OPINION: McMicking of 'McKati'

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Jul 06 2017 11:00 PM | Updated as of Jul 13 2017 07:39 PM

Much of Makati today is the dream, the handiwork of one man. Joseph R. McMicking. (Born in Manila, March 23, 1908; Died in Sotogrande, Spain October 18, 1990; and interred at the Santuario de San Antonio, Makati.) 

He is today an almost unsung visionary and the nearly unremembered builder of the Philippines’ financial center. The City of Makati, now hosting the highest concentration of multinational and local corporations in the country, is also the hub of the country’s major cultural and entertainment happenings. 

Apart from the varieties of residential subdivisions, for which Makati’s fame originally arose, the McMicking vision was to attract major banks and corporations and the foreign embassies. In his lifetime, this has been accomplished. His vision intended all of Makati to be such.

Almost unsung! Tempus fugit. Time flies, indeed, but not quite irretrievably, as I attempt to put together my remembrances of this respected icon of Philippine national development, at its most critical period, from the ravages of World War II.

Family Business and In-Laws

Sometime in March 2012, the Jesuit-administered Ateneo de Manila University sponsored an academic and social forum on the theme: “Family Business.”

Manila, without dispute, continues to be a bastion of businesses founded by original heads of families and successfully carried forward not only by direct descendants, but by ‘in-laws’ as well. Some of these entities are the blue chips traded in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

This particular Ateneo forum dwelt upon, among others, a key issue for family businesses--“the same faced by any family: in-laws,” the program literature so indicated.

The most prominent and oldest of such vibrantly existing corporate heirlooms is none other than the illustrious and venerable House of Ayala--the Ayala Corporation. Its present leader Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, (JAZA, as he is familiarly referred to) had to be a guest speaker/resource person at this forum, for credibility and resonance. Obviously, his words had to have relevance and prominence. And for today’s generation of business leaders, to which JAZA belongs, his words brought forth a revelation about one of the Philippines least known business leaders and nation builders. An in-law! The man who in contemporary times had been referred to as “one of the unsung pillars of Philippine industry and one of our leading philanthropists.” One who is hardly remembered and in fact is even less known today.

There is neither an avenue nor a street, not even a side street, a patch of green that bears the McMicking name. It was not in jest when I mentioned sometime in the not too distant past that Makati’s Municipal Hall ought to display a statue or a bust in public prominence, as a gesture of recognition for the individual most directly personally responsible for the now perpetual inward revenues that flow from his vision of Makati. The new wealth created by the realization of the McMicking vision is the fountainhead of tax revenues that hails Makati as the most financially prosperous local government unit in the country. 

Apart from the House of Ayala, the only older Philippine commercial enterprises were both of British/Scottish provenance. They came to the islands at a time when the country was beginning to open up to international trade. These are the trading firms of Wise and Company (1826) and Ker McMicking Company (1827.) Both continue to be in business today. Wise and Company is engaged in industrial equipment and services while Ker & Co., Ltd., as the surviving entity is known today, is mostly into insurance and chemical/electrical products distribution.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala carries an amalgamated surname that by itself is a reflection of two earlier in-laws. They are an immigrant from Spain, Antonio de Ayala and a local born German-Spanish Jacobo Zobel Zangroniz. These surnames were to figure in the family history sometime later. That history begins with the founding in 1834 of Don Domingo Roxas’ family enterprise. 

Don Domingo may be best categorized as a Filipino-Hispano Creole, that is native-born but of foreign blood, characteristic of early European settlers born in the colonies, having staked life and fortune in the adopted country. And in many instances, with heavy involvement in nationalist independence movements. 

Family history, from what I remember, indicates that Don Domingo was born in Taguig in the late 1700s from an Acapulco, Mexico family that settled in Manila two or three generations earlier. Taguig was then part of Morong province which became Rizal and now part of Metro Manila. 

Taguig as we all know now has become the Metro’s latest bloom and boom--the Bonifacio Global City. (A latter day direct descendant who still carries the Roxas name did say to me that from handed down family lore, Don Domingo Roxas may have been born in Calauan, Laguna where the clan had land holdings.)

The family enterprise Don Domingo founded was Casa Roxas. Upon his demise in 1843, it became Roxas Hijos, when inherited by his three children, Margarita, Jose Bonifacio and Mariano. Later on, with the heirs going their separate ways, Roxas Hijos became Roxas Hermanos, remaining in the ownership of Dona Margarita. It was eventually renamed Ayala y Compania a year before her death in 1868.

The first in-law was Antonio de Ayala, originally hired by Don Domingo as his bookkeeper. After Don Domingo passed away, Antonio de Ayala married Dona Margarita Roxas, in 1844. My unerring personal recollection borne out of printed archival materials indicated that Antonio de Ayala was identified, at the time of his marriage to Dona Margarita, as an employee, specifically, a bookkeeper. He came to the country, following his uncle’s assignment as Archbishop of Manila. Msgr. Jose Segui. 

In earlier documents, (of my personal knowledge, up to the very the end of my 25-year career with the Ayalas in 1984), Antonio de Ayala was not referred to as a founding partner. Evidently, this appellation of ‘founding partner’ is of fairly recent construct, for whatever family fancy. It is evident to me that sometime in the early 21st century or even in the later 1990s, a concerted fictioned revisionism was launched to embellish Don Antonio de Ayala’s role to now reflect him as a “founding partner.” 

Dona Margarita Roxas de Ayala was to gain fame as a very successful businesswoman, on her own, and as the country’s first philanthropist, having established many charities, most notably the La Concordia.

One of the daughters from Roxas-Ayala union, Trinidad, married Jacobo Zobel Zangoniz, the second in-law in the family history. As earlier mentioned, native-born. He is of German-Basque ancestry with Philippine antecedents of two generations earlier. He is to contribute his many talents and his name towards many trail-blazing enterprises before the turn of the last century under the continuing and spreading aegis of the name Ayala.

Thus, briefly, run the antecedents of today’s legendary Zobel de Ayala.

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I embarked upon this story-telling venture because of the encouragement from friends, readers and followers of this blog. Over the past year and a half, I had the opportunity to churn out a few pieces upon a general topic that I have earned and lived the intimate familiarity with and the right to dwell upon. 

As an act of prefacing the forthcoming series, I reference the three pieces that have led to this juncture in the life of my news.abs-cbn.com blog. These contain introductory vignettes of who and what Jose Rafael McMicking was.

Christian Philippines has really never had real life ‘royalty,’ as an element and source of national pride, in the sense that Europe has had them for centuries. Of course, the world is full of pretenders. And indeed, stories about the ‘rich and famous,’ even those of local origins, have always enjoyed universal appeal. 

A “merchant nobility” is the closest that Philippine society has brought forth. Such is the Roxas-Ayala-Zobel clan. It is a fascinating story that also belongs to the annals of the birth of the Filipino nation. I believe it is a story that must be told and shared. 

(To be continued.)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.