Sunday, September 17, 2006


The proverbial "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" may have caused the eventual decline of this strip once agrind with bustling commerce.

Imelda Marcos’ original intention was to have a modern mass transit system — Light Rail Transit — to alleviate the gridlocks that paralyzed Manila’s main arteries, especially Rizal Avenue. Cursed with excessive delays, the project lingered for many years; leaving Rizal Avenue virtually impossible to traverse. Thus, many people were unable to continue patronizing the establishments on either side of it.

By the time the Light Rail Transit system was finished and began its regular operations, the fully air-conditioned SM shopping malls had sprouted throughout the metropolitan area and have earned the city shoppers' return visits. Regrettably, many of Rizal Avenue’s emporiums had lost too many of their regular customers; left with no other option but to shut their doors for good.

It took Mayor Lito Atienza’s tireless efforts to once again infuse life into to this area through a series of revitalization projects. From Carriedo Street to Claro M. Recto Avenue, Rizal Avenue has now become a colorful pedestrian’s haven.

Subsequently, more shops reopened to serve the public and all the facades of the buildings along the avenue were repainted. The ornamentations selected by the mayor to adorn the pillars that hold the overhead railway system were inspired by those he had seen during his visit to Spain.

The two new National Bookstore buildings flank Soler Street. I remember the time when I hurriedly finished off a hamburger and a cup of vanilla ice cream bought from a food shop next door to National Bookstore. General MacArthur had returned to Manila for a visit and his motorcade was supposed to pass by at any minute. I ate so fast that I felt nauseous afterwards. My father had to take me home immediately as soon as it was all over.

New Year’s Eve in the afternoon was the time of the year I enjoyed the most in this avenue. There were myriad vendors boisterously hawking various kinds of colorful noisemakers and firecrackers. Except for firecrackers which my mother had forbidden us to fool around with, my father and I would buy as many noisemakers as we could manage to carry for everyone in the household, as well as for cousins and friends in the neighborhood.

Sadly, the movie theaters along this avenue that brightened the night with their glorious neon lights — from Galaxy to Ideal — have ceased to exist. More recently, Avenue Theater, designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil was torn down (read Carlos Celdran’s entry about the chance meeting he had with the owner of Avenue Theater who had it demolished).

I enjoyed many movies in Avenue Theater. A favorite, which got me riveted to my seat, was Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn. She played the role of a blind housewife being terrorized by an intruder in her ground floor brownstone apartment.

Also, in this very same building, up in the banquet hall of Avenue Hotel was where my father’s business association held their annual soiree. He took me along on a couple of occasions. The most memorable was the night I sang some Beatle tunes accompanied by the band hired to provide the evening’s musical entertainment; a delightful experience, indeed.

The old Odeon Theater was also demolished and replaced with a shopping mall, which was recently opened for business. It was in this theater I saw the Beatle’s Help, Steve McQueen’s The Great Escape, and Sean Connery’s Goldfinger.

The overhead rail system in front of the now Odeon shopping mall is the new MRT (Recto to Antipolo line) which has an interconnecting walkway with LRT that serves the Rizal Avenue route.

From this corner of Rizal Avenue and Recto (formerly Azcarraga), a couple of blocks to the left was where my father’s office was at Florentino Torres Street; whereas, a couple of blocks down the avenue is Doroteo Jose Street where MIT’s high school division was located. Ironically, when I started high school, not once did I walk over to my father’s office during recess or after school; I was already growing up and thought it uncool for my high school friends to take notice that I was still a papa’s boy. But nonetheless, I still went to the office with him on Saturdays.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:57 AM


Blogger Amadeo said...

Florentino Torres was also noted because it had the Manila Times building along it. The Times with the Manila Chronicle were the two premier broadsheets pre-Martial Law era.

Along one of the side streets on Avenida was a second-run movie theatre, Palace. Air-con, double program, and for a price about half that of first-run. And along Raon St. near Carriedo was another moviehouse, Radio. Again air-con, double program, and 50 centavos orchestra seat.

Our tight budgets made these two favorite hang-out places.

The pictures appear to show that vehicles are not allowed on Avenida. The jeepneys in one of the pictures are plying along CM Recto.

And lastly, a well-known trivia: ShoeMart started business along Carriedo near its intersection with Avenida. And indeed, it specialized in affordably-priced shoes.

September 17, 2006 12:49 PM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

Maganda na pala ngayon diyan sa Avenida. I also used to frequent that place when I was still in college. Also went to see films in the movie houses there. Looks clean too.

I remember when the LRT was still being built. I was still in high school then. Napaka-alikabok diyan sa may Taft Avenue.

September 17, 2006 12:52 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

It looks like a place that is full of sentiments; the way you've described it. Very nostalgic.


September 17, 2006 1:52 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

I must admit that I don't frequent this place. It looks cleaner and the buildings are colourful. The green and cream looks grand.

September 17, 2006 5:24 PM  

Blogger bugsybee said...

Eric, I watched Goldfinger at the Odeon too with my mom! I miss those days. When I was already a teacher and I'd visit my students in Sampaloc where they were reviewing for the board exams, I'd walk all the way to Claro M. Recto and Avenida just to relive the good old days. But nowadays, it's dusty and the air is polluted so I've stopped doing it.

September 17, 2006 5:26 PM  

Anonymous jhay said...

At least Lito Atienza have done something right for a change. Anyways, I never fail to visit the Goodwill and the two National Bookstore buildings whenever I venture on that part of Manila. Oops, I'm starting to talk about books again. Nice photos though! :D

September 17, 2006 8:11 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

There is now a second-run movie house, The Republic, on Florentino Torres in front of where my father's office used to be, Amadeo.

The Palace I somehow remember, but the Radio no. One of the last movies I saw was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" at the State Theater; ticket was P3.00 orchestra.

Yes, I remember ShoeMart; it was very popular even when I was a kid. They built a small-sized SM mall in that same area along Carriedo. Near it was where the vaudeville theater, Clover, used to be. It was there my aunt had her start as a costume designer and maker.

September 17, 2006 8:12 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wala na ako, Irene, when they started to build the LRT. But cousins who came to NYC to visit kept me posted of the changes. I felt sad when they told me that Avenida Rizal had gone down the pits.

All those movie theaters are now gone :(

September 17, 2006 8:15 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I think by the time you started at UST, Ipanema, the place to go had become Makati.

There are really many more exciting places to go to nowadays, but the refurbished Avenida Rizal will always be for those who grew up coming here a lot.

September 17, 2006 8:18 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And that was the time I first heard of Shirley Bassey, Ladybug.

And what I loved most about Odeon was the display they had at the lobby. For example: during The Great Escape showing, they had a similar motorcycle used by Steve McQueen displayed at the lobby complete with a bit of landscaping. It was like an art installation exhibit.

September 17, 2006 8:22 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Jhay ... Goodwill Bookstore stiil has its presence there as does National Bookstore.

Hey, I'm eagerly waiting for your Bonifacio post :)

September 17, 2006 8:24 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Kyels, I have many fond memories of this neighborhood :)

September 17, 2006 8:33 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Actually no. We used to go to the university belt area, especially Ever-Gotesco for the waffle. The last I saw of UE-Recto, it was under renovation. I mean I've been to that stretch of Claro M. Recto but not the Avenida part.

September 17, 2006 11:03 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh, I see, Ipanema.

Ever-Gotesco was recently renovated and it is very nice now. I like this mall. It's near Peregrine badminton courts where I sometimes play.

September 17, 2006 11:23 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

The demise of old-town movie houses appears to be a trend worldwide.

Once the malls have established in the areas, the old movie houses lose their appeal and use. The same is true in the US and even in the cities in Mindanao where the malls have already gained footholds.

As I recall, Republic had always been second-run, but I'm not sure if Florentino Torres is the original site. Another one along Avenida showing second-run was Mayfair.

Ah, movies were probably the most popular and egalitarian entertainment fare during those times. And the movie houses were clustered around Avenida and Quiapo. Though Escolta also had at least one. Already mentioned was State. But wasn't there Universal? Gaiety theatre was out of the loop, being located in Ermita and quite small but upscale.

Quiapo had one along R. Hidalgo near an estero, which was very decrepit-looking, small, cheap, and where many of the vendors around the area went to.

And aside from Clover, there was another vaudeville theatre also along Avenida but I can't recall its name. Was it Opera House? Or was it in Quiapo near Feati? Many of the popular singing stars then went through this route - like Eddie Mesa, Katy de la Cruz, the Wing Duo, Reycard Duet, even Fred Panopio, etc. And Nora Aunor, too?

September 18, 2006 12:24 AM  

Blogger BW said...

Man this place has really changed. I remember going to Good Earth - is it still around? It's that part of Avenida close to Carriedo intersection.

September 18, 2006 12:42 AM  

Blogger tilamsik said...

wow, nice! avenida looks so nice pala, lalo na when you are far away. so textured, so loaded with character and history. how great it must have been once.

thanks for the post and for always answering our comments.

September 18, 2006 12:42 AM  

Anonymous carla said...

ack!!!! i was there last friday after persuading my mum to accompany me to escolta! from lrt2 we walked along avenida rizal before going on to escolta and my mum shared some of her memories of that place. i wanted to go into those old theatres but then it's either the theatre is abandoned with vagrants inside or some bomba flick is playing. i've noticed the fine architecture and thought it a shame that most people in ofice prefer building shopping malls to restoring magnificent structures.

escolta was a fun place to visit as well; we climbed up to the top floor of 3 buildings and from there went down to each floor. :-) now if only mayor atienza could do something about the squatters...

September 18, 2006 9:29 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

Do you know that NBI processing is along avenida na ?? But you have to 'buy a ticket' to get in. :)

Lantaran na ano ? Then somewhere along the processing the ask you for the ticket else you proceed no further. It's a small yellow stub of sorts.

September 18, 2006 11:14 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Same thing happened in Manhattan, Amadeo -- they call them multiplexes and raised ticket prices, too.

No, there was no Republic theater there when I was young. There is Universal, Lyric, and Ever.

Yes, that was Manila Opera House. Next door was Ang Tibay Shoes where I got my penny loafers til high school.

And R. Hidalgo thay are now refurbishing as a pedestrians' walking mall and photographers' haven.

September 18, 2006 11:20 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Good Earth is still there, BW. Before SM malls, there was Good Earth, the only major store with escalators at that time. They had an eatery inside where we used to order shrimp sandwich :)

Good Earth in on Avenida and Bustos Street which leads to Sta. Cruz Church.

September 18, 2006 11:22 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Avenida Rizal and Escolta where the premier shopping centers of Manila at that time, Tilamsik! That entire stretch from Carriedo to Recto was like a mini Las Vegas with incredble neon lights. It was pretty incredible :)

Oh, my pleasure :)

September 18, 2006 11:24 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You couldn't ask for a better guide than your mom, Carla! I'm sure she had many anecdotes to share with you. The only movie houses that are open in that area are not what the old theaters were like :)

Did you mean there were squatters living in those buildings in Escolta?

September 18, 2006 11:27 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

They might have closed that particular NBI office, S.A. I don't see it anymore.

But that is a shame to sell those tickets.

September 18, 2006 11:29 AM  

Blogger jase said...

These places look clean and tidy ... and the photos reveal some hidden features and vintage colors... beautiful!

September 18, 2006 11:45 AM  

Anonymous carla said...

not really inside the buildings but outside. my mum and i walked on the promenade along the pasig river and i saw some vagrants. same thing for the deserted theatres in avenida. i was actually holding tight to my umbrella just in case, but thank God nobody bothered us.

September 18, 2006 12:48 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

They do have hired people to keep this avenue looking nice and clean for the pedestrians, Jase :)

September 18, 2006 4:35 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh, yes ... I've seen some, too Carla, especially by the promenade by the river. They can be disconcerting, but they're harmless.

September 18, 2006 4:37 PM  

Anonymous Kyels said...

All these fond memories can definitely carve a smile on your face.


September 18, 2006 5:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You'll soon have many fond memories of Manila, too, Kyles!


September 18, 2006 5:28 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

I agree on your observations about the Avenida area; years ago it was so messy there, like there were just a lot of excavations or unfinished construction going on there. But the last time I was there, I was amazed at how clean and orderly it had become. This must be a very shining achievement for Mayor Atienza.

September 19, 2006 2:27 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Unfortunately, Major Tom, Avenida remained messy and unfinished for an awful long time, turning off most people.

Too many attractive shopping enclaves emerged all over Metro Manila; I don't thing Avenida will ever regain its charm and glamour.

September 19, 2006 6:16 PM  

Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

I catch a taxi every few weeks from the Veterans Clinic in Pasay to Avenida to catch the Rabbit back to AC. I always try to engage my driver and ask him about what he knows of the history of the buildings and areas we pass through. One showed me the original SM, and I was amazed at the comparative humble look of the first one. Still, it was a treat to see it. Funny how all my taxi drivers caution me about trying to get out and ramble the area on my own. Are they right or just being alarmists?

I'm catching up on your posts from top to bottom. My pc crashed more than a week ago and I'm way behind now. I love your blogs that go into detail on Manila's past. Good show old boy! Oh, I'm a bridge nut...what is the oldest surviving bridge in Manila, and when was it built Senior E?

September 19, 2006 8:43 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I would say the one replaced by Jones Bridge. My memory isn't all that sharp, but will google it and post a separate response box to this question.

Sidney seems to be quite comfortable walking around in Manila and hasn't mentioned any inauspicious incidents. I have also learned to walk around on my own, but then again, I'm somewhat judicious and do it only during the daytime. Just the same, ask one of the Mrs.' nephews or brothers to accompany you in the first couple of outings.

I recommend that you join a walking tour, Phil. You'll love it :)

September 19, 2006 8:58 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Here it is, Phil ... the oldest bridge in Manila:

The Jones Bridge, formerly known as Puente de Espana, was first built in 1701. It was rebuilt by the Americans in 1916 and renamed after Atkinson Jones.

September 19, 2006 9:42 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a student. I am recently doing a paper regarding Rizal Avenue. Can you please help me with my paper by having you or anyone of you who experienced the social life in Rizal Avenue during its prosperous days be interviewed? Please please. here's my mail. you can leave me a message there. Godspeed everyone!

August 13, 2007 11:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I had sent you an email, Denice.

All those who may be interested, please email Denice at


August 13, 2007 1:05 PM  

Anonymous joan mabansay said...


i'm glad i found you, i need trivia on the avenida before, rizal ave. today..

thanks so much.

please text or call me up at 09206433801

September 29, 2007 1:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Joan,

Please email me at and let me know how I could be of help.

October 01, 2007 1:17 PM  

Blogger onelin1 said...

Hi senor enrique.I'm Juanito from San Jose, california.I'm grateful that I' ve found your's amazing to look at all the old cinemas.the last time I saw Avenida was when they were just starting to build the LRT.I was a student at MIT way back in 1964 so I know the place very well.If I can ask you,is the restaurant at the corner of Doroteo and Avenida still around? thanks a lot.

October 31, 2007 1:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hello Juanito!

Much has changed since you were here last. I also attended MIT High School Class of '69; left for New York shortly after graduation and then returned to visit for the first time since then in 2001. I was in Manila during 9/11, can you believe that?

Anyway, MIT shut down its high school division two years ago, and all MIT classes are now being held in their Intramuros campus. The old Galaxy Theater is being torn down to make room for a hi-rise condo building. Sadly, the restaurant you speak of at the corner of Doroteo Jose is no longer there; neither are those school supply stores on Doroteo Jose.

Thanks for visiting and for introducing yourself.



November 01, 2007 6:15 AM  

Blogger onelin1 said...

Eric,If you played as an Amateur pelotari, then you remember The bartender Mang Andy from the SkyRoom bar.My Dad (Paquito)sold tickets (the one peso 'Tingi')at the second floor.I used to help him too at that time when you were there. My dad's number was 2/6 - 6/2.How about the cafeteria inside?

November 02, 2007 1:03 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Our practice/training sessions were from very early in the morning until before lunch time, Juanito.

In the evenings, I'd always go with an older cousin or friend and stay no more than two or three games, and have them place my bets for me. Afterwards, we'd take a cab to Aristocrat for some barbeque chicken with Java rice :)

The only time I went up in the Sky Room was for our Christmas party. Other than that, I try to be discreet because some folks might figure that I got "tips" from the players, which was very unlikely as they would claim ... hehehe.

November 02, 2007 5:53 AM  

Anonymous hh said...

Hi Sir, our group mis conducting a research about the history of avenida and we've found you r blog that we think it will be helpful in our research, in this regards can you send us some picture of avenida before if you have? can you give us some details of avenida from the past? your repply will be highly appreciated thank you sir... send the details on my e-mail...

January 25, 2008 12:18 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hello HH,

Unfortunately, as you can derive from this article, my memories of Avenida are purely from childhood experiences.

As for old pictures of Avenida Rizal, I suggest that you visit Museo ng Maynila at the former Army & Navy Club Building, telephone: 405-0135.

They may have in their archives some historical documents on this popular avenue of Manila.

Good luck and let us know how you're doing with your research. You may want to share it with us as well.


January 25, 2008 8:49 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah the memories of the good old days of Good ol' MayniLA Atienza Madness before Mr. Not-So-Nice-Old-Man-Who-Needs-A-Retirement-Fund Tore it down because of transports and "business died on that area" jigs...

June 16, 2008 11:23 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Come to think of it, Anon, I do miss the pedestrianized Avenida.

June 17, 2008 6:11 AM  

Blogger Bren said...

There was a gasoline station where Odeon was. And I remember also that the Philippine Rabbit had their bus station nearby.

February 05, 2010 1:21 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senor Enrique

I used to live in Buencamino Alley, Claro M Recto. Close to UE, and there's the Syvel's Dept. Store too. It will be nice if you can have some pictures of that part of C.M Recto. Thank you and GOD bless.


March 08, 2010 9:11 AM  

Anonymous Carlo De Guzman said...

Sir are you familiar with the Whopper hamburger Restaurant in Sta.Cruz near in Recto?Sad to say it is already gone,the place is now occupied by a bookstore i think its Goodwill or Mirriam Bookstore.

September 05, 2011 1:31 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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