Every country, province, or city has its history to tell – Avenida is no exception. Named after our national hero, Jose Rizal, Avenida is formerly called Avenida Rizal. The place has its own story to tell – from its culture and people to the different iconic structures in this prominent main thoroughfare. As condos in Manila have proliferated, certain historical structures no longer exist but that does not mean they are forgotten.
Years ago, Avenida was the place where most elites would do their shopping in well-known establishments in the area. They’d also hang out in restaurants and movie theaters there. For these elites, Avenida was a haven that has everything they’d ever need.
Built in 1911, Calle Dulumbayan and Calle Salcedo were combined to form the longest street in Manila – Avenida. This was before EDSA was built. The road stretched from Carriedo past Bambang Street and San Lazaro Race Park through to Grace Park in Caloocan. And now, it is already part of the Pan-Philippine Highway, the country’s central transport backbone connecting Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao.
Manila Grand Opera was a theater and opera house in Avenida. It was in the mid-19th century when the opera house was built. It was designed as a circular wooden structure with a nipa roof. The opera house was used for viewing plays, movies, and zarzuelas in Manila before the construction of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the 1960s. Moreover, it is in this venue where the First Philippine Assembly was inaugurated. Manila Grand Opera has undergone several restorations and name changes before being demolished. Today, a hotel with the same name was constructed on the exact spot where the opera house was previously located.
Aside from the Manila Grand Opera, Teatro Libertad and Teatro Zorrilla were also popular theater houses on the avenue. Theatergoers who are usually well-dressed watch weekend zarzuelas and operas.
Carmello and Bauermann Publishing, which was located at 2057 Azcarraga, was founded in 1887 by a Filipino named Don Eulalio Carmelo y Lakandula, an artist-engraver, together with William Bauermann, a German lithographer, and cartographer working with the Bureau of Forestry at the time. Alfredo Carmelo, the son of Don Eulalio, continued running the business until 1938.
Designed by Juan Nakpil during the 1930s, Capitan Pepe Building is one of the familiar landmarks in Avenida Rizal. It was built in honor of Capitan Pepe, the former local government official of San Miguel, Bulacan and the late husband of Doña Narcisa de Leon of LVN Pictures.
Owned by Dr. Harry Kneedler, who is a retired physician, this building was found across the Ideal Theatre. The building formerly houses corporate giants such as the Insular Life.
Owned by the Barrettos, the New Plaza Hotel used to be the old Hotel de France. The hotel was the favorite of who’s who in the international business scene such as Robert Dollar, the owner of the biggest shipping line before the World War II, Dollar Ships.
Plaza Goiti, now known as Plaza Lacson, was one of the most visited places for people who are looking for cheap goods such as clothes, shoes, and cookware. Hence, it was the most famous place in downtown Manila where people can eat, shop and watch movies.
As we go back to where it all started, we may think about how the country and its people changed through the years. Although these structures are in the past, it echoes the thriving avenue we call Avenida.