Hub: Make Lab in Escolta is a cool new space for unique finds

Check out locally made scents, handmade journals, vintage knickknacks, and even tomato-eggplant paté!


( From the year 1800 to the late 1900s, Calle de Escolta in Manila was the place to be. Luxury stores like La Puerta del Sol and La Estrella del Norte, jewelry and watch shops, restaurants, and theaters could be found along this 393-meter stretch which connects Plaza Goiti (now Plaza Lacson) in Santa Cruz to Plaza Moraga in Binondo. It was also the site of many firsts in the country: the first elevator, first GMA headquarters, first ice cream parlor, and first movie house. It wasn't long before other cities like Makati and Ortigas stole the spotlight from this historic financial district, but Escolta's stories stand strong through its neo-classical and Art Deco buildings. One example is the First United Building (a.k.a. Perez-Samanillo Building), which is fast becoming a creative hub in the old downtown.






"It's part of the creative community that we're building here," said Gabriel Villegas of 98B COLLABoratory when asked about the art initiative's latest bazaar project. Called Hub: Make Lab, it serves as an incubation space for craftsmen, artisans, start-up entrepreneurs, and artists who wish to test-run their merchandise for three months. The booths are designed by Architect Arts Serrano of 1/0 Design Collective, which incidentally rents a fifth floor office at the First United Building (FUB). The spaces range from 6.12 to 12.25 meters and are leased at an affordable price.


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Goods in the bazaar are not your typical items. On one side you have the Simoy ng Haraya, a unique line of scents concocted by Lala de Leon. The perfume names (as well as the smell they mimic) are odd yet satisfying. Where else can you find the fragrance of "Dalisay," "Kilig," "Lambing," "Tiwala," and "Sulyap" in a bottle? They also have room sprays that would transport you to a faraway island ("Isla") or a comforting bakery ("Panaderia") for when you want to wake up with a smile on your face.






General Merchandise is a retail shop that you can't really put in a box. (Literally, since it occupies three booth spaces.) It partners with different suppliers and puts together all merchandise in one area, thus the name. It sells inabel wear by Euniform, tomato eggplant paté and three-mushroom tapenade from Deep Dips by Chef Arnold, succulents by Basic Commodity, and other knickknacks.



Kariton by 1372 Designs can bring out the writer and doodle artist in you. It features handmade journals, notebooks, and sketch pads that are all made from recycled materials. They'll also be coming out with a planner for next year—something to be excited about!




If you're looking for hoodies with barong-like prints, postcards that will make you wish that you're in Batanes, and other trinkets that are all about Pinoy pride, then the booth of The Heritage Collective may be for you. Their group also offers walking tours around Escolta for P500 per head (inclusive of museum entrances, snacks, and rooftop access to private buildings).


The craftsmen and artisans of Hub: Make Lab are just part of the number of different creatives who call FUB their home. Joining 1/0 Design Collective on the fifth floor are Manila Who (a group that takes you story-driven walk in and around Escolta), The Public School Manila (a branding and design studio), and urban planner Julia Nebrija who also happens to be the new assistant general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. You can find the studio of multimedia artist Derek Tumala and the office of furniture maker Fabricca Manila on the third floor. Anjo Bolarde, meanwhile, resides on the second floor.






It's a small but bustling community where you're bound to see "residents" crossing office borders. Bolarde is also one of the founders of 98B COLLABoratory, along with Villegas, who owns The Den (a coffee shop on the first floor of FUB), where you can see geometric tables and chairs made by Fabricca Manila. 








To complete your Hub: Make Lab experience, it’s best to also check out the First United Community Museum at the second floor for a 1930s throwback to the glory days of Berg Department Store, the original resident of the five-storey building. For an entrance of P50, you get to see the office of Sy Lian Teng, a Chinese businessman who bought the popular store from the German Ernest Berg. Aside from the old typewriter and letter opener, you can also find black and white photographs of the old Escolta hanging on its walls. It also hosts changing exhibits such as Capitol Gains by Issay Rodriguez, Re:tracings on the Wall by Wen Tsao Lin, and Making the Invisible City Visible by Carlos Celdran.




"The main goal here is finding new uses for old structures. If it's just restoring them to their original state, and then turning them into what they looked like years ago, then they become museum pieces for people to just look at and appreciate. What we're trying to do here is trying to engage people with these structures. By doing these kinds of activities, people get to go into the place, do activities there, and by doing activities there, they become engaged with the building. They become also stakeholders sa vision na 'yon to revitalize the area," explained Villegas.




With the range of cool finds and experiences at First United Building—from buying a sticker at Hub: Make Lab to getting a cup of matcha latte at The Den—Escolta should definitely be on your radar.



Hub: Make Lab is at First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, Binondo, Manila. It is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday). For more information, visit Hub: Make Lab on Facebook.


Photos by Jericho San Miguel. Video by Criselda Carreon and Elaine Villanueva.

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