I love looking at old photos. Black and white photographs always evoke a sense of nostalgia in me, even if they’re of a history I wasn’t a part of. Looking at old photos of Manila is especially interesting because the images capture a world that really seems forever lost to time. As our grandparents’ and their friends’ stories go, these were the days when people shopped on Escolta wearing smart hats and white suits, when weekends were spent swimming and picnicking on the banks of the Pasig River, and when you got dressed to enjoy a night out at the Jai Alai Building’s Sky Room.
To give a better sense of what pre-war Manila was like, I’m posting old photos of the Philippines that I found in the LIFE Magazine Photo Archives. This amazing set of photographs was taken in November 1941 Manila, the week before the outbreak of war with Japan. The days of calm before the storm…
The beautiful Jai Alai building, designed by Welton Becket, who also did the iconic Capitol Records Tower in LA:
The Welton Becket-designed art deco Jai Alai Building
Watching a game of Jai-Alai:
The main commercial district, Escolta:
When men wore white suits...
Inside a Manila Department Store:
Taken in late November a week before Pearl Harbor, stores were ready to celebrate Christmas.
View of the busy Sta. Cruz Plaza, Manila:
Japanese businesses still open:
The Manila City Hall and its manicured courtyard:
Shopping at stalls near the Quiapo Church:
We loved tiangges even back then...
Lovely interiors of the Quiapo Church:
Having lunch at the Manila Polo Club:
Getting ready to watch a baseball game, Manila Polo Club:
View of the clean, art-deco Quezon Bridge:
Note that we used to drive on the left side of the street
When men used to wear hats… a second-hand hat stall off Carriedo St.:
Manila Hotel swimming pool:
Ready for what’s coming- the popularity contest winner of the Manila College of Pharmacy smiles and shows her support for the boys: