Pioneering heritage revitalisation
Escolta’s most prominent building
This grand white/pink building was once Manila’s foremost business address. Built by Andres Luna de San Pedro (son of famous painter and activist Juan Luna) in the jazzed-up Art Deco style so typical for that era it offered tenants maximized space, abundant lighting, good ventilation and state-of-the-art design. Its dominant geometric patterns, brass reliefs, grand spiralling staircases, and elegant lighting fixtures won the best décor award back in 1928.
Officially called the Perez-Samanillo building, after the old Spanish families that owned it, the building was mostly known for the ground floor Bergs Department store, the place-to-go for imported luxury goods from the latest toys to fine jewellery to the most fashionable finds. “The store was beautiful, a grand lobby full of glass cases and shelves.” says a descendant of the family Evelyn Berg Empie.
Bergs was heavily damaged during the 1945 battle for Manila and after that, never quite regained its former allure. That is until now. The current owner is Chinese-Filipino businessman Robert Sy Lianteng who is pioneering revitalisation of old buildings in Escolta Street. “This was a typical office building like many in the Binondo area with currency traders and import/export offices, but when I saw that all these hip youngsters with their nice cameras were so interested in the building I decided to rent out a couple of vacant units to them… and it kind of took off from there.” The entire 5th floor of the building is now occupied by architects, artists, photographers, fashion designers, game makers and other creatives.
Check out the community museum!
Hidden in a corner on the mezzanine floor is a small museum which replicates the office of Sy Lian Teng, who purchased the former Perez Samanillo Building after the war. Some memorabilia include a rotary phone, a stamp bearing the map to the area, and a working G.E. refrigerator from the 1950s, which is still used whenever there are events in the museum.