Friday, April 18, 2014

Historia Filipinas: Don Pedro Pablo Róxas

Don Pedro Pablo 'Perico' Róxas Castro (1847-1912)

If you are wondering why we're now featuring places, faces, and events, this is because we've improved our site after our first year anniversary. Also, we at A.M. want to re-educate Filipinos on our history and heritage by featuring people, places, events, and organizations that helped shape Philippine society. 

Don Pedro Pablo Róxas Castro was a Spanish-Filipino businessman, capitalist, industrialist, financier, and patriot. Don Pedro, or Perico as he was called by his friends and family, was born on June 28, 1847 in Manila. His parents were Don José Bonifacio Róxas Ubaldo and Doña Juana Castro. Don José Bonifacio Róxas Ubaldo was the son of Don Domingo Róxas Ureta, one of the founders of today's Ayala Corporation. He was also the younger brother of philanthropist-industrialist Doña Margarita Róxas Ubaldo de Ayala. All are members of the influential and illustrious Róxas family which include siblings Jacobo, Alfonso, and Mercedes Zóbel de Ayala Róxas, brothers Antonio and Eduardo Róxas Gargollo, Don Andrés Soriano Róxas, and Róxas and Company chairman Pedro E. Róxas Olgado. Other members of the Róxas family include Don Enrique Brias Róxas, former Manila mayor Don Félix María Róxas Fernandez, architect Félix Róxas Arroyo, the late president Manuel Róxas Acuña, and now-DILG secretary Manuel Róxas Araneta.

Note: Names are written in standard Spanish naming custom. Spanish names are written without the Filipino 'y'. So, for males (or single females), it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]. For married females, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]de[husband's family name]. For widows, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name][husband's family name].

Don José Bonifacio Róxas Ubaldo (1818-1880) © Ayala Corporation

Don Perico was educated in Manila at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the walled city of Intramuros. Showing interest in Philippine affairs, he earned his father's trust by letting him vote during an election in their town in Calauan, Laguna, where their vast hacienda is located. Don Perico had shown interest in the family business his forbears had been working hard for. So, at a young age, Don Perico helped his father in the business by assisting in their palm distillery, sugar and rice estates in Nasugbu, Batangas. 

Don Perico, already an established figure in Manila society, married his first cousin Doña Carmen de Ayala Róxas, daughter of Doña Margarita Róxas Ubaldo de Ayala and Don Antonio de Ayala Urbina. Their union secured the wealth of the Róxas-de Ayala family for generations. After he had married his cousin, Don Perico worked for his wife's company at Ayala y Compañía. After the death of his father, Don Perico had inherited all Róxas family interests, which included the vast estates in Calatagan, Nasugbu, Calauan, and San Pedro de Macati. Don Perico did not keep the inheritance for himself, he distributed many of the Róxas lands to other family members such as the Hacienda de San Pedro de Macati to the Zóbel-Róxas, and the Hacienda de Calauan to the Soriano-Róxas family. 

Already one of the country's richest men, Don Perico made his wealth even larger by becoming San Miguel's financier and manager. Established in 1890 through a royal grant by Don Enrique María Barreto Ycaza, San Miguel needed financiers and capitalists for it to grow. So, Don Perico financed its operation and became one of its major shareholders, along with Don Gonzalo Tuáson Patiño, and Don Benito Legarda Tuáson. Because of this, the Róxas family had the majority number of seats in the board, appointing his cousins, nephews, and even grandchildren. Don Perico's tenure at San Miguel was cut short when he was forced to leave the islands in exile to France in 1896.

Filipino exiles in Paris. From L-R seated: F. de Almores, Felipe Agoncillo, Don Pedro Pablo Róxas Castro, Antonino Vergel de Dios. L-R standing: B. Villanueva, Antonio Róxas de Ayala, Enrique Brias de Coya, P.A. Róxas. © Philippine-American War, 1899-1902

Don Perico, a mestizo with criollo parents, supported the Filipino cause of independence, in which he inherited through his father and grandfather's liberal views. The Róxas family is known to have liberal views, in which cost one of their relatives' life. Don Francisco L. Róxas Reyes, Don Perico's second cousin, was executed along with twelve other patriots for supporting the Katipunan movement. As a result of his cousin's death, all persons bearing the Róxas family name were ridiculed and insulted by the Spanish colonial authorities. Don Perico, being the wealthiest Róxas family member, was suspected of financing the Katipunan and the independence movements. So, he was forced into exile in Paris, France. While in exile, the Spanish colonial government charged him with treason and had all of his properties confiscated. Don Perico was not the only exile in Paris, his friend Don Gonzalo Tuáson also left the islands for Europe. According to Félix María Róxas Fernandez's book, The World of Félix Róxas, it is said that Don Perico managed to survive in Paris while in exile through the help of Don Gonzalo Tuáson, in which he wrote to Tuáson's family to send funds immediately. 

Don Félix María Róxas Fernandez (1864-1936), former Mayor of Manila, and second cousin of Don Pedro Pablo Róxas Castro. Róxas, along with the great diplomat Felipe Agoncillo, represented the newly-independent Philippine Republic at the Treaty of Paris in 1898. However, the Philippine Republic was denied in participating in the talks between Spain and the United States. © Philippine-American War, 1899-1902

While in exile, Don Perico had already developed an illness even before he left the Philippines. Don Perico never again returned to the Philippines as he passed away on February 14, 1912. In Manila, news of his death was relayed throughout the family. According to The World of Félix Róxas, Mayor Félix Róxas recalled his nephew, Antonio Róxas de Ayala, calling him to come to their house for an important matter. 

"Felix Roxas y Fernandez — that patrician raconteur of Spanish Manila — recalled how, in 1912, his nephew Antonio Roxas de Ayala [son of the first cousins Pedro Pablo Roxas y de Castro and Carmen de Ayala y Roxas] had urged him to come to their house quickly by telephone. Felix rushed to the Roxas-de Ayala residence [designed by his father, Felix Roxas y Arroyo] along Calle General Solano in the posh San Miguel District, was met by the Spanish maid named Marcelina, and proceeded directly to the masters’ bedroom where the grieving Roxas family was gathered. There, he was informed that his dear second cousin, Pedro Pablo Roxas, had already passed away in Paris and that his remains would have to be brought back to Manila. His nephew Antonio Roxas declared that he and his uncle Felix would leave for Paris immediately." (excerpt from Remembrance of things Awry)

Don Perico's grave in Paris. His remains would later be brought back to Manila to be interred in the family plot at San Agustín Church in Intramuros. © Paquito dela Cruz

Sunday, April 6, 2014

El Hogar Filipino Building

The El Hogar Filipino, one of the city's oldest American era structures, now on the verge of destruction. © Historic Preservation Journal

'Every building has its own story'. Yes, everything, from people to buildings, each has its own story to tell. Structures, though they are non-humans, have also experienced what humans had experienced, such as wars, revolutions, calamities, etc. Buildings, especially old ones, are reminders of a particular era that they were in. So, they are meant to be preserved as they are our physical gateway to the past. The City of Manila boasts many structures that tell stories, many of which have seen the capital transform from an ever loyal Spanish city, to a vibrant American Pearl of the Orient Seas, and to a colorful yet chaotic capital of the Philippine Republic.   

The El Hogar Filipino Building is one of those structures that tell stories of the past. The building has seen numerous events, from the American insular government to the Philippine Commonwealth, from the Second Philippine Republic to the liberation of the city, and finally the independence of the country in 1946.

An old colored photo, probably a postcard, of the El Hogar Filipino Building. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The El Hogar, known in Spanish as the Edificio El Hogar Filipino, is a five-storey office building designed in the beaux-arts/renaissance/neo-classical styles of architecture. Located along Calle Muelle dela Industria by the Pasig River, the El Hogar is flanked by the First City National Building on the right, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building on its rear and was designed by Spanish-Filipino engineer Don Ramón José de Irureta-Goyena Rodríguez. The El Hogar was built sometime between 1911 and 1914, which it was said to be a wedding present in celebration of the marriage of Doña Margarita Zóbel y de Ayala, sister of patriarch Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala, and Don Antonio Melián Pavía, a Spanish businessman who was titled as the Conde de Peracamps

Don Ramón José de Irureta-Goyena Rodríguez, architect of the El Hogar Filipino. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

Don Antonio Melián Pavía, el Conde de Peracamps, and owner of the El Hogar Filipino. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

The El Hogar Filipino was owned by Spanish businessman and Conde de Peracamps, Don Antonio Melián Pavía. According to the Cornejo's Commonwealth DirectoryMelián was born in the Canary Islands in Spain on May 21, 1879. From Spain, he sailed to Peru in 1903 where he held posts in the insurance company La Previsora and in the Casino Español de Lima. In 1907, he married Don Enrique's sister Doña Margarita Zóbel y de Ayala. In 1910, he sailed from Peru back to the Philippines and established the El Hogar Filipino and the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros together with his brothers-in-law Enrique and Fernando Zóbel y de Ayala. 

Note: Names are written in standard Spanish naming custom. Spanish names are written without the Filipino 'y'. So, for males (or single females), it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]. For married females, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]de[husband's family name]. For widows, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name][husband's family name]

A group photo of the El Hogar Filipino leaders and employees. The Conde de Peracamps is seated at the center, with Don Francisco Ortigas Barcinas (seated, sixth from right), Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala (seated, fourth from right), and his brother Don Fernando Zóbel y de Ayala (seated, third from right). The description reads: Sr. Melián, with the directors and employees of El Hogar Filipino whose company was founded by the said gentleman. © Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

The El Hogar (left), and the First City National Bank Building (right) viewed from the other side of the Pasig River. © Manila Nostalgia/Ingrid Donahue via Lou Gopal

The El Hogar housed the Melián business empire, such as the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros, Tondo de Beneficiencia, Casa de España, Casa de Pensiones, and El Hogar Filipino. Other tenants of the El Hogar include Ayala y Compañía, Sociedad Lizárraga Hermanos, and Smith, Bell and Company. The Filipinas Compañía de Seguros moved out of the El Hogar in the 1920s after the completion of its own building at the foot of the Jones Bridge in Plaza Moraga, a short walk from the El Hogar. 

The El Hogar during the 1920s. © Philippine History and Architecture 

One of the building's interesting features is that the building has its own garden courtyards, not one, but two. Another feature that make the El Hogar unique was its mirador, or balcony. From the El Hogar's balcony, one can see the Pasig River, the southern part of Manila, which includes the walled city of Intramuros, Ermita, and Malate. Also, the El Hogar's staircase is considered as one of the most ornate in the city, with a sculpted mythical griffin, as its base. 

The El Hogar's intricate staircase grillwork, which included a sculpture of a mythical griffin. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

A memorial plaque in which encases the El Hogar's time capsule. The plaque reads: Excmo. Sr. Don Antonio Melián y Pavía, Conde de Peracamps. Funadador de 'El Hogar Filipino' 1911. It has been reported that the plaque has been removed, and so as the time capsule. © Manila Nostalgia/Stephen John Pamorada 

The El Hogar survived the Battle of Manila in 1945 and only suffered minor damages. In the post-war years, the lending company El Hogar Filipino had closed down, along with other Melián businesses, leaving only the Filipinas Compañía de Seguros. Because of this, the Meliáns sold the El Hogar to the Fernandez family, and the El Hogar was rented out to other companies. The building was finally abandoned as an office building some decades ago. Since the Muelle dela Industria area had a chaotic, Brooklynesque vibe, it became the set for films and television shows. 

El Hogar and the First City National Bank Buildings in the late 1960s. © Definitely Filipino

Just this year, news involving the El Hogar sparked when it was reported that it was sold to a Chinese-Filipino real estate developers, which reported that it will demolish the El Hogar because of the building's stability, and be turned into a condominium. The news spread like a wildfire throughout heritage conservationists, cultural advocates, and ordinary citizens alike. Heritage conservationists had written to both the city government of Manila and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, or NHCP, to stop the demolition of the El Hogar. Because of this, a petition to stop the demolition was created. As of today, 730 supporters have already signed the petition. The new owner of the El Hogar however, who was not named, said that they do not have plans of demolishing the El Hogar, but will use it as a warehouse instead. 

Details of the El Hogar. One can see the beaux-arts elements such as arched windows present in the building. © Historic Preservation Journal

The El Hogar's mirador gives it a unique charm, and one can view the Pasig River and other areas of the city. © Historic Preservation Journal

It is our responsibility as citizens to preserve and take care of the built heritage our forefathers left. They may seem not significant to many, but they also have witnessed numerous triumphs and challenges the country experienced. They may be inanimate objects, but they also have its own character and its own story to tell. If these buildings could talk, we believe that they are pleading to us citizens right now to help save them. 

At Arquitectura Manila, we educate Filipinos of our glorious architectural past through this website. As heritage conservation advocates, we believe that all heritage structures, not just the El Hogar, be given justice as it we are only its caretakers. If the El Hogar was to be restored, it should be turned into something productive, just like its neighbor First City National Bank, maybe something like a boutique hotel, or New York-style apartments with cafés and restaurants on its lobby. And, who knows, the El Hogar may be host to the country's first standalone luxury boutique?