Berg's Coffee Drink

Our Berg's drink is a tribute to Berg's Department store and a tribute to the history of the place we call home. Apart from the favorite coconut-coffee beverage that you enjoy at @TheDenManila today, the origin of the name Berg's has a long colorful history that tells the story of the space where The Den and the HUB Make Lab is located. Here is a brief history of Berg's in excerpts as told in Lou Gopal's Manila Nostalgia Blog:

Berg Flyer

Berg Department Store and Ernest Berg

"The store was named after Ernest Berg, a German who moved to the Philippines to escape WWI. Quite the entrepreneur, Berg started his first business, the Red Star Auto Stores which quickly grew to a chain of 32 branches that spread throughout the Philippines. After starting a successful cars and parts business, he also built a department store which he named after his family. This was the ‘30s when Escolta was booming."

Ernest Berg

"The department store was known for selling imported toys and ready-made ladies wear. The latter was a novel offering since most clothes were made to order that time, even in the U.S. "

“My dad realized that if he needed a spark plug and couldn’t find one, he’d have to wait till the ship arrived with supplies.  His favorite saying was, “If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed.” – Evelyn Berg Empie

Berg's Memorabilla

"Berg’s was a family-run business. Ernest’s brother had settled in Manila with his German wife when their sister Marianne arrived by ship from Europe.  “My father had told Marianne that if she learned English she could come over and manage the Ladies Ready Wear Dept. of Berg’s. Having ready-made dresses was quite an innovation in those days, where even in America, women for the most part, had their clothes made to order.” – Evelyn Berg Empie 

Berg Department Store Facade


"But by the mid-1930s, the Escolta had grown from its humble beginnings to the premier shopping district in Manila. It was filled with offices of professionals: dentists, lawyers, optometrists and of course retail stores such as I. Beck’s, Heacock’s, Riu Hermanos, and Estrella del Norte. And within the newly built Crystal Arcade, the Manila Stock Exchange, more offices and retail shops. Business was booming and Ernest Berg wanted to ride along on that wave.  The Lyric Music House in the Perez-Samanillo building vacated, leaving that attractive corner location of Escolta and Calle David available. Quick to realize the retail potential, Ernest and Alfred opened a new department store called Berg’s."

"The Battle of Manila wreaked destruction on what was once “The Pearl of the Orient”. The beautiful Escolta with its fine stores and buildings were almost totally destroyed, the Crystal Arcade laid to ruin."

"The years of reconstruction were hard on everyone, especially those trying to restart their businesses. After a few years, Ernest called it quits and found another entrepreneur to carry on the Berg’s tradition, Mr. Sy Lian Teng."

Sy Lian Teng

Sy Lian Teng

Ernest sold Berg’s to Chinese entrepreneur Sy Lian Teng in the ‘50s.

"Sy Lian Teng was born in 1906 in Amoy, China.  At the age of 13, Sy was summoned by his father to join him in Manila to help in his sari-sari store business. After a few years, both eager and ambitious, Sy went on to work for the owner of Cosmos Bazar, founded in 1926 by a Mr. Lim.  Sy’s sense of customer service impressed Mr. Lim so much that he offered Sy half ownership in the store and later, Sy bought out the business when the owner retired.  The young Mr. Sy’s career in retailing blossomed."

"In 1945, Sy’s brother, Hua San was captured by the Japanese and never returned. Fearing additional reprisal from the Japanese, Sy was advised to leave Manila with his oldest son, Guillermo. Tragedy took its toll as the remaining members of Sy’s family, his wife and eight children, perished in a fire during the Battle of Manila. The unfortunate Mr. Sy not only lost his home, his store but also his entire family."

"In 1979, upon hearing that the First United Building (formerly Perez Samanillo Building) was up for sale, Sy decided to make a bid for it because he didn’t want new landlords raising his rent spuriously.  He bought half of the Ground Floor (where Berg’s was located), the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors from the family of Cory Cojuangco Aquino."


His family currently owns the First United Building where the store was formerly located. Berg’s officially closed shop in 1982 but now, in its place is the HUB Make Lab where space is rented out and exhibition venue grants are given to artists in an effort to revive Manila’s lost shopping district. 

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