Christmas Shopping in Old Manila

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H.E. Heacock, a favorite shopping place during Christmas in Old Manila

Filipinos even in the olden days were fond of shopping, especially during the Christmas holidays. It is part of the Filipino tradition to give gifts to love ones on these special days. In the past, SM and Robinson's malls were nowhere in the Philippine Christmas shopping scene and downtown Manila was the place to be.


Luxurious shopping

During the American period (until 1950s and 1960s), the main shopping center was in downtown Manila, comprised of Escolta, Avenida in Rizal Avenue, and Quiapo. It was in these places where the best bazaars and shops were lined up.

Luxurious goods were also found in the area -- La Estrella del Norte, Oceanic, La Perla del Oriente, and Heacock's located in the posh Escolta street. The windows usually displayed the most elegant shoes and apparel imported from the United States and Europe. Other shops around Manila at that time were Botica Boie, which sold the most expensive perfumes, and Beck's, which sold all kinds of luxuries from gramophones to Rolls Royce brands. The toys for children included a rolling horse, or an expensive Horseman doll.

After shopping, the whole family would usually go to Panciteria Nueva in Sta. Cruz or to Clarke's Ice Cream Parlor in Escolta, the first ice cream parlor in the Philippines. Afterwards the family could watch movies or vaudeville shows in Cine Ideal or Manila Grand Opera House.

Calle Rosario at the Turn of the Century, 1900s. Note the Chinese traders at the right side of the photo. Collection of Dennis Villegas

Best buys

Filipinos who could not afford the luxury of downtown Manila usually flocked to Rosario street in Chinatown, then known as the true commercial district of Manila. Most of the shops in the area were owned by Chinese traders who sold second class goods at low prices. The shops carried grocery items, shoes, and apparel. The top-selling shoes for ordinary Filipinos of those times were Ang Tibay and Esco Shoes.


  • Roces, Alfredo, ed., The Filipino Heritage, Quezon City: Vera Reyes, 1985



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