A.M. Shorts: Salvador Araneta and Victoria López Residence

'Victoneta I', the Salvador Araneta and Victoria López residence in Mandaluyong. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Derrick Manas

Manila's pre-war homes were some of the most beautiful in the Far East, for the city was host to landed families of Spanish, Chinese, and American descents. These stately homes got an upper hand location-wise, in which some of the houses were built either in the Spanish enclave of San Miguel or at the new American area of Ermita. But this is not always the case. Some families actually chose to build their homes outside of the city, where one can feel the cool breeze of the wind. An example of this was in Mandaluyong, a town not far from Manila, where the 'Victoneta' was built.

The 'Victoneta I', owned by the aristocratic couple Salvador Araneta and Victoria López de Araneta, was one of the stately homes built outside the city. Built in 1933 by three architects, namely Domingo Lerma, and the greats Juan Arellano and Andrés Luna de San Pedro, the Victoneta won the title 'Most Beautiful Home of 1933' because of Doña Victoria's luxurious taste. The house boasts a number of feats: the Victoneta had thirty-three rooms, making it one of the largest houses in the city, it had a private chapel with its own entrance, and was designed by three architects in different phases because of its massive size.

Doña Victoria López and Don Salvador Araneta. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes 

Don Salvador Araneta Zaragoza is the son of Don Gregorio Araneta Soriano. Both are members of the illustrious Spanish-Filipino Araneta family, whose roots hail from Gipuzkoa in the Basque Country of Spain. Doña Victoria López was a member of the López sugar barons of Iloilo, where her first cousin Don Eugenio López Hofileña was one of the country's richest men during the post-war years.

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].

One of Victoneta's many patios and gardens. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Victoneta's chapel entrance. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

As stated earlier, the Victoneta was built in 1933 by architects Domingo Lerma, Juan Arellano and Andrés Luna de San Pedro using the Hispano-Moresque-Mediterranean styles of architecture. Because of its grandeur, it won the title 'Most Beautiful Home of 1933'. Located on a 17,000 square meter property in Mandaluyong, Victoneta was a portmanteau of the names Victoria and Araneta, the names of the house owners. One of Victoneta's features was the chapel. The chapel had intricate seats whose interiors were designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro. 

Chapel interiors of the Victoneta designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes 

An overview of the grand sala© Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The Victoneta had a lot of rooms because of Doña Victoria López de Araneta's tastes. The house had a very large sala, or living room, where the Aranetas had the great Fernando Amorsolo commission a painting for them entitled 'The First Baptism in the Philippines'. Unfortunately, the painting, along with the rest of the house, were destroyed during the liberation of Manila in 1945. 

One of the bedrooms at VictonetaⒸ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Victoneta's grand sala. A massive painting commissioned to Fernando Amorsolo hangs on its walls. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The war years were a time of hardship for the Araneta couple. It has been said that the Japanese had been eyeing the house because of its sprawling property. The Aranetas vacated the house after it was confiscated by the Japanese, and left Manila for Baguio to be with the other Araneta and López family members. In 1945, the Victoneta was used as a refugee center where around seventy civilians were interred. As the combined Filipino and American forces were closing in to Manila, the Japanese had a bomb planted inside the chapel. Unfortunately, the bomb went off after a Filipino refugee accidentally detonated it. All of the refugees inside were instantly killed.  

Victoneta's dining area. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

 Victoneta's chapel lay in ruins after the liberation of Manila in 1945. Ⓒ Isidra Reyes/Edwina Litton Ortigas

After the war, Don Salvador and Doña Victoria had decided not to rebuild the Victoneta, due to the reason that many lives were killed inside. Instead, the Araneta couple abandoned the property and relocated to Malabon, where another house also named Victoneta stood. 

The original Victoneta just laid in ruins for decades after 1945. The ruins were finally demolished recently.

A.M. Shorts: E.A. Perkins Residence

 'El Nido', the Eugene Arthur Perkins residence along Dewey Boulevard in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

In pre-war Manila, houses of illustrious families were designed by well-known architects according to their elegant tastes. Their homes were either designed in the renaissance, art-deco, beaux-arts, or the traditional Filipino bahay na bato style. But one house stood out among the rest, and this was the El Nido, the residence of Eugene Arthur 'E.A.' Perkins, and his wife Idonah Slade. The house and the family became the center of intrigue among Manila's high society because of domestic quarrels between Eugene and Idonah.

The owner of the house, E.A. Perkins, was the first American envoy to the Royal Court of Siam (Thailand's counterpart of the Royal Court of St. James). Born in Bangkok in 1888, he went to Manila and became a partner of the law firm DeWitt, Perkins, and Brady. In 1935, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's father Alfonso Ponce Enrile joined the firm and was renamed DeWitt, Perkins, Brady, and Ponce Enrile. Their law firm was located in Edificio Soriano (formerly as the Geronimo de los Reyes Building) in Plaza Cervantes. 

E.A. Perkins (right), checking the shipment of Lepanto gold with Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank manager W. Webster (right) in 1949. Ⓒ Nostalgia

The Perkins residence was designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro in the Moorish Mediterranean style. The house, which faces the Manila Bay, was located in the residential section of Ermita, where homes of prominent Filipino and expatriate families once stood. As their home stood out among the rest, it won the title of The 'Most Beautiful Home of 1928', a year before the Zóbels won theirs a year later.

Dewey Boulevard and its environs in the 1920s. the El Nido was located at the corner of Dewey Boulevard and Calle Divisoria (now Salas St.). Ⓒ Nostalgia

  The penthouse living room of the Perkins residence in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

One of the rooms inside the El NidoⒸ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes 

When the Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935, the American governor-general had moved out of Malacañang Palace and was replaced by a High Commissioner (an equivalent of an ambassador). The High Commissioner was in need of his own residence. So, in 1937 when the newly-appointed High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt arrived in Manila, Attorney E.A. Perkins offered his El Nido to be McNutt's home until a permanent residence for the High Commissioner is finished. 

President Manuel L. Quezón (left) enjoying cigarettes with American High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt (right). Ⓒ

In the 1950s, shortly before E.A. Perkins died, he sold his property. The new owner had the El Nido demolished and was replaced by an apartment known as the L&S Building, which was designed by Alfredo Luz. 

A.M. Shorts: Jacobo Zóbel and Ángela Olgado Residence 

'La Casona', Jacobo and  Ángela Zóbel's residence in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The pre-war years showed elegant tastes in living the high life, that is, because, due to the growing alta sociedad of the country. Long before the five-star hotels mushroomed throughout the city of Manila, events are held at home. Because homes are to be well-maintained and designed, as it is to 'dress to impress', Philippine socialites' homes are at par of those homes overseas, such as those in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air in Los Angeles. 

One home stood out in the then-residential section of Ermita, the home of Don Jacobo Zóbel de Ayala and his wife, the beautiful Ángela Olgado, called 'La Casona'. 

Don Jacobo Zóbel de Ayala Roxas is the eldest son of pre-war industrialist and philanthropist Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala from his first wife, Consuelo Roxas  de Ayala de Zóbel. Don Jacobo is also the father of the late Don Enrique 'EZ' Zóbel Olgado, former Ayala Corporation chairman. Don Jacobo's wife, Doña Ángela Olgado Calvo de Zóbel was considered as one of the most beautiful women in the pre-war years. The Olgado clan has been in the Philippines for quite a while, marrying other Spanish-Filipino families such as Doña Ángela Olgado's sister Doña Pilar Olgado Calvo de Roxas, wife of former Casino Español de Manila president Don Eduardo Roxas Gargollo and mother of present Roxas & Company CEO Pedro Emilio Roxas Olgado.

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].

TWO POWERHOUSES: Col. Jacobo Zóbel de Ayala Roxas (left), and his wife Doña Ángela Olgado Calvo de Zóbel (right). Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The house was located in the residential area of Ermita, though some sources, such as the Cornejo's Commonwealth Directory of the Philippines, states that Don Jacobo's home address is at Calle M.H. del Pilar in Malate. Moving on, the home was designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro, who also designed his brother Alfonso's mansion along Dewey Boulevard.

One of the interesting features of the house is the use of awnings. Since the Philippines is a tropical country where it is hot and humid most of the year, it was a smart move to use striped awnings. Because of Doña Angelita's very elegant taste in design, their house was entitled as the 'Most Beautiful Home of 1929'.

Combat for the liberation of the city took place in 1945, which virtually wiped out 80 percent of the city's edifices. The war took a toll on the Zóbel de Ayala family as they were with no cash, though the family still has some assets under their control. To compensate what they have lost, the Zóbels sold their homes, which included the La Casona. The house of Col. Jake and Doña Ángelita was used as the British Embassy after the war. 

The La Casonaprobably taken after the war. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes 

Sadly, the house has already been demolished, and we at A.M. hope that elegant pre-war houses should be under protection of the NCCA and NHCP. 

A.M. Shorts: Alfonso Zóbel and Carmen Pfitz Residence 

The Alfonso Zóbel and Carmen Pfitz de Zóbel residence along Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard) cor. Calle Padre Faura in Ermita. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

The pre-war years was considered the golden age of Philippine social scene, before its rebirth in the 1950s to the 1960s, that is because most of Manila's alta sociedad actively participated in social activities such as dance, polo matches, parties, and more. The pre-war alta sociedad composed mostly of Filipino families that are of European descent, families such as the Zóbel de Ayalas, Roxases, Elizaldes, Nietos topped the social scene with their elegant tastes in clothing and houses.

The Alfonso Zóbel house featured in André de la Varre's travelogue entitled Manila: Queen of the Pacific Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Paulo Rubio

Alfonso Zóbel de Ayala Roxas is the son of famous pre-war industrialist and philanthropist Don Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala, and father of former Ayala Corporation chairman Jaime Zóbel de Ayala. Carmen Pfitz Herrero, on the other hand, is a member of the Pfitz clan of Spain and the Philippines. Her brother, Enrique Pfitz Herrero, became a member of the Ortigas family, marrying Doña María Luisa Ortigas de Ynchausti de Pfitz. Together with his wife, Carmen, the couple had built a grand mansion for their family. 

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 Alfonso Zóbel de Ayala (left), with his son Jaime Zóbel de Ayala. Photo probably taken sometime in the 1950s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Paulo Rubio             

The Zóbel de Ayala family portrait. From L-R standing: Da. Matilde Zóbel de Ayala de Albarracín Segura, D. Jacobo Zóbel de Ayala Roxas, D. Alfonso Zóbel de Ayala Roxas, Da. Carmen Pfitz Herrero de Zóbel de Ayala. L-R seated: Da. Angela Olgado Calvo de Zóbel de Ayala, Da. Fermina Montojo Torróntegui de Zóbel de Ayala, Da. Consuelo Zóbel de Ayala Montojo de Alger, Da. Gloria Zóbel de Ayala Montojo de Padilla, D. Enrique Zóbel de Ayala Olgado, Da. Maria Victoria Zóbel de Ayala Pfitz de Vallejo-Nájera, D. Enrique Zóbel y de Ayala (patriarch), D. Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Montojo, D. Joseph R. McMicking, Da. Mercedes Zóbel de Ayala Roxas de McMicking. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Paquito dela Cruz

The house, located along the scenic Dewey Boulevard corner Calle P. Faura in residential Ermita, was designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro, son of the great painter-nationalist Juan Luna. The house had been designed in the French Renaissance style, which was the prevalent design of the houses of Manila's elite. The house had survived the devastating Battle of Manila in 1945, and after the war, Don Alfonso sold the house to compensate what they had lost during the war years. Their house became the offices of the French Embassy in Manila when the Zóbels moved to their new home in suburban Makati. The French Embassy soon vacated the house and moved to another location. Subsequently, the house became the branch of the Bank of Asia for a period of time.

 After the Bank of Asia vacated the mansion, art galleries were transferred to the mansion due to the renovation of the adjacent Tesoro's. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
The Bank of Asia had vacated the mansion and art galleries from nearby Tesoro's occupied the property due to the renovation of the latter. Sadly, this mansion was not spared from the destruction of the wrecking ball. We at AM assume that the Zóbels had disposed of the property before it was demolished. The 1322 Golden Empire Tower now stands on this property. 

The Alfonso Zóbel mansion along Roxas Boulevard, probably taken sometime in the 1990s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Paulo Rubio

A.M. Shorts: Laperal Mansion/Arlegui Guest House

 German diplomats and expatriates enjoy festivities at the former German consulate along Calle Arlegui in San Miguel, Manila. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

This may be considered as one of the most beautiful yet controversial home in Manila. The Laperal Mansion, now the Arlgeui Guest House, sits along Calle Arlegui in San Miguel, only a few blocks from Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the Philippine president.

Before World War II broke out in the Philippines in 1941, the mansion served as the consulate of Nazi Germany. Yes, you heard it right, Hitler's Nazi Germany. Other sources say that before the mansion became the German chancellery, it was known as the Blair Mansion, named after an American military officer who lived in the property.

Japanese occupation came into the islands in 1942. During their three-year occupation, the house served as the residence of Speaker of the Assembly Benigno Aquino Sr., grandfather of current president Benigno 'BS' Aquino III. There are conflicting reports about the veracity of this story. 

The German Consulate in 1945 after the Battle of Manila. According to reports, all Germans inside the consulate were killed by the Japanese. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Meg Jmp

In 1945, the Battle of Manila brought destruction to the capital city. During the month-long battle, the Japanese massacred about 100,000 civilians, including the citizens of Japan's allies Germany and Italy. Reports say that all Germans who were sheltered in the consulate were massacred by the Japanese.

The German consulate in Manila, as seen in the side view. Note the two flags flying from the flagpole. The one visible is the flag of the pre-swastika Nazi Germany. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Lou Gopal

After the war had ended, the house became the temporary home to the National Library. Also around this time, the Laperal family of Baguio purchased the mansion and lived in Arlegui until 1975, when the Marcos government, under the instructions of then-First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, confiscated the property, along with other adjacent properties due to 'security reasons'. Under the Marcos government, the mansion became the office of the National Economic and Development Authority. The mansion was also expanded during this time. 

1986 was the year when Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and his family were deposed as a result of the People Power Revolution. Pres. Marcos' successor, the late Pres. Corazon Aquino chose the mansion over the Malacañang. Pres. Fidel Ramos also chose to stay in Arlegui during his presidency.

Controversies hound the Laperal Mansion. Because the government illegaly confiscated the property during the Marcos presidency, there was a ruling in 2007 that the Laperals rightfully own the mansion. Although the national government recognizes the Laperals as the rightful owners of the mansion, the family no longer is interested with the property because of the traumatic experience they have encountered during the Martial Law years.

The Arlegui Mansion in 2013. Note that renovations took place during the Marcos presidency as the original house only had one tower. Ⓒ


  1. My curiosity is about this house near the intersection of Vito Cruz and Mabini st. The green painted one fronting KFC. Beautifully (European of Californian?) designed. Sir/mam can you tell me more about this structure or is there anything from the net about this. Thank you

  2. I would like to congratulate you on this splendid article about the architecture of the houses prior to World War II in Manila and to remember those families of Hispanic origin.
    I would like to ask you about another "La Casona", which belonged to the family of the illustrious lawyer and professor of Law of the University of Sto. Tomás, D. Alfredo Chicote Beltrán and his wife, Mrs. Pilar Lalana Bustamante, that was in S. Luis Street.

  3. I've been wondering where the original location of Victoneta 1 is and how it looks today.