SEVEN months ago on April 12, 2014, I wrote a column entitled “Honoring J. R. McMicking – Visionary Builder of Makati.” The advocacy of the article was to duly honor Joseph R. “Joe” McMicking, the acknowledged Brains of Ayala Corporation and the Visionary who built the present-day Makati after the great devastation of World War II.
Without Joe McMicking, there won’t be the Makati we know today with all the office and residential condominium buildings, five-star hotels like Shangri-La, Peninsula, Mandarin (recently closed) and Intercon, and excellent shopping malls like Greenbelt and Glorietta located in the Central Business District (CBD). There would probably be No 25-Year Master Plan that guided the development of Makati from the 1950s to 1970s.
Likewise, if not for Mr. McMicking, the residential subdivisions of San Lorenzo, Bel-Air, Magallanes and San Miguel built in the 1950s and 1960s may not have happened. The same is true for the upscale and exclusive enclaves of Forbes Park, Dasmariñas and Urdaneta villages. Furthermore, the same is true for the companies and their warehouses and/or factories (light-industry) along Pasong Tamo from Fort Bonifacio to Vito Cruz St.
Thus, I supported the proposal of former Senator Rene A. V. Saguisag to rename Makati Avenue to J. R. McMicking Ave. after the Visionary Builder of Makati. My good friend and Manila Times colleague wrote a column to honor Mr. McMicking in the same month of April this year. However, both our articles were ignored by the Ayala Corporation and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), although the controlling shareholders of Ayala can trace their wealth to the McMicking Vision.
Meeting of Rene Saguisag and Joe McMicking
My friend Rene Saguisag personally met Joe McMicking in the early 1970s right after finishing his Masters Degree at the Harvard Law School. Rene was doing his internship for a top law firm in San Francisco whose clients happened to include Mr. McMicking. When the latter learned that a Filipino lawyer from Harvard was working there, he invited the future presidential legal counsel and senator to see him.
The meeting ended with Mr. McMicking offering Atty. Saguisag a job at Ayala Corporation in Makati upon his return back home. However, as fate would have it, Rene opted not to work for Ayala, but instead worked for the Filipino people as a distinguished human rights lawyer. Rene has written interesting anecdotes of his meeting with Joe McMicking in San Francisco in several of his Manila Times columns. The stories reveal how talented Mr. McMicking was as a businessman or entrepreneur, as well as his sense of wit and humor—and the sincerity in offering to help Saguisag in any way he could.
There is the Joseph R. McMicking Foundation based in San Francisco that is still active until today. The late Joe McMicking and his wife Mercedes Zobel were active in the philanthropic work in the Bay Area. And the reason for their stay in San Francisco is because Joe McMicking and his brother were among the first venture capitalists in California as early as the late 1940s.
Contribution of J.R. McMicking to Ayala Corporation
I read the website of Ayala Corporation and was surprised that what was written in the “History” of the country’s oldest and biggest company did not reflect the contributions of J. R. McMicking. It appears that there was either an oversight or a conscious effort to downplay his role in Ayala and in the Making of Makati.
In the section entitled “Master Plan” covering the period 1951 to 1982, there was hardly mention of Joe McMicking except that “Joseph and Mercedes Zobel McMicking established the Filipinas Foundation.” It was if Joe McMicking was not at the helm of Ayala Corporation from 1950s to 1960s – and earlier.
In the earlier period from 1900 to 1950 entitled “New Dispensation,” there were several allusions to and direct mention of J. R. McMicking, but they also did not give any insights of his contributions to Ayala Corporation. The allusion in 1929 says “Mercedes Zobel marriage in 1931will bring another brilliant son-in-law who will help shape the future of Ayala.” The first one was Antonio Ayala who married Margarita Roxas, the Matriarch of the Ayala company.
Another pathetic entry in 1931 said “Joseph R. McMicking, son of Jose McMicking, Mercedes Zobel de Ayala and becomes the Managing Partner.” It gives the wrong impression that the only qualification of Mr. McMicking was being the husband of Mercedes Zobel. There was also a wrong entry in 1943 about the death of Enrique Zobel de Ayala and “leaving the management to his son Alfonso and son-in-law, Joseph McMicking,” McMicking was in Australia that time with General Douglas MacArthur!
Speaking of Ayala Corporation, it was J. R. McMicking who organized the transformation of the partnership of Ayala y Compania to Ayala Corporation in 1968 and later had it listed in the stock market. It was his 25-Year Master Plan that guided the development of Makati as well as the growth of Ayala Corporation. Joseph and Mercedes later left for Spain in the late 1960s to develop exclusive Sotogrande in southern Spain.
Change of street names in Makati
There have been a number of changes in street names in Makati like Buendia Ave. to Sen. Gil Puyat in honor of the late Senate President. Part of Pasong Tamo is now Don Chino Roces Ave, in honor of the Manila Times publisher and later the street parliamentarian who fought the Marcos regime.
There is also the change of name of Pasay Road to “A. Arnaiz Avenue” in 1984 to honor a Philippine aviation pioneer. However, Mr. Antonio Arnaiz is virtually a complete unknown that people are wondering who he really is. Francis Arnaiz, the popular basketball player of Toyota in the 1970s, is far more famous than Mr. A. Arnaiz.
Of course, the changes of street names mentioned were done through legislation or act of Congress. In the case of Makati Avenue, it would be easier to change its name to J. R. McMicking because it is still owned by Ayala Land, Inc. and does not need legislation.
A final word
Mr. Chairman of Ayala Land, Inc. if you would like to discuss the matter of honouring Joseph R. McMicking with me, perhaps you can return my phone call of last May 2014. Your secretary promised to return my call to arrange my appointment with you after the World Economic Forum (WEF) Summit in Manila and the planning session of Ayala Land. I have not heard from your office since last May. It has been six months.