A Bachelors Life in Manila by Louis Gleek (1975)

American Diplomat and Historian Lew Gleek recollected in 1975 what a Bachelors life in Pre-WWII Manila was like. Those were the Days! BB


A Bachelor’s Life in Manila in the 1930’s

By Lew Gleek (Abridged _1975)

Manila was very much a Fun Town for the American Community in the 1930’s. The Bayview Hotel on Dewey Blvd offered the first real cocktail lounge, Whiskey Sodas 55 Cents and Martins 60 Cents. The Army-Navy Club hummed with activity. The Club began Sunday “Tea Dances” with an orchestra, giving dancers a choice from the Polo Club and Manila Hotel. The American bachelor could have a wonderful time. A big night out on the town cost only Ps 15. The prescribed dress at Manila Hotel was a white mess jacket. Attendance at Santa Ana Cabaret once a week was a must. Admission was one peso and a big glass of beer 25 Centavos. Ballerinas didn’t charge a fee, but it was customary to pay one peso per hour. A street car would take you back to town.

The Santa Ana Cabaret (owned by American John Canson) and Tom’s Dixie Kitchen & Tom’s Oriental Grill (owned by black American Tom Pritchard) epitomized what made pre-WW2-life fun. Bachelors spent much of their leisure time in various clubs. But the Cabaret was more entertaining. In accordance with the social customs of the East, it was chiefly the men who were entertained. Manila was a Bachelor’s Paradise. One who was departing paid anonymous tribute to the pleasures of Manila as follows:


A Bachelor’s Tribute

“I bid goodbye to Military Circles, to those who could and to those who could not keep their servants. Goodbye to “Juniors”- grown blasé hearing their mothers report scandals, haranguing self-assured bachelors for a “date”. And to countless exquisite mestizas; I bid a fond farewell; for tolerating my numerous whiskey- sodas, volleys of verbosity to prove my cynical attitude, and my poor dancing. Goodbye lovely creatures! Goodbye to the Manila Hotel, with its romantic atmosphere, its heaven-sent dance pavilion, its 19th Hole and free sandwiches. Goodbye to Head Waiter Carlos, who could always find a table, where among countless others sipping their bottled poisons, we too were granted reprieve from dull reality. Goodbye to the Sugar Centrals that have helped while away tedious hours by granting courtesies to their libraries, golf courses, bowling, alleys, invitations to champagne dinners and well attended bars. Goodbye to the crowded Escolta, devoid of parking places, the articles of our desires and fair prices. Goodbye to the theatres, the lavish Metropolitan and the chaste Ideal. Goodbye to Tom’s Dixie. May its riotous morning hours be enjoyed by other jaded travelers, and long may it prosper! To lesser dens of lesser fame or of greater iniquities, which also received their share of my peculiar existence, I bid Goodbye and remember that my precarious security rests entirely upon their discretion”. –Yes! Manila, a Fun Town in the 1930’s.