Tuesday, August 15, 2006


It was designed by Juan Nakpil in 1935 using local indigenous motifs for its art deco ornamentations.

Its front elevations portray Filipinas in their native garb set against a tropical backdrop; depicting more of a distant rural landscape than the usual urbanized setting common in Escolta’s commercial district during the ‘30s.

Capitol Theater is one of the two cinema houses along the strip of Escolta that I remember during my youth; the other is Lyric. Regrettably, like most of the movie theaters on Rizal Avenue where we used to go, it is now closed. The building, however, stands just as majestically as ever.

The most fond memory I have of Capitol Theater was one early Sunday morning. Along with my brothers and cousins, we rushed the Chinese proprietor, Mr. Yu, to bag some special bola-bola siopao and bottles of Coca-Cola for us to take out. He just opened his noodle shop a few minutes earlier, and was now quizzically glancing at us as he hurriedly prepared our order. He knew me because my father and I frequented his eatery near the Santa Cruz Church.

I told him that we wanted to be the very first on line to buy tickets and enter Capitol Theater when it opened that morning. As he handed us our brown bags, he still had that confused look etched on his face so, as if in unison we all yelled in delight, Thunderball!

We were just about to run out of his shop when he yelled for me to stop as he put some buchi in another brown bag. Mr. Yu knew how much I love these fried ground glutinous rice balls filled with sweet mongo bean paste, but I had to tell him I didn’t have enough money for them. He insisted that I take the bag anyway; saying he would just charge my father when he saw him. I grabbed it from his hand while saying a quick thank you and dashed out of his shop to catch up with my brothers and cousins already about to cross the street leading towards Escolta.

Capitol Theater was at that time showing the much anticipated fourth James Bond movie, Thunderball, which starred Sean Connery as British Secret Service agent, Commander James Bond 007. And as planned, with Escolta’s fine shops still closed, we started the line in front of the theater that early Sunday morning.

The release of this movie underscored the people’s insatiable craving for spy stories; reflecting the public’s pervading cold war anxiety and intrigue for the mysterious yet intrepid secret agents. Television producers were also quick to exploit the growing demand for anything spy mania by creating shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, The Wild Wild West, and Get Smart.

Thunderball further dazzled the James Bond fans with his de riguer transports such as the famous Aston Martin DB5 and the "Bell Rocket Belt" used to escape from a building. There were also the high-tech gadgets such as the waterproof watch and camera with a built-in Geiger counter and the underwater jet pack that was armed with a spear gun. Most astonishing was Bond’s “rebreather” — a small scuba set that can be carried unnoticed and, when used, provided a few minutes of air in underwater emergency.

And of course, there were Bond’s three conquests — Luciana Palluzzi as Fiona Volpe, Claudine Auger as Domino and Molly Peters as Patricia Fearing. Thunderball would later prove to be the most successful of all the James Bond flicks, raking in millions of dollars in box office tickets worldwide. It also confirmed the movie star status of its leading man, Sean Connery.

And so it was. All those fond memories while I gazed at the remains of the old Capitol Theater in Escolta, Manila. As I headed towards Jones Bridge, it suddenly dawned on me what I had seen earlier, but didn’t pay that much attention to — a new building was erected on the spot where Mr. Yu’s noodle shop used to be. I thought of him and the many times my father and I went to eat at his shop -- on late Saturday afternoons after seeing a movie.

Memories indeed linger from which time and tide had washed away.

View of Escolta leading to Jones Bridge from Santa Cruz Church.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 5:25 AM


Blogger Amadeo said...

Good old Escolta, Manila's pride during the early years.

Also had good memories of the entire area collected when my father worked for PNB in its old location there.

It was still quite a premier area during the late 60's when I went back and worked along Plaza Cervantes (BankPI).

From the pics, the streets now look very narrow, but not so during those times. Can't forget that well-patronized hole-in-the-wall place selling coffee and donuts, hemmed in on both sides by tall buildings.

Are aerial maps of Escolta available? Showing current buildings and businesses?

August 15, 2006 7:00 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

It was indeed a grand street then, Amadeo. You can walk around even in the evenings with the street gayly lit by street lamps and from the display windows of the fine shops all along Escolta.

However, sadly, Escolta is no longer abuzz with pedestrians and business people as it used to. All I saw were some students from nearby schools. Guess, most major businesses have shifted to Makati; whereas the shops are now concentrated at the air-conditioned malls.

Don't know about aerial photos, but will see what I can dig up and let you know.

August 15, 2006 7:25 AM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

Wow! You're on a roll Eric. You should get your pictures and articles published. :) Another one of your good old childhood memories.

August 15, 2006 9:12 AM  

Anonymous ladybug said...

Wow! Your story stirs up my imagination as to what it must be like during those times. I frequented the area during the 80's but it was already on the decline then. I wish I could turn back time and experience the golden age of Escolta. Well done Eric!

August 15, 2006 10:04 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hope I don't bore you with my reminiscing, Irene, because I have more lined up :)

Thought I'd jot them down quickly before my memory fades on me ... hahaha.

Thanks for the kind words :)

August 15, 2006 10:41 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Ladybug!

It sure was definitely a tony shopping area then -- with most salesladies in fluent with Spanish.

I ought to ask Carlos Celdran of Walk This Way if he knew of any archives out there about Escolta.

August 15, 2006 10:45 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Two things I can relate with this post: buchi and The Wild, Wild West. I miss these. It's funny because of all my sisters, I was the only one interested in this!

More coming? Am waiting! :)

August 15, 2006 3:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I actually went out to gert some buchi immediately after posting this entry, Ipanema! Love them to this day.

Wild Wild West was a favorite of mine, too. What did your sisters like? Gidget, the flying nun? :)

Yes, more to come!

August 15, 2006 4:28 PM  

Anonymous myepinoy said...

I had a good memory of Escolta. That was where my banking career started and so did my financial independence. Escolta was the Makati (financial district) many years ago.

Anyhow, bago humaba ito, gusto ko lang ipaalam sa yo na saludo ako sa mga posts mo about places in manila and the memories you had in each of them. Your posts (about these places) not only describes the static place but it moves and breathes life. I wish I could do a shoot (a short film) about your stories and you. Kompleto ang process - zoom, pan, flashback, etc.. You know what I mean.

I have a simple suggestion. Why don't you make this as a book. Nowadays, it is easy to publish one's work.

August 15, 2006 5:59 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Why don't you take the advice Eric? I'll wait for the book and myepinoy's film.

August 15, 2006 6:08 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Truly appreciate your compliments, Myepinoy, and coming from a well-read person as you, I am really inspired to do even better.

As for publishing it into a book, this blog, for now is just fine. As I've talked with Ipanema on a couple of occssions, the mere fact that I'm able to assuage even a bit our "homesick nation's" longing gives me a good enough sense of purpose with my blogging efforts. Also, I hope that in my sharing some memories, I am able to remind some of our fellow Pinoys some good about our home country.

As for filming, seems like you have a knack for it -- may I suggest rounding up other bloggers with same theme and then make a short film out of our stories. Actually, you don't even have to shoot in film which is costly. There are fine videocams out there with incredible lenses. Once done with your post production edits, just transfer it into film -- much cheaper that way!

BTW, Amadeo who was the first to post a comment, worked as a banker in this same area and so did his father, also a banker.

Thanks, Myepinoy! :)

August 15, 2006 7:06 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

If ever I decide on doing it, Ipanema, I'll hire you as both my editor and agent, which may never happen because I probably wouldn't be able to afford your fees ... lol!!!

But really, Ipanema, thank you. I always appreciate your kind words :)

August 15, 2006 7:10 PM  

Blogger Ivan ManDy said...

Señor Enrique,

Thanks for sharing your memories of the Escolta. You'd be surprised to know that there is actually a museum at the Escolta chronicling the street's history through photos, clippings and even old labels. This museum can be found at the Calvo building across the Capitol theater.

With regards to memories, mine was not so much when the street was the main shopping drag (or whats left of it) during its heydey but more of the time when those iconic Love Buses had their pick up points close to the Madrigal building. ;o)

August 15, 2006 7:40 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

“Childhood smells of perfume and brownies.”
-David Leavitt-

August 15, 2006 8:50 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Why, Eric, thank you. I'll do it for free...lol. We will be bankcrupt before we can ever publish your book...hahaha. Kakabili ng buchi. :)

(Sorry for late reply, I doze off)

August 15, 2006 10:19 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, too, Ivan! Appreciate your telling us about the museum at Calvo Building regarding historical archives of this area!

Love Buses? Sounds like leftover of the '60s ... hehehe. I must've already gone to the States by then, but surely I will see some pics of it in the museum when I go over there for a visit, which will be soon.

I was checking out your site as well and going through your walking tours of Binondo -- sounds fun. I will contact you soon about signing up, ok?

Ok, many thanks, Ivan!

August 16, 2006 6:24 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wonderful quote, Sidney!

As for smells: I had planted some sampaguita and rosal out in the yard mainly to recall some childhood memories of time spent at the barrio during summer vacation. Amazing how smell evoke even the deepest or oldest of memories.

And for brownies: Well, not necessarily brownies, obviously, but kakanin, puto, kuntsinta, and of course, buchi!

August 16, 2006 6:32 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...


Right, Ipanema, we'll be fat but broke by then!


August 16, 2006 6:34 AM  

Blogger Rey said...

The Capitol Theatre was indeed one of the crowning glory of the cinema i nthe Philippines, the cinema as it used to be in the past-- built on its own and not integrated in some malls.
This theatre was I think on e of the biggest, and of course one of the most elaborate, being designed by one of the best architects ever to grace the Filipno architectural field.

I hope there are efforts being done to preserve this edifice, just for its rich history and cultural value to generations to come.

On the onther note, I do remember a lot of spy programs in tv when i was a child(back in a timw where our tv was a 14" b&w with wooden chest). Most notable was GET SMART, which opened my eyes to american comedy.

August 16, 2006 1:32 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I agree, Rey, there ought to be active interest in preserving this theater, because from what I heard, Avenue Theater in Rizal Avenue and De Luxe Theater in Binodo had been torn down recently, and so was the old Odeon at Rizal Avenue and Recto.

As for Get Smart -- one of my favorite TV shows, too. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized it was Mel Brooks (comdey film writer/director) who created Get Smart.

Lol ... I remember our old black & white Admiral, too.

August 16, 2006 2:50 PM  

Blogger palma tayona said...

goodness! i never knew that capitol theater was so iconic during its heydays. i am a child of the 80's and i remember that part of escolta (capitol specifically) as dark and smelly - a den of prostitutes and thieves - a place that at night, my friends and i would hurriedly pass if we happen to be there, for fear of being mugged.

though i remember one time, during a lazy afternoon, i got the courage of buying a ticket to watch a movie there. i never managed to go inside the cinema - it freaked me out when i took a peek and saw that it was dank and very dark - but i was glued at the windows and the interiors. a young man then in my teens, i was amazed at the large lobby on the second floor and the tall windows. it made me think, she was a grand old lady in her decline.

i wonder how she is now.

April 18, 2007 8:39 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Sadly, Palma, I think this structure is just waiting for a complete demolition. Evrything has been stripped off, except for its signage and the lobyy fully barricaded.

Oh, well...

April 19, 2007 6:04 AM  

Blogger James said...

Senor, speaking of Get Smart, did you watch the movie remake that had Steve Carell in the lead role? Did you like it?

December 22, 2008 11:41 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Just recently saw Get Smart, James. I like it ... they did a very good job; smart script!

January 05, 2009 7:31 AM  

Anonymous Oliver Nolasco said...

Do you remember M.Y. San Restaurant on Escolta? We used to eat here on a Friday night between watching 2 movies, one at Capitol and another one at Lyric Theater. My dad would pick us all up at school Friday afternoon, go to Luneta for a hotdog and pineapple juice at a hotdog cart owned by Brown Derby, play awhile and at around 6 proceed to Escolta. My mom would be waiting at a designated area along Escolta, done with her shopping and lots of bags which are put in the trunk of our 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster. Those days are long gone but the memory still lingers. Also, if we got tired of eating at MYSan Restaurant, we would walk to the other end of Escolta and eat at Savory Chicken, or in Plaza Sta. Cruz at Panciteria Moderna, or along Bustos Street at Ramon Lee Fried Chicken. Alongside Panciteria Moderna, there is/was Hen Wah Panciteria which also served Chinese food but I never got tired of eating their chicken mami and siopao. The waitresses used this giant popsicle sticks (tongue depressors) with had their number placed on the napkin holder to indicate the tables which they are serving. A handful of DOMs chatting with them while drinking beer. Along San Vicente x Nueva Sts. was Marquina Cafe & Restaurant for seafoods. Near the Divisoria Market was a narrow street named Ilang-Ilang corner Lavezares and there was Ilang-Ilang Restaurant where they served the best camaron rellenado. Back to Escolta Street, there was La Estrella del Norte where you can buy Rolex watches, Oceanic Commercial for high end gifts for weddings, etc., Hickok's, Berg's Department store, Kairuz Bicycles, Botica Boie with that electronic door (the only one at Escolta), Camara Shoes, to name a few. I will reminisce some more and hopefully remember the other stores along Escolta.

November 19, 2010 4:33 AM  

Blogger Angelito said...

There was a bookstore in Escolta too. We used to buy books and school supplies there if Alemars and National Book Stores along Avenida don't have what I'm looking for. Anybody remember the name of that store?

March 08, 2011 4:22 AM  

Blogger Junie said...

Was there also a Brown's studio in Escolta circa 60s-70s? I still treasured the picture that was taken there.

February 01, 2012 4:33 AM  

Anonymous Jun said...

Yes Junie, there was a Brown's Studio in Escolta, circa 60s-70s. I still have my picture that was taken there when I was 10 years young.
Growing up in the 60s-70s my favorite memory of Escolta was the empanada and coffee at MY San. My Dad had an office at JM Tuason Bldg (the building right next to the empty lot next to Lyric). I was studying at Mapua in the 70s and I would walk to my Dad's office to hitch a ride home. If my Dad had a meeting, I would run to MY San to treat myself with an empanada and their 10 centavos coffee. I think they were stuffing their empanadas with curried chicken. I went to Escolta last November and my brother took me to a restaurant there. I think this was where Villar Record was in the 70s. It was in front of where the Love Bus parked. Gone were the glory days of Escolta. Only Savory Chicken is left of the old Escolta.

July 03, 2012 6:26 AM  

Anonymous Jun said...

Angelito, yes, there was a bookstore in Old Escolta named Bookmark.

July 04, 2012 1:19 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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