Before World War II, the inhabitants of Old Manila took extended time-outs at now historical recreational spots. High society indulged in leisurely activities such as balls, regattas, and polo matches.
Manila Polo Club
Aptly dubbed the “sport of kings” for its rich history dating back to the Persian royals in the 16th century, polo wooed the city’s elite. Renowned polo player William Cameron Forbes introduced the sport during his time as governor general. He promptly established the Manila Polo Club upon his appointment. The sport was reserved for the senior military officers and Manila’s wealthiest inhabitants and has since built upon its resume of high society patrons.
colored digital sketch of Manila Polo Club
Unknown to many, Polo Club’s first location was in Calle Real, Pasay, where it was inaugurated in the year 1909. It was in 1922 that Prince Edward,
Prince Edward at the Polo Club in 1922
Army Navy Club
Army Navy Club, which is now the Rizal Park Hotel
The glossy Rizal Park Hotel traces its roots back to the Army Navy Club, a social hall established shortly after American troops began docking on Philippine shores in 1899. Originally intended for the members of the American military, the club was designed with plans by architect William Parsons in mind. The H-shaped main building housed swimming pools, tennis courts, and lawns for leisurely activities, while the building’s second floor contained about 70 rooms to accommodate temporary stays.
Inside the social hall
It flourished for quite some time, becoming the default venue for large social events such as balls and fashion shows, but the country fell on hard times during the war and the club’s exclusivity only aided its decline in visitors. Eventually, the
It was only a couple of years ago that the remnants were bought, restored, and transformed into a hotel with fabulous interiors and refurbished rooms.
Manila Hotel Fiesta Pavilion
The century-old Manila Hotel has been a fixture in the social scene since 1912 and does not intend to retire from its post soon. Its iconic Fiesta Pavilion continues to host grandiose events.
Manila Hotel exteriors
In the past, the hotel’s Fiesta Pavilion or Winter Garden were popular choices for the Kahirup Ball, the most-awaited social event of the season. Famous guests include writer Ernest Hemingway, boxer Jack Dempsey, and Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower. Recently
The Fiesta Pavilion, which used to be an open-air space
A gathering at the Manila Hotel
Wack Wack Golf and Country Club
Founded in 1930 by William “Bill” J. Shaw, the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club
The Wack Wack golf course
The Wack Wack clubhouse was beloved by society members. It hosted dances and receptions. Shaw, of course, was a staple face in his own establishment, meeting and greeting all the golfers.
The Wack Wack Clubhouse, which was hit by two fires
Though the club was hit by major tragedies—it was devastated by two fires and a war—it quickly bounced back by hosting the pre-war open tournament in 1948, coming full circle with Montes winning the championship.
Inside the clubhouse
Manila Yacht Club
Before any airport in Philippines history, Manila Yacht Club served as the first transport terminal for American planes, says Commodore Ildefonso Tronqued Jr. There were no airports built yet, so seaplanes parked at the Yacht Club. Manila Yacht Club is listed as one of the oldest in Asia. The Club was founded by James Rockwell, who also played a part in establishing both the Manila Polo Club and the Manila Golf Club. In its heyday, the club hosted regattas, races, and boating events to encourage sailing in the country. These events also boosted international relations, with watersport events under the SEA Games and Asian Games held here.
The Manila Yacht Club
No longer a fixture in the Escolta skyline, the Crystal Arcade’s destruction was one of the city’s greatest architectural losses. The building owes its Art Deco design to Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna and Paz Pardo de Tavera. The Arcade’s exteriors dazzled with a glass façade. It was the first shopping mall in the city, and it was air-conditioned to boot.
The Crystal Arcade mall
Also a prime business space, the Arcade housed the first Manila Stock Exchange and a fashionable café called the Exchange Café, which was filled brokers looking to woo clients.
The Exchange Cafe filled with brokers
Sadly, the building didn't survive the war. Before its demise, it served as an office to Japanese occupation agencies.
Another territory of the young scions of old was the Y.M.C.A. social club, filled with recreational activities. Aside from providing swimming lessons and lodging, the Y.M.C.A envisioned itself as a values-oriented association open to young American and European men. This later came to include Filipinos.
Santa Ana Cabaret
The Santa Ana Cabaret wraps up the category of Filipino firsts. This social hall proudly marketed itself as the largest cabaret in the world during its time. It was a popular rendezvous point for Americans and Filipino women, who dined and danced the night away. The pioneer cabaret was spared from the perils of war, but it was destroyed by a typhoon in the ‘70s.
Dancing at the Santa Ana Cabaret