It was September 29, 1890, which happened to be the feast of St. Michael and the rest of the Archangels, when a fellow named Enrique Barretto y Ycaza opened up a brewery in the Manila suburb named after the aforementioned saint. With a royal grant from Spain, Enrique decided to name the brewery after that suburb where he has lived and worked. So began the history of Fabrica Cerveza de San Miguel, the brewery which would become the San Miguel Corporation we would know today.
The document which bore that royal grant had the old seal of Manila insigned with a crown above it. Seeing the significance of this seal, Enrique adopted it as the logo for his brewery, which is still seen today as the current corporate logo of the company. The seal is known as the escudo, which means shield; incidentally, it was also the name for once Spain’s old currency before the peseta and eventually the euro.
The brewery was located at 6 Calzada de Malacañang, the road now known today as J.P. Laurel St. and was only a few blocks away from the Malacañang Palace which served at the time as the residence of the Spanish Governor General in the Philippines and was the home of the company for more or less 60 years before moving to a new head office on the then-growing Makati Business District. Nevertheless, the city government has honored the legacy of Enrique Ycaza and his contribution to the city by naming a street after him: the one known as Ycaza St. in the middle of St. Jude Shrine and Malacañang Complex.
The property of the old San Miguel offices meanwhile was acquired by the government during the Marcos years for “security purposes” as well as the expansion Malacañang was going through at the time. (The same is the case as to what happened to the other structures in the area, which I talked about earlier) It was renovated and refurbished in the 1980’s to serve as the New Executive Building which would serve as the office of the Press Secretary (or the Communications Group as the current administration calls it) as well as other offices under the Office of the President. The price tag for this refurbishment during the time was at a high cost that critics dubbed the building as the “Borloloy Building”, “borloloy” being the Filipino slang for extravagance.
At a parallel development around the time as well, San Miguel Corporation moved out of Makati to its new headquarters up north during an interesting, if not turbulent period for the company. With the ascendancy of the first Eduardo Cojuangco era in the company in 1984 amidst issues of corporate control, the same year also saw San Miguel Corporation move north at the heart of the Ortigas Center Business District in an office building whose architecture is reminiscent of a Babylonian ziggurat or the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon (which is the more likely inspiration for the building, given the “greenery” the building has) built by the property development arm of the company and designed by National Artist Francisco Mañosa, who was also responsible for the Coconut Palace.
Today, the corporate headquarters of San Miguel Corporation stands proudly as a landmark in this part of the city as its unique architecture has become part of the company’s long and rich history.
© The Urban Roamer