Art by Neal Corpus
In its third iteration last year, the Escolta Block Party drew a record 3,000 attendees, coming together on two blocks around the Binondo area. As more people continue to take note of and participate in this celebration of creativity and belonging in Old Manila, this year’s version of the event has been transformed from a one-day affair to a month-long festival.
For years, a community of creatives has been quietly leading a movement to revitalize the oldest streets of our capital city, which was once a bustling commercial and financial district and is now home to a burgeoning art and design scene. The Escolta Block Festival aims to highlight these efforts, as well as to tell everyone that this once-deserted and forgotten district is worth another look. (Not to mention multiple and frequent visits.)
This year, the festival re-examines cities and how they and their inhabitants can grow. How do we give meaning to the spaces we occupy and make them functional and humane? What goes into fostering a true community? The festival hopes to answer these questions by spurring people into action and giving them a platform for ideas, with arts and culture at the center. It showcases a Manila that’s more vibrant and colorful than ever through bouts of discovery and discussion, as well as meaningful intersections of the city’s past and its future.
The Escolta Block Festival began on Nov. 9 and will continue with performances, exhibitions and installations, talks, and pop-ups and trade fairs through the rest of the month around Escolta St. and surrounding areas.
Recurring events and pop-ups include open studios, a Baybayin workshop by CQPH, a block market, and the Escolta Public Art Project, which consists of installations by partner artists. The Manila Creative Exchange and One Zero Design Co are holding portfolio reviews for young architects and designers. There’s also the Block Bakery, with pastries from Baker on East, bread from 28 Derby, and drinks from Jacob’s Well.
In the mixed-media exhibit Alienated Spaces, artist Leeroy New and urban planner Julia Nebrija posit that the neglected corners of the city are also worth enjoying and appreciating. Film critic Richard Bolisay will discuss the depiction of cities in cinema and how they can become characters themselves. Pineapple Lab, meanwhile, brings Gayborhood, its famed queer talent showcase.
Don’t miss tours around Escolta and Quiapo hosted by the likes of Ivan Man Dy and CQPH. Learn the art and appreciation of typography with Tipong Pilipino, which entails a separate talk and exhibit. Grow plants without soil at a hydroponics workshop. Rekindle your love of reading with an open library and Fully Booked pop-up.
And of course, we can’t forget the Escolta Block Party itself, which closes out the festival and promises to last until the better part of the night. What are these festivities, after all, without great music and dancing the night away with strangers and friends alike?