Escolta and Carriedo: Street Queens of Downtown Manila
I was supposed to write about my personal Visita Iglesia last Holy Thursday, but I couldn’t help but notice the journey that we took, the characters and faces that the streets of Manila shows that Thursday. In this blogpost, I would like to go back to two streets which are two streets that are contrasting with each other, yet a mirror of Manila’s character: Escolta and Carriedo.
Manila has been the capital of the islands since the Spanish colonial era, and it has been a hub of political power and of commerce. From the northern banks of Pasig River, just across the walled city now called Intramuros, this became Manila’s economic hub because it’s near the docks. Between the districts of Binondo and Santa Cruz, Escolta’s prominence rose. On another side, connecting Quiapo to Santa Cruz is the busy street market of Carriedo.
Escolta: Glamorosa Queen
Escolta was once the Wall Street of Manila, the Ayala Avenue of the by-gone era, and to a lot of old folks, it was the center of commerce, trade, shopping, and entertainment of Manila and perhaps the rest of the Philippines. Escolta WAS DOWNTOWN MANILA–vibrant with cinemas, offices, shops, theaters and more. Before World War II, the Pearl of the Orient Seas’ heart throbs in here. Whatever this generation looks up to the malls, the people back then look into Escolta, not even Bonifacio High Street of today can beat up her beauty back then.
World War II came. The once busy streets were left abandoned. They weren’t lively like as it was, then came “The Liberation.” Boom!
Despite that several buildings of Escolta survived the bombardment of World War II, unlike the pulverized Intramuros, she was already declining in prominence. In the 1970s, the companies have started moving their new HQs and offices to a once suburban and more tranquil former airport in San Pedro de Makati, to what is now Ayala Avenue. Escolta was left to decay. It’s once pedestrian and vehicular traffic congestion, now a thing of a past. As if she is left to die by her capitalist amos as she became older and unattractive.
Today, when you walk at Escolta, it is as if it is a shadow of its own glamorous past. The art-deco Capital Building is left to rot while the rest like Regina Building were given a new lease of life. Escolta wasn’t that as vibrant as what the giant photo at the corner of the renovated building depicted it was. Yet there are those who still hope that someday, somehow, Escolta would be vibrant once more. An architect suggested that Escolta would become a BPO (business process outsourcing) complex to which its old buildings become new offices of outsourcing companies. Not bad, and indeed a great idea of reviving her once more. I am hopeful that this endevour would indeed push through. The glamorous queen was left for dead, but a new “man” would bring her back to life once more.
Carriedo: Palenque Queen and her minions
While Escolta seems to be desolate, Carriedo Street is lively as ever. Carriedo is just a few meters away from Escolta and it connects the district of Santa Cruz to Quiapo. The LRT Station is located above it, intersecting Avenida Rizal, the part of downtown Manila.
Named after the fountain located in front of Santa Cruz Church after the philanthropist Don Francisco Carriedo y Perredo, the street is famous (or sometimes notorious) for street vendors selling from clothes, slippers, fruits, vegetables, toys, down to pirated DVDs (where a Filipino tshirt company parodied a Disney movie as “Pirates of Carriedo: The Curse of the Black Market.”) and some occasional pickpockets and raids done either by the local police or Ronnie Rickets’ team. It is a street market indeed, almost similar to that seen in Divisoria-San Nicolas area. The market spreads all throughout the area: To Hidalgo and Villalobos and unto Plaza Miranda, in front of Basilica Minore de Nazareno. Lahat mura dito!
During Friday however, this crowded street turns even more crowded as devotees of the Black Nazarene flock to the Basilica, mixed with street vendors and peddlers. It is total chaos amidst the bustling crowd. As you go nearer the church, religious and even pamparegla, gayuma, pampalaglag vendors swarm every nook and crook of the street. The atmosphere here is indeed thick with commerce, devotion, survival and cultura Manileña. Lively and vibrant chaos that gives downtown Manila a new lease of life, at least after the big organizations have left for Makati and other new central business districts.
Escolta and Carriedo are indeed of opposite characters (and obviously locations), one was left by what she once served as mid to high-end commercial market, and the other as a street market for the Filipino masa. The streets evoke the character that Manila has evolved, and it exists as it is now—perhaps controlled chaos, urban decay, and a hope that it’ll be once more be like she was—or even better.
Escolta and Carriedo are located right here:
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