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The making of ‘Fifty Years and Forward’: The first book on the Makati CBD

By LISA GUERRERO NAKPIL, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 26, 2022 5:00 am

The story of the making of Makati had a lot of swashbuckling characters, the most striking being Colonel Joseph McMicking, who was a war hero and then, like the survivors of his generation, made up his mind to rebuild after the devastation of World War II.

It was Col. McMicking, alongside Don Alfonso Zobel de Ayala and Col. Jaime C. Velasquez, who were the extraordinary gentlemen who came up with the Makati ‘Master Plan.’ It took them two or three years to do it, using all the instruments of the 20th century, such as research and marketing. It’s hard to imagine but they had all of that in their toolbox in 1948. McMicking once famously said, “It may look like we just pulled a rabbit out of a hat, but it takes planning to put the rabbit there in the first place!” (Incidentally, Don Alfonso was the father of the venerable Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, whose sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando continue to run the country’s oldest business house.)

The real challenge was to come up with a book that would do the Makati Central Business District justice—that golden quadrant through which Ayala Avenue runs and everyone identifies with Makati. This would be the first-ever book on its making, and the assignment was to tell the story of how this “proto-city” would become the template of not just future urban developments in the Philippines but also the rest of Southeast Asia.

The men who would chart the course of the Master Plan: (Seated, from left) Fernando Zobel, Don Alfonso Zobel de Ayala, Col. Joseph McMicking; (standing) Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Alfredo Melian, Col. Jaime C. Velasquez

The publisher of the book is the Makati Central Estate Association, which was an important part of the Master Plan. It’s a private organization made up of the CBD building owners who quietly but effectively shepherded the development of the district. It’s on their 59th year—hence the title Fifty Years and Forward: It’s a time-defying phrase.

The chairman and president of MACEA is none other than architect William V. Coscolluela, who gave the book an architect’s perspective and that’s very evident not just in the text but also in the visuals.

For example, we took to roof decks and to the skies to get aerial shots, crashing a couple of drones in the process. To get the cover shot I wanted, Wig Tysmans, lead photographer, had to shoot while lying on his back between buildings. Patrick Diokno, art director for L’Officiel, did the atmospheric shots; Miguel Lucas Wylengco was the book designer who went over and above the call of duty.

It was also important to Coscolluela to chart the contributions of MACEA to make the CBD a connected, walkable, weather-proof city—think of the underpasses and its glass vestibules and the elevated walkways—but also a secure district that is safe 24/7 in tune with today’s work and lifestyles.

Fernando Zobel de Ayala provided the context for the direction of the book. He really parsed the essence of the Makati CBD and its different moving parts — and put into words what is often most important but invisible to the eye.

The MACEA board was also active in sharing its inputs and that was a huge help. And, in keeping with MACEA tradition, the book is intended for a worthy cause: to help Makati’s poorest cope with the pandemic.

Is it serendipity that the Master Plan also provided for a great archive of the city? Col. McMicking and his wife, Mercedes Zobel, established the Filipinas Foundation in 1961, which is now the Ayala Foundation, which in turn created the Ayala Museum and the Filipinas Heritage Library. Both were key resources for the book. Therefore, in more ways than one, you might say that Fifty Years and Forward is true to the Master Plan, and that perhaps its visionaries foretold it.