PHOTOS: 25 Famous Landmarks From Old Manila

A look back through pictures of Manila the way it used to be

( The Metro Manila we know now is busy, crowded, and often suffering from trafficarmageddon. Although sometimes hard to believe, Manila was once praised for its opulence and decadence, earning the label "The Pearl of the Orient."


While most of its architecture was destroyed exactly 70 years ago during World War II, some landmarks have survived the test of time. It proves that Manila is ever alive-a dynamic city with a growing and diverse population.


Check out these photos of old places and things in Metro Manila at different periods through time.



Avenida Rizal

In the 1920s, while Escolta catered to the upper classes, Avenida Rizal was more popular with the masses. It was where they could eat and shop at stores like Bata and Otis Department Store. The old tranvia also traversed the length of the avenue.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Tutuban Station

The Tutuban Station of the Manila Railroad Company, which ran the Manila-Dagupan trail in the 1890s, was actually the former home of Don Pedro Sy-Quia y Encarnacion and his wife, Doña Asuncion Michel de Champourcin. It is now the Tutuban Mall.

Photos from Memories of Old Manila and Manila Nostalgia Group Facebook Pages




The Philippines used to have double-decker buses called Matorco, which ran the Luneta and Roxas Boulevard (formerly Dewey Boulevard) route. They were phased out in the 1980s. To ride the Matorco in 1975 cost 20 centavos per person and children below one meter were able to ride for free. It stopped operations in 1994.


Photos from the Philippine History and Architecture and Memories of Old Manila Facebook Pages



Santa Ana Cabaret

The Santa Ana Cabaret was where Filipino and American soldiers would pass the time. Advertisements of the cabaret claimed that it was the largest one in the world. This photo was taken in December 1941, just weeks before the Japanese attacked Manila.

Photo from Lou Gopal



Manila Yacht Club

The Manila Yacht Club was founded on January 1927 when its first members, James C. Rockwell, Joseph A. Thomas, Aubrey P. Ames, Stewart A. Tait, and A. S. Heyward, signed its by-laws. During the war, sport sailing stopped and the Americans confiscated the boats for fear that the Japanese might use them to attack Corregidor.

Photo from Lou Gopal



Crystal Arcade

The Crystal Arcade in Escolta during the 1930s housed the Manila Stock Exchange and one of the first malls in the country. It was air-conditioned, which was very uncommon for buildings at the time. The art deco building also featured upscale stores, which included Marina Rae's Candies and Exchange Cafe.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Binondo Canal

Manila had its own version of gondolas in the form of bamboo floats. Jose Rizal actually mentioned this canal, part of the Pasig River, in Noli Me Tangere. He stated that people used to fish in the river and the bamboo floats brought merchandise and other products to different parts of the city.

Photo from the University of Michigan Library




Manila Polo Club

Situated in F.B. Harrison, formerly Calle Real in Pasay, the Manila Polo Club attracted Americans who decided to migrate to Manila in the early 1900s. These families settled in the Malate and Ermita districts. Ironically, the first clubhouse at the Manila Polo Club was actually built to look like a bahay kubo.


Photo from Lou Gopal



Seeburg Jukebox

Little Quiapo of the 1950s and was situated just across the University of Santo Tomas. Students would often hang out and enjoy picking songs on the Seeburg jukebox and snacking on their famous halo-halo.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Parañaque Salt Farm

The south was not always home to exclusive subdivisions. In the 1940s, they had farms where salt was extracted from sea water.

Photo from the Memories of Old Manila Facebook Page



Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman

This was a scene captured in Palma Hall or A.S. from the LVN film Tia Lolen from 1952. It starred Armando Goyena, Tessie Quintana, Nida Blanca, Priscilla Cellona, and Cesar Salazar. The plot of the movie was similar to Robin Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire, which was made decades later.

Photo from the Cesar Hernando Photo Collection of the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Jai Alai Stadium

One of the finest buildings along Taft Avenue in the 1940s was the Jai Alai Stadium. A large playing court was located at one side of the building. Spectators watched from three levels behind a glass wall at the other end. Dinners and cocktails were served on the top floor, called the Sky Room.

Photos from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Quiapo, which has always been a busy district, was once referred to as the "Old Downtown of Manila." Its "Ilalim ng Tulay" is also known for being a source of native products and pasalubongs. These photos, taken in the 1950s and 1970s, show Quiapo with its usual vendors but with a lot less traffic.


Photos from the Philippine History and Architecture and Manila Nostalgia Facebook Pages



Pier 7

Pier 7 was erected on 1918. At around 1,000 feet long, it was known as the "Million Dollar Pier" because it had the longest passenger pier in the world back in the day. The government spent P12 million for its construction.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Araneta Coliseum

Also known as the Big Dome, the Araneta Coliseum is a multi-purpose arena in Cubao, Quezon City. In 1952, J. Amado Araneta purchased the 35-hectare land where the coliseum now stands. Construction began in 1957 and finished in 1959.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page




EDSA from the late 1980s to early 1990s didn't have flyovers and the MRT. It had fewer surrounding buildings, restaurant and malls.

Photos from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Jones Bridge

This bridge in Manila was named after William Atkinson Jones, the principal author of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. It was designed by Archicect Juan M. Arellano. The entrances to the bridge had pillars topped with statues. The bridge was reconstructed after World War II but is now bare in design.




Manila International Air Terminal

The Manila International Air Terminal is now known as the Nielson Tower, which housed the Filipinas Heritage Library and now, Blackbird. It was built in 1937 and served as the control tower and passenger depot of the city's airport. It was situated in Makati because Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue used to be runways.


Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page




Known as Manila's Wall Street before World War II broke out, Escolta was the country's first commercial district where the rich and the famous hung out. Sadly, most of its buildings were destroyed during the war.

Photos from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page




Bullfights were held in Manila as early as the 1890s, where local talents and animals were used for the bloody sport. The latest fight recorded was in 1953 during the Manila International Fair in the sunken gardens near Intramuros and Manila City Hall.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Manila Metropolitan Theater

The MET, pictured here in 1930s, was one of the most prominent theaters during that time, where both local and international artists performed. It continued to put on shows even during the Japanese occupation, to show support for the underground resistance.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Sarao Jeeps

Sarao is the first company that made jeepneys, from as early as 1953. Together with Francisco Motors, the brand dominated the manufacturing of jeepneys back then.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Roxas Boulevard

Formerly called Dewey Boulevard, this photo of Roxas Boulevard in the late 1950s shows that there once was a time when Manila had less congested streets. Hungry families out for a stroll could buy from vendors selling grilled corn, ice cream, and other treats.

Photos from Lou Gopal and the Memories of Old Manila Facebook Page




Pasig River

People used to wash their clothes in Pasig River. In this photo, taken during the early 20th Century, Filipinos did their laundry on the steps that extended to the Aduana Building or Intendencia, which housed several government offices during the Spanish colonial period.

Photo from the Philippine History and Architecture Facebook Page



Luneta Park

There was still no park nor any obtrusive buildings surrounding Rizal's monument, shown here in the 1940s. This shrine dedicated to the national hero was first unveiled to the public on December 30, 1913, on Rizal's 17th death anniversary.

Photo from


Photos courtesy of Memories of Old ManilaPhilippine History and Architecture, and Lou Gopal.

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