Almost two months ago I got an email from an old editor asking if I wanted to write about Escolta. And it took me all of two seconds to say yes.
I spent some parts of my childhood walking the stretch of Escolta street when my mom used to work in one of the banks there. Then when the bank transferred offices and eventually we moved out of Manila, we hardly had any more reason to go back. The occasional trips to Binondo or Divisoria later on for some food tripping or bargain shopping hardly warranted any quick side trip to this almost-forgotten street.
The street is one of the oldest in Manila–it’s been around since the Spanish times, a sort of riverside commercial district. But it reached its glory days during the American rule when it became the country’s trendiest street, when the most fashionable store and glitziest restaurants set up shop. By the 1960s, it had begun to lose its lustre, when other commercial districts like Makati charmed business their way.
It was in the 1980s when my siblings and I used to walk around the street dotted with old buildings, duck inside old bookstores, watch cartoons (no adult supervision!) in one of the crumbling movie theaters (can’t remember whether it was Lyric or Capitol), and look through the clearance sales of several stores that constantly looked on the brink of closing. Escolta then was no longer the high street that it was before and when more offices left (including the bank where my mom worked), a lot of those businesses did close shop.