Then and Now: Rizal Avenue

Avenida Rizal or more popularly referred to now as Rizal Avenue is one of Manila’s busiest districts.  In the 1920’s through 1930’s, Rizal Avenue was the place to be for the city’s elite and socialites.  Streets were lined with high-end shops, restaurants and movie theaters.  These theaters were designed by famous architects during that era, some of whom are now immortalized in our architectural history books.

On our first photo, you can see Rizal Avenue when we were still part of the United States.  A street busling with kalesas mixed in with early model Fords, it is evident here that it was already a busy area of Manila around the 1930s.  A notable landmark is the newly built Ideal Theater, erected in 1933 by Architect Pablo Antonio.

Rizal Avenue, circa 1930s. Note the traffic police stationed under the umbrella, and the vintage telephone pole in the middle of the street.

The next photo shows a war-torn Rizal Avenue.  Probably taken around 1945. Note the burned shell buildings to the right of the photo and a column of American tanks and jeeps on the street.  The Ideal Theater however survived the Japanese occupation and is seen here, still intact.

Rizal Avenue, circa 1945. Probably right after Japan’s surrender.

After the war, Rizal Avenue regained its reputation as the preferred recreational destination by many of Manila’s residents. Architects Pablo Antonio and Juan Nakpil, created several more of the movie theaters along the avenue. Adding to the Ideal Theater, Antonio designed the Galaxy, the Scala and the Lyric theaters, while Nakpil designed the Capitol, the Ever and the Avenue theaters.  The photo below, which was taken around the 1950s, shows the emergence of the AC jeepney  (which was originally designed using surplus American military jeeps) and the Otis, State theaters on the right and Galaxy theater in the far distance.

Rizal Avenue, circa 1950s. AC jeepneys now abound.

Around 1968, American Photographer Harrison Forman aimed his large format camera at the Rizal Avenue.  The resulting shot is shown below with Goodearth Emporium already there, and Ideal, Otis and State Theaters still standing.  As a child, I remember seeing ‘Now Showing’ advertisements for these theaters in the early 1970s in Manila’s leading newpapers. So I know they were still operating as theaters during that time.

Circa 1968. Photo Credit: For a higher resolution photo, visit the UWM Libraries at Photograph by Harrison Forman.

As the years went by, the area was victimized by urban renewal. Shown on the photo below (circa 1980s) is Rizal Avenue without any cars or jeepneys.  The Ideal Theater, which survived World War II is now gone.  The “OTIS” sign is so delapidated it’s barely readable, but State is still there.  Goodearth Emporium however is probably enjoying its glory days during this time.

Circa 1980s. No more cars or jeepneys.

The photo below shows Rizal Avenue as seen today.  Giving way to the LRT, it is now one of those places where you can’t ever imagine the transformation that has taken place.

Rizal Avenue Today

Rizal Avenue today. (Rizal Avenue, corner Carriedo Street., the approximate spot where all the photos above were taken.)

The main culprit of the deterioration of the area was the LRT; the train was to ease traffic in Rizal Avenue and Taft Avenue south of the Pasig River but it also killed business along the route. The cinemas themselves resorted to showing double feature B-movies and soft porn, as people transferred to the newer and more modern Ortigas Centernand the Ayala Center.

In 2000, during the mayorship of Lito Atienza, the stretch from C.M. Recto Avenue to Palanca Street was turned into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare by laying bricks on the road, with the buildings and the LRT painted as part of an urban renewal project. This caused vehicles to use the secondary roads such as Tomas Mapua and Doroteo Jose Streets in order to go to and from Plaza Lacson.The Ideal Theater was previously demolished, the Galaxy, Scala and Lyric theaters are now misused. The first level of the Ever Theater is occupied by stalls, while the upper levels are abandoned. Only the refurbished Capitol Theater, now a dimsum palace, survived the modern times and is still active.The pedetrianization of Rizal Avenue was completed on 2003 and was meant to only last for a short time but it has persisted until 2008.

The Avenue Theater, which survived the Battle of Manila of 1945, was demolished in 2006 to give way to a parking area. The costs of maintaining the facility were too high, as compared for it to be converted as a parking area. The National Historical Institute (NHI) and several private entities tried to prevent the building from being torn down.

On July 17, 2007, Lim attended the ceremony reopening the closed portion of Rizal Avenue, and it has remained open to this day.


Some excerpts in this article were taken from Wikipedia under the terms of the Creative Commons license.  Sources:



  • Noel Gerong

    I enjoyed reading the article, looking at the photographs of the past. Noting how affluent “Avenida” was during the ’30’s thru the sixties, while at the same time thinking of ‘avenida during the ’80’s when i frequented the place as a young adult – thinking how badly the place has become.

    Also along the way, I remember my early childhood when, i would always accompany my mother to ‘downtown’ as she called the place during weekends. To buy some school supplies and piano music pieces for my lessons. Of course the ‘pasyal’ would not be complete without my ferries wheel ride at the rooftop of Goodearth Emporium. And the tastey pastries sold on bakery street corners along the yellow and red tile-floored estribos. :dazed:

    • rebecca faso

      I remember Avenida Rizal. I used to go to a family member’s shoe store located there and shop for shoes as far as Carriedo St. It was also my favorite destination for shoe shopping, movie dates and lakwatsa. It was a very busy and noisy street. The Good Earth Emporium was the biggest dept. store on the street and had some rides on the roof top . The last purchase I made when I was at that store was a cigarette lighter as a christmas present for a friend who smoked….hopefully not anymore….ha ha and we got our names engraved on it as a reminder of our friendship that did not last long lol! Thank you for putting an article about this historical street.

  • Jenna

    I was born in 1952 and I saw the beauty of Rizal Avenue. It was the place to be at that time. We go shopping there because the shops sell quality items. There were’nt any imitations then. All items sold were genuine. There was the Goodwill bookstore and outside was a small eatery where we used to eat our yummy burgers and orange juice. There were no sidewalk vendors then only magazine stands that sell only broadsheets and American magazines. Life then was not fast pace because people can stroll along the sidewalk without having any fears that someone would grab your bag and run away with it. I love walking along with my family on a Saturday in the street of Rizal Avenue.Even the sidestreets were okay to pass through. The shops were closed on Sundays. Probably because Filipinos then were more religious than now. They have high regards for Sunday as the Lord’s Day. After mass people would pass along Rizal Avenue and window shop. How enjoyable were those days for us kids. I felt that Rizal Avenue was massacred by the technology of the modern times. The LRT was a modern thing and it brought disaster to my favorite Street….shops closed down,robbers and all sorts of modern day culprits abound the street. Gone now were the glories of my favorite Street…they are now only memories for me. Such a waste of “Heritage”…..

  • MangaJuiceXD

    I’ve read some of your articles and they are really interesting… sadly, I wasn’t able to see the beauty of the Rizal Avenue, since I was born in 1991…

    I really hope the government did some action in preserving old buildings in the Philippines… but instead, this buildings got deteriorated and forgotten… it makes me sad to think about it… Dx

    Thank you for sharing the beauty of Rizal Avenue before…


  • eiza

    i remember my aunt telling me these stories about the avenida. sadly, many places like these have become victims of neglect and “progress.” i’m hoping that the future administration (i harbor no illusion about this administration) would put more focus on aesthetics and not just functionality. the citizens should also learn how t appreciate their country and cities and not turn it into garbage dumps or spitting spots/corners (shudder).

    my korean students always remark that in the 1970’s korea regard the philippines as a progressive and developing country and that korea was poor and didnt have any good infrastructures. but all that changed after the 70’s and the now the tables hve turned. sadly, they are correct. hopefuly, we can catch up and learn how to appreciate our country more.

  • Jun Villanueva

    I used to remember this place where myDad bring me here buy me a pair of shoes at Gregs Shoes, The Good Earth Emporium also remind me when school starts this is a place to buy me a uniform and school suplies. This is a great article they remind us kung saan tayo nagsimula mula pa sa ating mga ninuno .

  • Mea

    I really loved your article thanks for sharing us what Rizal Avenue looked like before. Can I share it to my facebook account or my other website? Just wanna ask if it’s all right… GOD bless and thanks a lot :)

    • admin

      Thanks! yes, please share by all means. :)

  • akosi rudy

    Ang tatanda nyo napala….parang ako hahaha

  • Jun Sajona

    Avenida referred to as downtown, adjacent Escolta , a place for the more articulate. The movie houses, were grandeur way back then until LRT came in the early 80’s. Good Earth Emporium was the best and biggest among the Department Stores then along side with COD. Yes, GEE’s top floor was a haven for us students then, rides and amusement games, though, video and computer games were not on site yet.

    Automat, a chinese dimsum near GEE was our favorite because of its good tasting mami and siopao. My mom , together with my brother, sister will really visit Automat after shopping at GEE and of course the best shirts will be found at The Fongs, Shoes at Shoe World. Among other things were the Ice cream house parallel Universal theater, wherein Chocolait Parfait and Hamburger were my favorite.

    Wish Avenida could be reinvented. Avenida, ,a haven then……….

  • Really good article. Sad to say I was not able to see the pre war Avenida, but judging by the photos I would love to see avenida without the LRT.

    But I believe the people needs LRT though. I think the govnm’t should have considered making LRT and MRT as subway transit. Metro Manila would have been neater I think if they just made all the transit system below. Not only transit system would have been beneath the ground, maybe spaghetti wirings of power and water system could have been accomodated under together with the transport system.

    If they just planned making it as a subway system when they made the LRT and MRT, I think Metro Manila can be at par with other first class cities in the world.

    What you think?

  • teddy

    I missed this place ( Rizal Avenue during my newsboy days in 1954 )

  • Used to be called Avenida Rizal, now Rizal Avenue (iningles lang naman, yon pa rin ang kahulugan) always reminds me of fond memories with my father and brother walking along its sides until we reached Luneta for a picnic lunch. Then during my college days, (late 60s and early 70s) my classmates went there and shopped for clothes, shoes, and school supplies after classes. How I really miss those gallivanting days. Now, they’re very unforgettable good, old days in my life.

  • Thank you for sharing. Truly evokes memories of a bygone era.
    Rizal Avenue was my favorite haunt during WWII and during my high school days at the Arellano High School until I left the area to be a cadet at the PMA. I am now retired as a Colonel and just reminiscing the glory days of the past.

  • marites manzano

    i love to see photos af manila then and now, thanks for sharing. hope to see more. i remember avenida without the LRT circa 1980’s my family used to shop at good earth emporium number one department store back then. thanks again.

  • Rose Santiago Montano

    How awesome it is to see the many transformations of Avenida Rizal. Before malls became a thing, there was Avenida & Escolta! I remember my Dad, Engr. Eduardo A. Santiago taking me to those theatres: Ideal, Odeon, Galaxy…he built them all, in tandem with the various architects listed in the article…we would walk right in to watch the movies currently playing, no tickets were needed, all they had to see was Dad’s face. I was so proud then, walking hand in hand with my Dad! He also built Good Earth Emporium…I don’t remember how I knew that it was Sy’s first dept. store venture with a partner who wanted to stay in Manila when he opted to expand to other cities, whereupon SM was born….!

  • I still remember when I was young as a child my father used to take me and my brother to Quiapo where her sister was selling chico or sinigwelas (red mombin) as street peddler during christmas season. This time we will buy shoes in Avenida Rizal specially to the famous then SM shoemart where I think this store where the SM start their gigantic super mall business have started.Now only few shoe store were left in the stretch of Avenida, where in that place is famous for shoes store all over that avenue.

  • walrus

    I was there in the early 70’s..I remember Good Earth, Tien Tsin Restaurant in front of it which later transferred beside it, with their yummy hamburger with Chocolait then.. then the Automat restaurant in the street beside Good Earth…Republic Sipermarket, there was a resto inside selling churros and spanish coffee…there was also this Gala theater then showing live ‘toro’ shows frequented by most students in the area, FEATI. MIT, among others…there was also a long Komiks Haven in front of FEATI…then the KM rallies…

    • Art Lalog

      Hi. Do you know when good earth emporium started its operation in avenida?

  • Nelson

    I might consider “Avenida Rizal” as my territory in the early 80’s when I was working as a maintenance electrician in the demolished Dynasty Cinema owned by my Chinese manager, Mr. Tan and managed by his son. I was a working student at that time and I used to walk from the cinema crossing Claro M. Recto Avenue passing the whole avenue up to its end near the Pasig River. It was really interesting and enjoyable to walk to and from the cinema (my residence, too) and FEATI University. The moment I pass along this memorable place, I always remember my old time friends e.g. the sidewalk vendors and the tough “lagaristas.” Also,on my way home those days, I will never forget Sta. Cruz Church where I used to visit and regularly express my wishes through prayers which have always been granted since my college days. Therefore, every time I go to Manila, I won’t last a day without visiting the historical church. Now that I am already a successful electronics engineer, I am very proud to say that for me, there is no such place better than the famous Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

  • Xerxes Break

    When I saw that the “Ideal” signage was eventually removed, I felt sad… #ChangingTimes

  • Eduardo A. Domingo

    Yes, it’s truly a waste in constructing the MRT and LRT. Now no more visit to the past to those memories that we once have. It’s all gone like the movie houses, old stores for shoes and clothes, restaurants and the likes. It’s a shame that all were torn down to benefit these kind of transportations. The truth is, Avenida Rizal must be preserved of our heritage. I think politics has something to do with it. Well, too late now. It’s been done. I think it’s better if the people of the Philippines was involved in its reconstructions. Like putting it on election time this question: do we want to modernize Avenida Rizal? You be the judge !!!

    • RJ Vel

      Panginoon ko naman, tagalogin mo na lang. Kahit anong angulo, walang saysay yang pinagsasabi mo. Ang gulo mo!

      • Johnny Reyes

        Another flunker or Iskul Bukol in the English subject.

  • Some people say this photograph was taken in Manila. Does that seem likely? Does anyone recognize anything?

    [email protected]

  • Micey

    When I was a kid, we always shopped at the three Fair’s–Fairmart, Fair Centre and Plaza Fair. And the most glamorous theatres for me would always be Galaxy, Odeon and Roben. Jose Rizal had the keen foresight in reminding people to remember their past: he must have perceived that in general, Filipinos of generations to come, would be indifferent to their history, much less have the inclinication to preserve any of it.