Cars, Radio and Talking Movies Come to Manila in the Roaring Twenties

(Source: American Chamber Library)


Big changes in lifestyle came to Manila in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s; Cars, Radio Stations and “Talking Movies”.


American Colonial Government invested heavily in new roadways. Car ownership rose in tandem along with expanding fleets of modern taxis and buses. Increased mobility in turn led to new housing projects for middle and upper classes outside the old city limits in Santa Mesa, Pasay, New Manila, San Juan and Caloocan.

Scores of American manufactured vehicles arrived as deck cargo on transpacific steamships. 1920 era cars were mostly boxy affairs with canvas tops. But in the 1930’s “streamline” designs with modern features like hydraulic brakes, seal beam headlights and advanced engine technology attracted buyer’s attention.

Leading Automotive Dealers:

  • Pacific Commercial Co. – Chevrolet, Oakland
  • Automotive Sales Co – Buick
  • Manila Trading – Ford
  • Estrella Auto Palace – Dodge, Packard
  • Bachrach Motors – Nash, Willys
  • Philippine Motor Co – Studebaker, Auburn
  • Luneta Motor-Co- Chrysler, Maxwell

Download Cars in the Roaring 20’s and 1930’s


Radio stations began broadcasting in the late 1920’s providing a revolutionary source of home entertainment. By 1930 Manila hosted eight radio station beaming news, music and drama over the airwaves. The American Chamber sponsored a contest offering prizes for the best “Radio Plays” authored by members wanting to demonstrate their writing skills.

Modern radio sets were sold along the Escolta shopping district. Two leading dealers, Becks and Heacocks, set up their own stations to stimulate sales.

Some major dealers:

  • Heacocks Department Store – Radio Corporation of America Brand
  • Becks Department Store – Atwater Kent Brand
  • Erlanger & Galinger Inc. Victor Brand
  • A&P/Compos Hermanos Superheterodyne Brand

Download Radio in the Roaring Twenties


Talking Movies:

1930 marked a further entertainment revolution. “Talking Movies”, known as “Talkies”, came to cinemas in Manila. “Talkies” were movies with sound tracks. Before movies were silent. Movie goers relied on screen posters explaining the dialogue. A piano player was on hand, banging away on his keyboard, to portray the emotional mood of scenes on screen.

“Talkies” quickly became the rage. New theaters opened in response to demand.

Major Movie house of the 1920’s and 1930’s

  • Lyric – State
  • Ideal – Avenue
  • Capitol – Radio
  • Rialto – Times
  • Metropolitan – Life

Download Talking Movies in the Roaring Twenties