Lifestyle

What Manila Looked Like in Its Heyday

Back when Manila was called “Paris of the East.”
IMAGE University of Wisconsin Madison/California State Library/John Tewell
Comments

Many Asian cities have been called “Paris of the East” but none more so than Manila. Also called the “Pearl of the Orient” because of the country’s collection of islands that resembled precious stones, Manila was the envy of neighboring Asian countries because of its European-inspired structures.

1890s to 1910s

Spanish officials were mainly responsible for bringing in Western architects to make Manila feel more like home. A 19th-century traveler, Fedor Jagor, described Manila as “a splendid, fortified city of wide, cobbled streets and regal townhouses.”

Bridge of Spain

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the California State Library

CONTINUE READING BELOW
Recommended Videos
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell

Bridge of Spain with seahorse figures at the base of light poles

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from Underwood and Underwood

Street in Binondo

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the Library of Congress, Wisconsin

Calle Rosario

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the National Museum of National History, Natural Anthropological Archives

1920s to 1930s

During the American occupation, Daniel Burnham, the master planner of Chicago and Baguio, was tasked to produce a master plan for the city. Burnham’s plan included Roxas Boulevard functioning similar to Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, while Intramuros and the surrounding districts serving as the business and entertainment hubs.

The 1920s was the also emergence of the Art Deco movement, characterized by geometric lines, symmetry, and simple, clean shapes, or a “streamlined” look.

Red Cross health mobile

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the US Library of Congress

Plaza Morada

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pacific Motors, located north of the Pasig River

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pacific Commercial Company

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Manila Carnival entrance

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the US National Archives

Pier 7

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Jones Bridge

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell

Post Office Building

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

 

1940s

Shortly before the war, the city boasted of its Art Deco buildings and palatial government offices. It was also not crowded and the choice destination in Asia for expats wanting to relocate to milder climates.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Back then, Westerners actually chose to live and work in Manila and not just out of duty. These foreigners, along with the rest of the Filipinos, were unluckily caught up in the war. Most of them were forcibly contained at the Sto. Tomas internment camp during the bloody February 1945 battle.

Manila cityscape

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell

Quezon Bridge

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the US National Archives

Escolta Street

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

LIFE Theater

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the US Army

Santa Cruz Plaza

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from LIFE Collection

El Hogar from Magallanes Landing

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from University of Southern California

 

1950s and 1960s

Sadly, Manila never recovered from the battle. Researchers have claimed that the Battle of Manila was “the single most devastating instance of urban warfare fought between the United States and Japan in the Asia-Pacific.” Some of the buildings were never rebuilt and Burnham’s urban plan never grew to fruition.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The population of Manila also grew during this time as people from the provinces migrated to Manila, a place that lost its sense of history and identity. Sadly, most of the lively centers of entertainment plunged into decay as the city and neighboring towns favored new structures and living quarters in lands untouched by the war.

Plaza Moraga

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Plaza Moraga different angle

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Escolta Street

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from the US National Archives

El Hogar and First National City Bank

IMAGE: courtesy of John Tewell from Carl Mydans

Sources:

History of Manila 

The Death of Manila in World War II and Postwar Commemoration 

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
View Other Articles From Nicai
Comments
Connect With Us