08/24/17

The Messy Saga of the Mile Long-Sunvar Complex

If there is one piece of real estate in the metropolis that can be considered the most controversial of all, at least controversial enough to merit national attention, it would be that stretch of land from Dela Rosa Street up to Arnaiz Avenue (the former Pasay Road) in Makati, known as the Mile Long-Sunvar complex.

It is a controversy that had all the elements of a thrilling drama: a lengthy litigation, a struggle between government and a prominent business clan who also happens to own the country’s leading newspaper, and a dogged determination of a president who just hates this family’s guts. But for us to understand the controversy, it is important to learn how the properties and the controversy that came with them, began in the first place. Continue reading

08/10/17

Makati’s Little Tokyo

If there is one facet of Makati that not many people are aware about, it is that it has a vibrant Japanese neighborhood located at the fringe of the main business district.

In particular, this Japanese neighborhood can be found along the stretch of Chino Roces Avenue and neighboring streets in the area approximately between Rufino Street and Arnaiz Avenue. Then again, one cannot miss it with the presence of establishments catering to Japanese clientele, as well as to Nipponophiles.

Herald Suites in Chino Roces Avenue may not sound like a Japanese hotel, but it is located in Makati’s Japanese neighborhood and it has a Japanese bar and restaurant as well.

But if you want to have a taste, literally and figuratively, of Japan but cannot yet afford the airfare, Little Tokyo is the place to go.

The moment you pass through the arch, makes you feel you are no longer in the urban jungle of Metro Manila. Indeed, it feels as if you are being transported into the heart of Japan. But don’t expect that Little Tokyo will virtually take you to the modern, bustling Tokyo of today. Instead, it invites you to appreciate the old, laidback vibe of Japanese capital.

Surrounded by bonsais and colorful paper lanterns, Little Tokyo provides visitors the experience of what traditional Japan is like while enjoying some sumptuous Japanese cuisine and drinks, courtesy of the restaurants located there. It also helps that the area is laid out in such a way that you are being insulated from the noise and chaos of the outside, making it an ideal place to relax and enjoy what traditional Japan has to offer.

So if you’re craving Japanese, why not go all out and experience not only the taste but the feel of Japan as well. It’s a must visit not only for any Nipponophile but for anyone for seeks a place for respite in a frenetic city.

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05/7/17

RCBC Plaza and the Alfonso Yuchengco Legacy

It was less than a month ago, to be exact on April 15 which was Black Saturday, when news of Alfonso Yuchengco’s death thrust the country’s business community in greater mourning since the passing of Mercury Drug’s founder Mariano Que the previous day.

Alfonso Yuchengco (photo courtesy of Alchetron)

Unlike many of the country’s taipans, Alfonso Yuchengco, known to many as AY, was born to an already prosperous family, thanks to the efforts of his father Enrique Yuchengco, a Fujian-born immigrant who managed to establish some thriving businesses, notably the China Insurance and Surety Company which became the leading non-life insurance company in the country. But to his credit, AY managed to grow the insurance business, evolving into what is now Malayan Insurance and expanding into other businesses such as life insurance with Grepalife (which eventually entered into a partnership with Sun Life to become Sun Life Grepa Financial), banking through Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), and education through his purchase of Mapua Institute of Technology.

In addition to being a businessman, AY also served as a diplomat, having served as ambassador to Japan, Korea, China, and even the United Nations. Not to mention having served as special envoy for a number of diplomatic missions.

Alfonso Yuchengco’s legacy, both positive and negative, is very much visible with the presence of his businesses in different parts of the country. But perhaps what stands out the most as far as his legacy is concerned is the iconic building at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue: the RCBC Plaza. Continue reading

03/12/17

The Church That Gave Birth to a City: The St. Peter and Paul Church in Makati

While the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church is considered as Makati’s oldest structure, it was actually not in that location where the Makati that we know today was born. In fact, during the time the aforementioned church was built, Makati as a settlement had not been established yet and was still considered part of the thriving Santa Ana settlement which used to be the site of the pre-Hispanic Kingdom of Namayan.

The beginnings of Makati can be traced in 1608 (or 1607 as said in the marker), when the Jesuits received a donation of land from Captain Pedro de Brito, a military officer of the Spanish Crown who originally bought what was then a vast hilly swampland along the Pasig River. The Jesuits would proceed to build a Catholic church in the estate, right near the highest point of the newly acquired estate, hoping not only to evangelize the people to the Catholic faith but also to entice people to settle in what was then a barren landscape.

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03/5/17

The Grace of Makati’s Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church

Hidden behind the dominating Guadalupe billboards and the emerging skyscrapers in nearby Rockwell, not to mention the urban congestion that has befallen the area, lies Makati’s centuries old gem. It is considered to be the oldest Catholic church located in the city and has become a cherished Makati landmark. You can even see it represented in the city seal.

The Makati city seal; note the image of the church in the foreground

This has long been an awaited feature on the Urban Roamer and finally, we are going to roam this landmark up close. Of course, I am referring to Makati’s graceful landmark that is the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church.

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