Beyond Brushstrokes

“The rapid, well-ordered growth of Makati didn’t happen by chance. One thing has to be made clear: The process that caused this change was long and complicated. It had to be planned… It was created.”

— Colonel Joseph R. McMicking

“It has been interesting to follow through the unique role that the leaders of Ayala played in the evolution of the Makati Central Business District, from concept, to planning, and ultimately, to execution,” revealed Fernando Zóbel de Ayala, chairman of Ayala Land, president and CEO of Ayala Corp., in the newly launched book on the development of Makati, Fifty Years and Forward.

This stunningly beautiful book will take the reader on an extraordinary journey that Col. McMicking once called “The Makati Adventure.” It is the first book on the making of the Makati Central Business District (CBD), that golden quadrant through which Ayala Avenue runs. It has defined the entire city.

“Col. Joseph McMicking played a very distinctive role in the visioning of Makati with the close support and help of Alfonso Zobel de Ayala and Col. Jaime C. Velasquez. Much of the execution of this plan followed under the leadership of Enrique Zóbel and subsequently, Jaime Zóbel de Ayala, laying down the strong foundations of the Makati that we see today.

“Along the way, while the key principles of the original masterplan were maintained, certain elements were adjusted, all in the hope of ensuring that the development was as relevant and responsive to the needs of the times,” he explained.

“Today, as this responsibility moved to our generation of managers, we once again had to evolve Makati to keep it as dynamic and meaningful to present and future Filipinos; Throughout this process, MACEA (Makati Central Estate Association) continues to be a key partner as the association that represents the diverse community within this district. We work hand in hand though MACEA and with all our stakeholders to achieve these goals and preserve Makati’s status as the country’s premier city.”

He described Col. McMicking as “A true visionary… a bold and pioneering spirit.”

Architect William V. Coscolluela, chairman and president of MACEA, wrote in the preface of the book: “MACEA’s primary purposes were two-fold: ‘To promote the general welfare, prosperity, service, and reputation of the Ayala Avenue-Paseo de Roxas Administrative Office Area. To promote the best interest and well-being as well as safeguard the welfare of the owners, lessees and occupants of property’ in the area.”

The original incorporators of MACEA were Col. Jaime C. Velasquez, Salvador J. Lorayes, Silvio M. Barcelon, Ramon T. Garcia, and Jose Ma. Enriquez. In 1953, the Association had 39 landowner-members. In 2021, there are more than 390 members.

MACEA has quietly but effectively shepherded the area’s trajectory as the nation’s business — and political — nerve-center to the high-rise residences that set the pace for the country’s condos, to the 21st century “city within cities” combining creative communities and transport hubs and information highways.

In the book’s epilogue, Jaime Zóbel de Ayala, chairman emeritus of Ayala Corp., wrote: “Anticipation of the future is based of the past — and on the present. The elements of yesterday serve as the foundation of today and influence the direction of tomorrow.”

The book’s author, Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, navigated the research and production. She described the process, “The terrific thing is that the ‘Master Plan’ that created Makati also provided for the establishment of an archive, a repository of information. At the same time those fabulous buildings on Ayala Avenue were going up in the 1960s, Col. McMicking and his wife Mercedes Zóbel set up the Filipinas Foundation which would eventually become Ayala Foundation, which in turn created Ayala Museum and the Filipinas Heritage Library which are all wonderful sources of data.

“Among all the things that were envisioned by the planners — Col. McMicking, Don Alfonso Zóbel de Ayala, Col. Jaime C. Velasquez — the importance given to culture was never taken for granted. That attitude informs the business and investment of the CBD.

“MACEA chairman and president William Coscolluela gave the book an architect’s perspective and one can see this in the text and visuals. Fernando Zóbel de Ayala provided the context for the direction of the book. He parsed the essence of the Makati CBD and its different moving parts.

“It was important to Arch. Coscolluela to chart the develop as a connected, walkable, weather-proof city — think of the underpasses and elevated walkways — but also a secure district that is safe 24/7 in tune with today’s work and lifestyles.

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

The Ayala archives had two exceptional and precious vintage photographs by Nap Jamir. They were traced back to his son who is an excellent photographer in his own right.

“Nap Jr. was putting together an archive of his father’s work and was rehabilitating the negatives. It took several months — almost as long as the book production itself to get them back into shape.”

Well-known photographers were reeled in by Ms. Nakpil. Wig Tysmans, an architecture graduate, found it a different challenge. “The cover of the book, for example, involved lying on his back between the structures of the new Tower two (in the Ayala Triangle Gardens) to get just the right angle.

“I was a little merciless with him because this was at the height of the Delta virus, and he had to shoot without his usual retinue. If the photographs have the feel of Vanilla Sky (the surreal movie that featured empty streets), it’s because it was a surreal time. Mr. Tysmans had a talented fellow, Paul Quiambao, who operated the drones. We crashed a couple of those in the process because there’s apparently a lot of jammers in the CBD. We also recruited Patrick Diokno who is the creative director of L’Officiel [for the] atmospheric shots,” Ms. Nakpil recalled.

The timeline of Makati from1834 through the decades until 2021 makes one feel nostalgic. The vintage photos of the Master Plan; The Nielsen Tower and airfield (1937) on Makati Ave.; the early Makati buildings like the Rizal Theater (1960), Hotel Inter-Continental (1969), the Asian Institute of Management, and the first skyscraper, The Insular Life Building (1962), that still stands at the iconic crossroads of Ayala Ave. and Paseo de Roxas.

The book’s impressive visuals include photos of geometric patterns — close and long shots of the shimmering steel and glass skyscrapers — the magnificent Ayala Triangle Gardens Tower Two, the multi-awarded Zuellig Building with its unique bamboo design on the glass windows. There are the murals on the ceilings and walls of a driveway and the underpasses; aerial shots of the towers and rooftops with floral designs including that of the Makati Medical Center (1969).

The verdant lungs of the city are the Jaime C. Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village and the Zen-inspired Washington Sycip Park in Legazpi Village.

A chapter “The Capital of Art” is dedicated to the precious collections located everywhere in the area. These include the excavated pieces of the exquisite pre-Spanish gold collection and the abstract paintings, including the legendary black and white Icaro (1958) by the internationally acclaimed artist Fernando Zóbel, at the gleaming new Ayala Museum. This painting was exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2017.

The Exchange Plaza has the Philippine marble sculpture by Impy Pilapil and the epic black and white artworks by National Artist Arturo Luz. A dramatic brass sculpture by Eduardo Castrillo is at the MetroBank plaza. A painting of National Artist Juan Luna is at the RCBC Plaza’s Yuchengco Museum. The Mauro “Malang” Santos Barrio Fiesta mural is at the Makati Building.

The fabulous annual Art Fair (2017) held at the Link carpark has featured the intriguing installation Settlement by Mark Justiniani and the landmark contemporary mural collaboration Tagadagat by Elmer Borlongan and Manny Garibay.

Ms. Nakpil’s flowing historical essays complement the marvelous visuals of the book. It is “must-have” for the collections of businessmen, lovers of art, architecture, culture and history, and schools and institutions.

Warm congratulations to Ayala Corp., Ayala Land, and publisher MACEA for the launch of Fifty Years and Forward

(The book is available by e-mailing


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.