memories were oozing out of the old cement walls and classrooms.
In 2004, my wife Michelle and made a “balikbayan” trip to Manila after an absence of over 40 years. I was anxious to see what the old neighborhood and particularly, our old home, looked like. We drove through San Lorenzo and everything looked much the same, except the streets looked a little narrower than I remembered; the homes a little shabbier with high walls but still, many of my friends’ homes were still there. Everything looked older of course. We got to Melantic Street and then I found, much to my disappointment, our house was gone. Sold and torn down to make way for a new home. I guess it’s true – you can never go back home. Well, that’s progress I guess.
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Wonderful article and love the pictures.
Lou, I really enjoyed reading your blog re your move to Makati. It was not only entertaining but educational as well. I always learn from reading your blogs. It also made me nostalgic for the Manila (Makati/ San Juan) of my youth.
Keep the blogs coming. I look forward to reading the next one!
We moved to Makati (Bel-Air in 1961 (for 4th grade) when AS did. At the time, we lived in the area of 7-Up bottling company (Paranaque). By then, the homes had high walls, unlike yours.
When I went back to PI in ’95, I visited our old house and it was still there. Unfortunately, by the time we got to AS in late afternoon, there as no one there to “escort” us around so we could not enter and so I missed a chance to take photos.
now that your blog has reached Makati maybe it’s time to hit the Pause button and think about making a coffee table book. The chapters must mainly be the series we did on Ermita, Malate and the colleges and churches,, many of which if you will remember we received more than one hundred responses.
My brother in law was an author, he published more than half a dozen books on the Philippines. His publisher was Toppan, a Japanese co. with presses in HK, China, and Singapore. His books were around 10 inches X 10 inches, using good quality glossy paper so the color pictures reproduced excellently. As you know, it’s the pics that will sell the book. His books were printed in HK. You could use cardboard covers rather than hard cover, to save on shipping weight.
The text will be just what your fans have written. You could write a continuing narrative to tie the thing together.but it’s the pics that will tell the story.
Your pics on Ermita/Malate are outstanding and it’s a shame they are not collected into a book. I’m sure you have a lot more pics that were not published. You could also ask your fans, whose emails you have, to contribute color pics of their schools.
Potential sales will be to former students, the colleges, the current hotels and inns in Ermita/Malate, and of course former residents. Great gift idea to one’s old folks now living in America. We all loved Ermita/Malate. But you will need to do it soon before everything and everyone fades away.
I hope you will seriously consider turning your blog posts into a book. I would absolutely purchase copies! I am a 1979 graduate of ISM (Bel-Air campus), and my family lived in Urdaneta Village 1976-1982 while my dad was superintendent of ISM. In fact, what brought me to your blog today was wanting to show it to my dad, whom I’ve visiting this weekend. I’ve seen several of your posts through the ISM alumni page and have LOVED every one of them! You write so well and compellingly about your memories and the city’s history–and the photos are fabulous. Your site is a treasure for all of us who hold Manila as a place dear in our hearts!
Should I say, neighbor? The swimming pool of your UV residence was adjacent to the wall of our residence on 34 Cerrada St. I was the father of 9 Sandoval children growing up in UV. On one occasion, I and my former wife, was in a merienda gathering in your house where your father’s guest, General Ramos (later to become the President of the Philippines after Cory Aquino) was the principal guest. His wife was then an IS staff member and PE administrator. My former wife, Susana Sandoval was also a teacher at IS at that time. You were then probably only 15 years old. I have just read this blog and I am writing from NJ, this day in Nov. 8, 2015. So nice to hear from our former UV Makati neighbor. Wishing you the best. Claudio
Thanks for sharing your memories..lived in Makati from 64 to 74…attended Don ‘Bosco until we moved early 74 to the states…so many memories of those villages..as i was school bus ..we lived two blocks from Intl School..and spent weekends in Makati commercial center..
Oh what a wonderful post!!!! Too bad my generation never got to experience how simpler life was back then. And because I’m so used to what Makati is now, these photos are amazing! Thank you for sharing this and it definitely touched how much of an old soul I really am (even with your other posts!)
I read that Luneta Hotel is set to be open on Manila day – June 24th, will you be writing about the former grandeur of the hotel? Always thought it was a nice piece of architecture and would pass it a lot when I’d be visiting Manila. I was a bit sad when I read that it would be torn down, but thank goodness someone finally took the initiative to restore the place and protect it with a presidential decree. Hope the same goes for the Metropolitan Theater!
It just dawned on me that whatever religious order ran Assumption Convent/College/University had an early understanding of “Branding”. It must have been in their curriculum syllabus/program to teach the a certain style of cursive writing to the students.
I recall during those times someone from the school telling me that that was distinguishing mark of being an “Assumptionista”, so to speak. Since they could not literally use a branding iron (a form of torture even then), they (the educators) thought that the skill learned would last a lifetime. Kinda like the secret way a certain following of the Templar Knights shake hands and/or greet each other.
Since there are a few Alumna from that school who view your blog, I would like to request an affirmation of:
1. the story about the cursive training correct, and;
2. What was it really? Convent or College or University
I think most Catholic shools taught the Palmer method of cursive writing. I know when I went to La Salle-Green Hills, we had to learn penmanship for several years.
Can’t answer your question about Assumption Convent, although I suspect it dependent on which location you refer to, Herran or San Lo.
I’m a 90’s kid and I really appreciate this post! I really want to go back in time where life was so simple. 🙂
I like all the pictures taken in Makati.
Great article. I did not realize you lived near Malate Church. We lived at the South Syquia Apartments our whole time in Manila. Even came back to live 63-64 after spending one year in Hong Kong.
We lived on Remedios until about 1957 then moved to San Lorenzo.
Hello Nadia! This is Bernie and I still fondly remember you, your parents and
our neighbors the Bilbao family from the Syquia Apartments in 1955
when my sister and I spent the Summer in Manila. Your Mom was great for
taking us to all those movies! There never was another Nadia for me:)
Thank you Lou for this thoughtful site.
splendid true story-telling – am 60 now but I can appreciate every bit of it tho I have lived most of all my life in San Juan (Rizal). These “travels through time”are precious stuff. Have printed some of these Gopal obras maestra for my 90+ aunt
– Consuelo Sison – to enjoy. More, please, Mr Lou and I wish you good health! – Mary Grace Ranjo
Thanks for your articles, I am 57 yrs old and our family similarly transferred to Magallanes, Makati from Malate area 1971, after the typhoon “Yoling”. Your pictures bring back a lot of good memories, I will be sharing it with my dad who is 91 yrs old and I am sure he will enjoy them as he used to work also at PNB Escolta. Hope you post more “old” pictures. Nice era to reminisce…..
I kinda choke up when I read this and see similarities in our life paths. Like you, I went to AS (kindergarten 59-60). My parents transferred me to La Salle-Green Hills in 1960 although I would have preferred commuting to Bel-Air from San Antonio (about 1.5 kms. from your place) than Mandaluyong. Back then, the 30 minute commute through Highway 54 was excruciating.
And like you, I moved to the US in 1971. In my case, to get my degree, although I wound up meeting my first wife and staying in the US permanently.
I got my driver’s license at 15 and drove a ’61 Chevy Impala. The times I took a taxi to Rizal Theater, it cost me a whopping PhP1.20!
They even held concerts at Rizal. I remember one concert where the big bands were all there – Moonstrucks, Hi-Jacks, DynaSoul, Tilt-Down Men. Jeanne Young was a co-host, Laura Danao was one of the cage dancers along with some Nineteeners dancers. I even got to meet one of the dancers, Bambi Talam and wound up inviting her to my birthday party.
After the movies or concerts, we could either eat at the Plaza or Sulo. I’m not sure if they were around before you left. The Gazebo at Plaza made some really good pizza while I preferred the hamburger steak at Sulo. Of course, there was also the Automat.
I come back every few years when I have to do work at the DHS office in the American embassy but I find I don’t enjoy it as much. As you noticed, the roads look so much narrower. I doubt we’ll ever find a time of day when we can drive 85 mph on Ayala Avenue.
Thanks for the photos. I was worried that I would have to depend on my fading memories to relive my youth.
In my opinion, those were the best times but I suppose each generation can say that. Thanks for sharing your memories, Chito !
I was in AS from 1962 to 1968. Those years were some of the best of my life. Thanks for sharing, Lou. Your post brought back nice memories. I actually live in San Lorenzo, so your stories resonated even more. Maraming salamat!
Hi Lou! After being in the States for 46 years, I returned two years ago to spend time with my mom who is now 92. I was so culturally shocked at the sad state of Malate Ermita. The stench, the naked kids, the homeless taking over the sidewalks, the illegal vendors, the vagrants, pick pockets, lady boys who prey on the tourist and the lack of police presence patrolling the streets. The list of misery is almost endless. The only vestiges of yore left from its former glory are Malate Church, Rosario Apartments, on Adriatico St the one with the high forbidding walls, Aristocrat restaurant and Malate Pensionne, formerly Dakota Apts. Luneta Hotel just opened a month ago and every inch of it was restored to its former glory, a beautiful piece of architecture. Sad to say, I find that there is a markedly absence of appreciation of the heritage from the past. I always talked about the charming days of Malate Ermita at our meetings and about the open spacious Makati of the 60s to our dinner crowd at our Puerto Rican restaurant, Sofrito, in Makati. People look at me as if I came out of a time warp.
Hi Jay, yes – it’s sad that progress has apparently forgotten the older districts in Manila. When we went in 2012, we stayed in the Makati area and didn’t even bother going to the old neighborhood anymore because it was so depressing. I wonder if it’s too late to restore and revitalize ? Even just cleaning up the streets would be a plus. As far as homeless goes, that’s getting to be a big problem also here in Seattle.
Hi sir! I think our house is in your old pictures! You have a picture of you and your car, and in the background is our house! Another picture shows your parents with a car behind them and in the background is the house again! It is the one across your house. I recognized the 2nd floor windows, the jalousies, the shape of the house and the slanted roof. Thank you for the pictures! I hope you have more.
When exactly was the Rizal Theatre built?
I seem to recall it was around 1960.
That’s right Lou. I remember going to the Rizal when it first opened. It was the only building in that area then.
What a surprise! A Vampires picture with me and you in it from the old days spent hanging out in San Lorenzo Park and Rizal Theater and Nomads and Acme in Forbes. Thanks for the memories. And thanks for your blog – I didn’t realize that many today don’t know the Manila we knew.
Thanks for all the historical footnotes. I am a history buff and I find your site amazing as it is a first hand account of Manila during your time. By the way, the Tony Merlo in one of the pictures look familiar. Is he the one who got married to a Yatco?. Thanks
Hi Lou, do you have any photo of or information on the Tropical Palace Resort? It used to stand inside BF Homes in Sucat, Paranaque.
Only ruins stand in its place today; just a couple of dilapidated columns, actually. The whole area where the hotel/resort stood is now covered by tall grass. I found a one-sentence 1986 news article on the LA Times stating that the resort was destroyed by fire but the cause of the fire was unknown.
I just find this really interesting and intriguing. Hoping you or any of your readers can shed some light on the hotel’s history. 🙂 Thanks!
Hi Janine, Unfortunately I do not have any info on Tropical Palace Resort. I suggest you join our Facebook Manila Nostalgia site and post your inquiry there. Someone may be able to help you.
My Mom and Dad worked at the Tropical Palace and El Grande resorts.
If I’m not mistaken, they belong to the first batch of staff at the opening of these resorts.
I recall seeing some old photos of them at work in and around the these resorts.
Will check with them and inform you if I find any….
Brings back a lot of good memories for me, as my parents used to take me there for festivals like the Ati-atihan and Easter Egg hunt.
I even won a dance competition in El Grande I think when I was 4 years old (prize was 1 sack of rice 🙂 )…
Thanks, Lou! Checking the Manila Nostalgia page constantly in case someone mentions or posts something about the hotel.
Hi, Jeffrey! Haha, you got me at the sack of rice. :p Hope you can upload photos of the resort on Manila Nostalgia Facebook. I’m from BF, so I’m really curious about the resort. My mom says it was so beautiful and it was a shame that it burned down.
I’m from BF, Meroon man made lake pwede mag boating and sa Entrance may big Carpa fish. Parang kang Nasa Palace I think due to Bankruptcy not sure, something to do with the Politics at that time
My name is Tom Lewis, and I am amazed at how much your life and mine are so much alike. I arrived in Manila in 1955, dad working for the American Embassy, we finally moved to San Lorenzo, on San Lorenzo Blvd, now changed. Our house looked exactly like the one you said you lived in. We entered it brand new. I attended the American School, the one in down town. Attended church at San Antonio in Forbes Park. Went to SeaFront almost every day after school, because school let out around noon. The school finally moved to Bel Air attended one year and then departed back Stateside. Returned having joined the US Navy, never seeing Manila again in 1770-1975. Great memories and pictures to boot. Thanks.
I am Ronelie Siervo from Beyond Wheels Production, Philippines. we are currently doing a documentary about the cars of the famous boxing champion, mr. Emmanuel “Pacman” Pacquiao. in line with this, part of our documentary involves discussion of his life as the congressman of Saranggani. in line with this, may we request your good office’s permission in using photos of old Forbes park where our boxing champ is currently residing. rest assured that the following photos will be acknowledged properly under your office’s name.
you may contact me directly at 09063880912 for more details and inquiry regarding our request.
Yes, you are welcome to use the photos and any other portion of the article.
Hi Lou, seeing the picture of your 55 Chevy reminded me of the drag race we did along Ayala Ave. That is the very same car you used. I used my Dad’s Ford Fairlane. I remember it well, coz I lost the race!
Hi Lou, thanks for the memories. My family moved to San Miguel Village, Makati in 1963. In my growing up years, we could still watch “My favorite Martian” on TV which ended at 6:30am and still get to Don Bosco Makati before 7:15am. The Makati Commercial Centre then was so uncomplicated. It is quite unthinkable what Shoemart, now SM, was and what it has evolved to be. I think the oldest building left at the area is the Intercon. But I heard that would not be for so long. As the saying goes, “life is short and swift, live it to the fullest.”
I so enjoyed your article especially since I grew up around much of what you showed. I remember that rustans was a 1 level shop across rizal theater and shoe mart was right beside it also a 1 level shop. There was also sulo hotel and makati supermarket and the tiny shopping mall of Maranao across. And Leila’s in rizal theater had the best fresh lumpia and pancit luglog. Such a great uncomplicated simple city!
good read, Lou
thanks for sharing
Nostalgia-how well I know the old familiar places you mentioned here and the pictures. Wow how lucky you are to still have them. I wish we can go back to those happy uncomplicated life of yesteryears. I will try to share some photos and memoirs too,and thanks for sharing.
What an act of serendipity! For some reason, reading your blog settled my unsettled mind to a certain extent. Maybe because it placed me and my lil’ ol’ life in a bigger context.
My family moved to Makati right before I was born in 1973 and lived and continues to live in a non-gated community. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the old Rizal Theater you described and took a picture of. My childhood memories include what people called the Makati Commercial Center and the theater I remember was QUAD. After returning from overseas, my sis and I attended high school at ISM in the late eighties in Bel-air. After spending a few years overseas after college, I returned to the Philippines and recently, my husband and I moved back to Makati with our kids to keep my parents company. My kids are now storing memories of the connected malls of Glorietta and Greenbelt and the surrounding areas.
In fact, while I was reading your article, my 5-year-old son asked me what I was reading and I showed him the picture of the old Nielson airport in your article. I told him it was near the place where we watch the dancing lights during the Christmas season (in what is now called the Ayala Triangle). And he said, “Was that when I was a baby?”.
I have been one of the residents of Makati who have had to watch a certain “boy-king” and his family lay claim to Makati and its rise– first with incredulity, then annoyance and now, anger. Just the other night my emotions spilled over and I told my husband we would have to move overseas if this boy’s family ever make it to Malacanang since I had had enough.
Thank you for posting your memories. Reading your article helped me find a foothold again in the midst of such instability. A knowledge of history does that.
Wow – you bought back so many memories. We also lived on Pasay Citty, then San Lorenzo on Melantic before moving to Bel-Air on Planet St. Went to the American School in Pasay and then Bel-Air. Mt two sister, Linda and Candy also graduated from the school. My mother (Patricia Pratico) taught at the American school for 40 years.
Thanks for the memories!
I still tell my children about Sgt Pratico who taught me in 5th grade, I have such found memories of her and my 5th grade class at IS. Treasure island and her are inexorably intertwined.
Brings back memories, at least through .August 1960 before I left for America initially to study. Interesting that Perrie lived in the same district
Of Malate before moving to San Lorenzo. We lived in Colorado near PWU and worshipped at Malate church near where Perrie lived. My memory
Of Makati : Ayala Blvd. was virtually empty with just Rizal theater. San Lorenzo had a few homes and I accompanied the mother of a friend who visited the actress Paraluman. At Dewey Blv we hung out with teens in stylish cars by the Baklaran barbecue stands . Banjo Laurel was then the boys you try
avoid eye contact with. Nostalgic.
i can definitely relate… TUUUBIIIIG!!! HAHAHAHAHA!
Your articles are timeless and should last another 100 years. Awesome pics as i grew up in bel air from 63 to 2012 when our home was finally rebuilt and rented out. So much fun. Forbes park , polo club, fort bonifacio motocross tracks the quad , greenbelt makati supermarket. Weekends in quirino ave paranaque where our compound had the sea behind till Imeldific thought of building the coastal road. Lousy idea.it destroyed the beauty of paranaque seaside. Price of modernization..hope you can add more blogs. You are numero uno as far as history of the Philippines from pre war to the 70s are concerned..fyi Atomic Lopez My Uncle was your batchmate in AS…what a guy. Full of stories and fun fun fun to chill out with..now in Heaven. Thanks again and more power.
Bel Air Makati
I don’t know how I ended up looking at your website, but I must say, it was a happy experience getting lost here. Your story was wonderful, and the pictures priceless. While reading your reminiscing, we could only dream of a Macati with no pollution–how wonderful it must have been back then. I remember a Makati with Quad sometime in the late 70s or early 80s–but that’s about it. To have grown up in an emerging town in a war-torn country and come back decades after it’s settled down, that’s an experience a few would be privileged enough to have. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Maybe a coffee table book, somewhere in the future…?
Very nice article.
Still to this day, I still have fond memories of living in San Lorenzo Village and hanging out with you, Jerry Richardson, Bobbie Fales, Dixie Kopfler the Hamms, John Stuller and of course, Terry Davis, whose house was back to back with mine. Just had to hop over the wall to visit with him. Yeah, those were quite the days, indeed!….. Thanks for the article.
Fascinated by your article . Grew up in Makati. My parents and aunt purchased a lot just a block from Bel Air on Mercedes St now Kalayaan Ave and a walking distance from what is now Rockwell , for $5 per square meter. I remember AS , and the Supermarket on Makati Ave. Went to Colegio de Sta Rosa right next to Palm Village , and had piano recitals at Elk’s Club. Two of my brothers went to Don Bosco , I recall them taking a ” red bus” to school. Enjoyed going to Makati Suoermarket where they have the best Spaghetti. It was in Rizal Theater where we watched Star Wars and it was SRO. I now live in the San Fernando Valley area here in Los Angeles, but every time we would be driving by Wilshire Blvd, here in Bel Air , it would remind me of driving by Ayala Ave. Thanks for sharing this. No place like home,
I’m a writer at CNN Philippines. May I ask permission to use your photos re: old images of Makati Commercial Center and Ayala Ave. with attribution
You can reach me through my email at email@example.com
Thanks for this trip down memory lane, especially the bits about Rizal theater and Makati Commercial Center, even though it was a little bit before my time, I grew up in Makati in the 70s and 80s and went to school at Don Bosco Makati, all great memories for me!
Hi Lou. I was searching for a picture of the classic Rizal Theater & your photo was the most clearest I ever saw. The best perspective view of what Rizal Theater looked liked then. Reminiscing mode for all of us in our mid-life years. One thing I would to add….”before reaching Rizal Theater is Alemars Bookstore,” It was the gateway establishment going to Makati Commercial Center. The time when the word “mall” was not included in our jargon. This is one of the most accurate ,Well-written blast from the past in Makati, Rizal. I agree with one comment. A coffee -table book?
Hi Sir! This is Christine of GMA Network. We are currently producing an episode of Makati in the past and present. Thus, I would like to inquire if your photos could be used for the side episode with your courtesy name?
You may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. I really like the way you narrated the article.
Thank you and hoping for your response.
My apologies for this late response. I’m just now getting to the hundreds of emails and posts. You may use any photos you wish with proper credit to this site and my name. Thank you for your interest.
Just one question about name of Bel-air.
You mentioned it was the pilots’ will to have ‘AIR’ in the name, how about the meaning of ‘Bel’?
It would perhaps mean beautiful, as Bel is a shortcut of the French word ‘belle’
This is David Murdock, my family also lived on Melantic in San Lorenzo in the late fifties, early sixties. My Dad worked at USAID, we moved to Briones street, also in San Lorenzo around 1962. I also attended the old American school, as well as the new one, would have graduated in 1965, but left the PI in ’64, and finished last year in states. Spent many evenings at the Rizal theater, or playing basketball at the park. Also used to spend alot of time at Seafront. Had a good friend Dave Calvo, that lived on the perpendicular street to Melantic. I returned to PI in 2007, am married to a filipina, and have a home down in General Santos City, my wife actually worked with Manny Pacquiao’s wife after high school. Really enjoyed your article, where some of the best days of my life!!
Rizal Theatre brought back vivid memories of those Walt Disney flicks we used to enjoy when we were kids. In the later years, it was also in Rizal where I watched Bruce Lee’s The Game of Death (released years after his untimely demise, around ’78) as well as Rage Rocks Rizal, which then featured the hottest new wave-punk-modern rock showband of the ’80s, The Rage Band (yup, I’m an ’80s kid at heart, of the Gen-X who luv that era’s music a lot). After watching those films we had dinner at Leila’s, where I remember their generously-portioned spaghetti with cola; yup, it may be quite costly but Leila’s version was better and much more filling than those combos you get at today’s fast food chains. Every time I partake of those fast-food spaghetti combo meals, I can’t help but reminisce on how Leila’s did it so well.
The Rizal Theatre is where the Shangri-La Makati now stands, but the memories still remain very strong. Thanks again, Lou, fantastic memories indeed 🙂
My family live on Melantic St from about 1968 till about 2017. The picture of your house looked like it was the one across the street from ours. So it brought back lots of memories for me. Do you remember what your exact address was? My siblings and I loved growing up in Sanlo. Those were the days of going out to meet the neighborhood kids. Spending endless times at the park playing basketball and riding our bikes around the village.