Escolta Museum’s Vintage Bottle Collection



Unknown to some people is the Escolta Museum. The museum is located at the mezzanine of the Calvo Building along Escolta Street. It has a permanent exhibit entitled “Bote’t, Diyaryo, Extraordinaryo.”  



Enclosed in glass shelves are vintage bottles, old photographs and old newspaper articles that perhaps showcase Escolta and its vicinity to be the Philippines’ Western Emporium at the turn-of-the-century. Also on display are scale models of existing and non-existing buildings located along this short thoroughfare along the Pasig River. 




The product and services offered in Escolta are highlighted in an exhibit of newspaper advertisements. The advertisements are mostly from Spanish to the late American Period. These ads feature imported household products to overwhelmingly agrarian Philippines then.  




The ads revealed that Filipinos of that era has imported everything from phonographs to sliver spoons, from shoes to empty bottles!



The Vintage Bottle Collection



Most of the bottles surfacing in Manila were used from the late 19th century until the pre-World War II era. From 1917 to 1933, empty bottles and jars made up of one third of imported glassware reaching the Philippines including tableware, mirrors, window and plate glass, eyeglasses and lamp chimneys. 



According to Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, these bottle collectibles were partly the result of conscientious bottle recycling prompted by the lack of local bottle makers. Housewives had to present containers when purchasing cooking oil, kerosene, vinegar, fish sauce, carabao milk, locally distilled liquor and a host of other liquids.


Dark green bottles usually held gin or the one popular anise wine. One version is stamped La Tondeña. 



Like their European counterparts, Manila druggists displayed apothecaries with colored water in their windows and sold patent medicines. They came in cheaply made amber, aquamarine, green or clear bottles stamped with brands and cities of origin. 



Cobalt blue bottles that held poisons or acids, essences, and light-sensitive compounds meant strictly for external use, eventually became containers for laxatives, salts, and even an archaic fragrance called Blue Waltz bottled along the Pasig River. 



In the 1800s, charged and soda waters were the rage due to the rising health consciousness as a result of earthquake tolls, cholera and other epidemics. Sta. Maria noted that the bottle-capped beverage was introduced in the early 1900s by a Japanese drink called Tansan. The company left bomb-shaped bottles embossed with its brand name that remains the local word for bottle cap. 



However, not all bottles are glass. Beer came in thick, cream colored ceramic containers that sometimes sport broad golden brown bands across the rim and shoulders. They were used well into the late 1800s by Scottish and English breweries. Previous beverages like rum, ginger-beer and whisky were also stored in clay bottles, a practice that continued to the 20th century. 



Philippine glassmaking only began in 1937 when San Miguel Brewery set up the first bottling plant in Philippines. Its initial product was a tall. Slim, moss green beer bottle. Previously the firm’s containers came from Hongkong, then Japan.


I appreciate the effort of those who put up this museum. Not only that the exhibit provides visual details about the architectural structures that once stood along Escolta, it also gives its visitors a glimpse of the preferences, lifestyle and taste of the Filipino during that era.


Information source: Felice Prundente-Sta. Maria, Household Antiques and Heirlooms


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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi I have a thick, cream colored ceramic containers sport broad golden brown bands across the rim and shoulders. “Royal” old style stone ginger beer.. Bottled by San Miguel Brewery 57 Gral. Solano, Manila…just like in the last picture. I just want to know it there is anyone interested to buy … call me if interested 09276741206

  2. Hi good day my father found an antique gin green bottle
    Long time ago.This bottle is special for us why? because
    it knocks 3 times at the midnight then my father got a small lump he saw the image inside the bottle.this is true.
    Please open this link
    Saw the image inside the bottle.and this is true!

  3. i have an vintage beer bottle that my brother found in his work place.
    Name are WF&Sco MIL,,R&co,

  4. Have an old San Miguel pale pilsner bottle made into a drinking glass. Would like to know if anyone has seen one of these?

  5. I saw the vintage bottles of La Tondena in your web site. The green ones….I have bottles like that too. I would like to ask on how can I sell it and where? I’ve been looking for contacts or any person who”s interested in that bottles. Any suggestons? It will be highly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hi Vida. I saw vintage bottles being sold in several thrift stores at the old MarikinaExpo in Cubao. I was told some of the are consignments. La Tondena bottles are being sold there for 400 to 500 a piece.

      • Hi TOF You just mentioned thrift stores in Cubao–have you ever visited any of these stores or seen any vintage American items from the sixties’ for sale there? In old Tagalog movies and teleseryas I see vintage clothing, furniture, dishes and other vintage items, and wonder if they’re ever for sale in Cubao or elsewhere. Have you seen any?
        I collect a lot of vintage stuff from the sixties’ and seventies’ and was just curious about any items that might have made it to the Philippines.

        • Yes queeniebee. It’s my favorite hang out when I am in the area. I’ve known the owners of some of the art galleries and thrift shops.

  6. Ahh. Too bad for you Mr. Joseph Rey Fortich that the guard did not allow you to enter because I was able to when I visited the place (na nagiisa) a day before I posted the article (which I believe that was about three weeks ago). I have no control over their visiting policies sir. What I stated on this article are the things the guard on duty and the curator has told me during my most recent visit.

    I have no intensions of misleading those who visit this site. I am really sorry that they did not let you in. Good luck.

  7. ur making wrong information here. pls try to explain to ur readers that this museum can be viewed just anytime. upon reading this, i went there myself only to be told by the guards that they won’t allow me since ‘nag-iisa’ lang ako. pls dont mislead ur readers about the correct info of the places ur visiting. ur different from conde nast traveller where they tell just about EVERYTHING!

  8. I spent 3yrs working along escolta st but I was not aware that there’s such a museum :(.

    Hopefully I could visit it this weekend.

    Thanks for the info!!

  9. I was told by the guard that the museum is actually close however it may be opened upon the request of a visitor at any day of the week.

    No formalities necessary. You can simply walk in and inform the guard of your purpose.

    entrance fee is Php.50.

  10. i wasn’t able to enter that when i last toured escolta. the guard told me it’s only open on Sundays 😦

    i was also looking for a bottle of Quink there. I also heard the old chinese restaurant already closed shop?

  11. my pleasure pusa.

  12. thanks for sharing this find, will check it out this weekend 🙂

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