Fernando Zobel on honoring J.R. McMicking


THE column that I wrote last week (MT, Nov. 29, 2014) entitled “Fernando Zobel de Ayala not keen to honor McMicking?” elicited a prompt response from the President & Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ayala Corporation himself.

Mr. Zobel wrote a letter dated December 1, 2014, two days after the publication of the article that asked whether Ayala is honoring enough the contributions of Mr. Joseph “Joe” R. McMicking, the Visionary who built Makati. Mr. McMicking was at the helm of Ayala Corporation from the late 1940s up to the 1960s. Colonel Joe McMicking also served as a high-ranking intelligence officer with the staff of General Douglas MacArthur during World War II.

Before WWII, Ayala had not developed its 1,650-hectare Hacienda de San Pedro in Makati except for the lease of the Nielson airport that opened in 1937. The Manila International Air Terminal was the country’s first commercial airport. In the 1930s, Ayala sold lots in the Singalong and San Andres districts in Manila just outside the boundary of Makati. This explains why there is a long Zobel-Roxas Street parallel to these two districts.

It was J. R. McMicking who ordered the preparation of the 25-year Ayala Master Plan to guide the development of the former Hacienda Makati that was described as “marginally unproductive and underutilized land” that was acquired way back in 1851. As Ayala Corporation would put it, the land later provided the “substrate for the company’s most ambitious and exciting development plan.”

The blueprint for a “multi-zone sub-city” gave way for the country’s first zoning in its development: residential, commercial and industry (light-industry). It was considered as “farsighted and ambitious” at time and the vision turned into reality with the suburban villages, office buildings and light-industry factories and warehouses and a first-class commercial center. After Makati, there would be the new huge Ayala Alabang development, south of Manila.

(The Makati property was purchased by Bonifacio Roxas, brother of Margarita Roxas who married Antonio Ayala, the business partner of her father Domingo Roxas. Margarita Roxas de Ayala was the family matriarch.)

Joe McMicking also steered Ayala and its companies into the challenging post-war era with the rehabilitation of the country’s business and economy and the prosperity in the decades ahead. In 1968, the Ayala y Compañia partnership was transformed into the present-day Ayala Corporation. It was the start of new business ventures that would mark the “modern times” ahead plus the partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions that would ultimately define the Ayala conglomerate.

Letter of Fernando Zobel de Ayala
In his letter, Mr. Zobel thanked this columnist for “highlighting so many of Mr. McMickings contributions to Ayala and Makati.” The president and COO of Ayala Corporation said that “Mr. and Mrs. McMicking are an extremely important part of Ayala’s recent history. They are remembered at many of our corporate events and are featured very prominently in all our corporate publications and our interviews.”

Indeed, Mr. McMicking has been honored by Ayala, such as in its 180th anniversary.

The April 2014 issue of the glossy Philippine Tatler magazine published the photo of Mr. Joseph R. McMicking at the center with first cousins Jaime Zobel and Enrique Zobel beside him on the cover. The title of the cover was “Ayala Celebrates 180 Years.” Another photo of Mr. McMicking together with Mr. Alfonso Zobel and Enrique Zobel with the title “Empire Builders” was also published in the 12-page article.

In the cover story of the Tatler magazine, the black and white handsome photo of Mr. Joseph McMicking appears on the entire first-page and the aerial photo of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas on the second-page of the spread. The title of the anniversary article is “The Power & The Glory” of Ayala, country’s oldest and most prestigious company.

According to Emi de Lara, Head of Corporate Communications of Ayala Corporation, Mr. Fernando Zobel’s instruction is to always use the said photo of Mr. MicMicking with cousins Jaime and Enrique in order to honor them. True enough, the same photo would appear in its 180th anniversary publication Inside Ayala > 180.

In the landmark Ayala publication, there were several photos of Mr. McMickinng with his wife Mercedes Zobel and his brothers-in-law Alfonso Zobel (father of Don Jaime) and Jacobo Zobel (father of Enrique). There was also the caption “Mercedes’ husband Joseph McMicking would take the Ayala business house to a new era” that recognized his important contributions to Ayala Corporation.

In The Legacy Makers spread of Inside Ayala > 180, Joe McMicking was called the “Visionary of the Ayala Master Plan” and was cited for establishing the country’s first corporate foundation together with his wife Mercedes. The Filipinas Foundation would later become the Ayala Foundation.

I have not touched on the matter of renaming Makati Avenue “J. R. McMicking Avenue” to honor the man responsible to the Making of Makati. This is the proposal of this writer as well as fellow Manila Times columnist and friend, former Senator Rene A. V. Saguisag, that we wrote in our respective columns in April 2014.

Mr. Fernando Zobel, who is also the Chairman of Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), gave the reasons why it is most unlikely for Makati Ave. to be renamed as McMicking Ave. He said that “the renaming of streets is not something that we would encourage…

“However, there have been changes of names in the past. He said that “we have received strong negative feedback in the past when streets are renamed.”

Mr. Zobel ends his letter saying that “we are proposing instead to find a way to honor Mr. McMicking within the Ayala Triangle or another prominent part of Makati.” He added that “we should be able to make a decision in the next few months.” Well, I recall having heard the same thing said about four months ago.

I will write on the issue of renaming of streets in my future column. For now, what I can say is that there are only 25 buildings along Makati Ave. whose addresses would be affected by the change of name to J. R. McMicking Ave.


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  1. If the Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution had succeeded and won, the 1,650-hectare Hacienda de San Pedro in Makati would have been distributed to farmers-beneficiaries by the revolutionists. Since the revolution was defeated by the Americans the Ayala’s benefited from the American victory and retained ownership of the hacienda and became very rich from it. Based on the preceding fact, it would be justified to say that the Ayalas are the enemies of the Filipino people.

    • If the Philippine Revolution succeeded as it should, the new Filipino government would have to recognize the rights of ownership of real estate properties. You just cannot Nationalize it. Besides, Hacienda de San Pedro in Makati was unproductive for agriculture and under-utilized since its purchase in 1851. if the Katipunan got it, what can they do with it? Distribute to people who would not plant on it? Hacienda Makati was only developed after WWII staring in the 1950s although Forbes park opened in 1949!

  2. You can call any street you want as long as it is passable and the traffic is flowing easily is okay with me. I can’t recall when I stopped calling Recto st. Azcarraga which was its former name but eventually it just became Recto st. for me too.It maybe hard for the present generation to use a new name for an old street but for the new generation and the next generations it will just be using the new name and will not even be aware of its old street name. History is full of changes.

  3. It would seem that the Mcmicking couple are childless`hence the inescapable foregetting. The so called iconic magazine showing Joseph M. produced by the Ayala’s long ago were museum pieces never intended to be published again by the reigning clan for obvious reasons.

  4. J.R. McMicking Avenue is most appropriate name to replace Makati Ave. to honor great visionary who started it all.

  5. Mr Zobel de Ayala is right–the renaming of streets is an unwise idea. For me it only causes confusion. Adds to additional expenses not only for the city government but also to businesses who have letterheads and the like which carry their companies’ addresses.

    • Change of address in letterheads in NOT a problem. Companies along Makati Avenue can just use their present stock. When they replenish, the new address can be placed. Companies usually re-order at least twice a year depending on their usage. Besides, there are only about 23 bldgs located along Makati Ave. from A. Arnaiz to Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. Notice that these two roads mentioned have also been renamed and NO Problem!

      Changing the name of Makati Ave. to J. R McMicking should NOT
      cause confusion. Many streets in Makati have been renamed like Pasay Road to A. Arnaiz St., Buendia Ave. to Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. and Pasong Tamo to Don Chino Roces Ave. to name a few. There are more even inside Legaspi and Salcedo Villages.

      Whatever minor inconvenience is worth it because the person who built Makati is being honored by renaming Makati Ave. to J. R, McMicking Ave. It is Important that persons who have contributed to the betterment of society are Honored and remembered. Mabuhay!

  6. Jose A. Oliveros on

    The trouble with renaming streets is that people (and this includes government officials) still prefer to use the old name. Take “Buendia Ave.” and “Pasong Tamo”, both in Makati. They had been renamed “Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave.” and “Chino Roces Ave.”, respectively. But people still refer to them by their former names. Plaza Lawton was renamed LIwasang Bonifacio way back 1964 on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio. But up to now people still call it “Lawton”. Just look at the signboard of public utility vehicles plying that route. Even government announcements about re-routing traffic or any even to take place there still use “Lawton.” Two years ago, the Southern Luzon Arterial Road – that new stretch of highway from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Batangas City – was officially named “Apolinario Mabini Superhighway” in honor of the foremost Batangueno hero. But it it still referred to as “Calabarzon” although not even a square inch of that highway is within the provinces of Cavite, Rizal and Quezon. I don’t know why our government officials tolerate this. Instead of honoring the people after whom those places were named, they are being dishonored by still using the old names of those places.

    • Jason, I agree. They have done it when Pasay Road was renamed to “A. Arnaiz.” So what was done was use “A. Arnaiz St. (Pasay Road). Same with Makati Ave when renamed J.R. McMicking Ave. Use “J. R. McMicking Ave. (Makati Ave.” or “McMicking Ave (Makati Ave.).

      On national roads, C-5 is officially named “Carlos P. Garcia Ave” by law. But we still call it “C5.”So where is the problem. Even the expressway from EDSA to Batangas City is just referred to as “SLEX” for South Luzon Expressway. Yet SLEX is composed of the Sergio Osmeña Highway from Quirino Ave in Manila up to Nichols in Pasay City, then another name from Nichols to Alabang and the SLEX is supposed to officially start at Alabang, Mutinlupa and the section from STo-Tomas to Lipa City was called the STAR Express. “Calabarzon” is only used by PUVs, particularly buses plying the SLEX route beginning in Laguna.