OPINION: McMicking of ‘McKati’: My Apologia

Buddy Gomez - Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jul 27 2017 10:18 PM | Updated as of Jul 28 2017 02:56 AM

CyberBuddy156 McMicking of ‘McKati’ …..My Apologia!

(This is the fourth in the series on the life and times of Joseph R. McMicking, visionary creator and builder of modern Makati, as well as on my personal memories of my years with Ayala.)

Excuse me, apologia does not mean ‘apology!’ 

My first encounter with the word ‘apologia’ was in an English Literature Class many, many moons ago! ”Apologia Pro Vita Sua!” It was an eminent churchman, John Henry Newman, and his “defense of his religious opinions.” Apologia actually means explanation, justification, defense. I now have the occasion to summon the word in order to explain the root of this series, truly a posthumous expression of respect, admiration and awe at the life and achievements of the man. It is also my response to reactions to earlier blogs that spoke of Makati, of Ayala as an institution and of the man who marshalled that institution to an incomparable stature towards the end of the last century to meet the challenges of the 21st!

Thus, I have embarked upon this sharing of personal memories. As a matter of disclosure, here is a caveat. I am not an academically-trained historian. In fact, I am not one at all. I am a mere buff, a Filipiniana bibliophile but I do attempt to be an engaging story-teller.

Despite an apparent self-imposed taboo on publicity and public prominence, the Ayalas have not been able to prevent the flow of information, made public, about them. Volumes are to be found in the Archives of publications, in the Internet as well as in ‘Wikipedia.’ Many entries are unverified, untrue and some are even outrightly ridiculous. Some morsels are progenies of gossip. 

Despite a conscious adamance at preventing publicity, the reality is that the Ayala story is now part and parcel of the history of our nation’s growth and development. There is no way of back-privatizing and sealing that story. Besides, it is a beautiful story, indeed a source of pride. Let me add, not any different from the economic history of the US which features the lives, times, vignettes and anecdotes about the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies, the Fords and the Rockefellers.

Let me commit to try to remember and recollect, for a future essay perhaps, the times that an Ayala story was attempted, as an officially sanctioned literary and historical endeavor. A ‘PR’ job, as it were! And always subsequently suspended and withdrawn. In this current enterprise, while I have an idea of what my end product would be, I write as I remember what comes to mind at the moment. In other words, these are ramblings, truthful in content but might be in serious need of organizing. 

While I remain loyal and grateful to Ayala and to JRM, Enrique Zobel and Jaime Zobel de Ayala, I am no longer in the ‘company payroll.’ Therefore, unshackled. Uncontrolled. Having devoted a good quarter century of productive, trusted employment, I am likewise privileged to have personally earned the right to remember and to share my memories. And best positioned, with proud credibility, to relate a serialized story, at least up to the time of my early separation from their service due to circumstance beyond my grasp. 1984.

Why are we getting to know about ‘Uncle Joe” McMicking only now? Why are there no memorial markers to commemorate and recognize the builder/creator of the Philippines’ most vibrant and influential community? Why be shy about undeniable reality? Why not turn the series into a book! Etc. Etc. 

The usual answer that comes from corporate Ayala, as well as from its incumbent collective leadership and living senior members of the clan was that “Uncle Joe” McMicking was intentionally shy of publicity and distanced himself from the flattery of the limelight. His preference was to remain in the background.

That does not seem right, though. Not to publicly recognize and commemorate the man the reality of whose vision has indelibly, irreversibly touched and benefitted, directly or indirectly, the lives of millions! Now that he has departed, regardless of his wont while still alive, history requires an apt memoir. Whose onus ought it be? 

Besides, I do not believe that Col. McMicking did not wish to be remembered, after he is gone.

Once, alone with him in his office during his annual visits to the Philippines, we engaged in casual office and other small talk. I had the opportunity to pose the question of how he wished to be remembered. With that signature chesire cat smile of his, a reassurance of gladness to have been asked, he responded by simply saying that “that would be up to my successors.”

If such ‘limelight shunning’ McMicking dictum has affected the attitude of the surviving family beneficiaries towards this man’s handiwork, then why should not a non-Ayala entity then undertake the remembering and the commemoration? 

For one example, the City government of Makati. Perhaps, Makati can rename a public elementary school in honor and memory of Joseph R. McMicking. Such an enabling City ordinance is surely not any less apropos than naming a public school edifice after a local political personality or even after a dead revolutionary hero of dubious social impact!

Most learning materials on the lives of prominent Filipinos recommended for our children’s edification have concentrated exclusively on political and revolutionary personages involved in earlier surges of nationalism and in the struggle for independence, even those involved in fatal internecine rivalries. These stories and vignettes are to be found in elementary civics and history texts as I recall. 

Other human activities, too, such as business, commerce and the professions, have contributed to nation-building. They have immeasurable contributions to the progress of the country perhaps even more meaningful than bloody revolutions, war and political strife.

In my civics/social studies lessons, I was introduced to names like Toribio Teodoro, Gonzalo Puyat, Teodoro Yangco as pillars and exemplars of Philippine commerce and industry. Joseph R. McMicking is highly qualified to be remembered and similarly extolled.

In the not too distant past, I recall former Senator Rene V. Saguisag, a long time Makati-resident, espousing the renaming of Makati Avenue into McMicking Avenue or Boulevard.
Incidentally, Rene, after taking up his Master of Laws at Harvard, on his way home, interned with a San Francisco-based law firm for a few weeks. Heller-Ehrman, I think it was. Joe McMicking (JRM) was one of its clients and was promptly informed of the presence of this young Filipino brilliant lawyer interning with them. Mutual impressions ensued out of that meeting. On the spot, McMicking offered Rene a position with Ayala. For future recounting, I will attempt to capture Rene’s own words recalling his brief encounter with JRM. Rene’s sense of humor will certainly animate his recollections.

If an official act to recognize and commemorate Joseph R. McMicking has not been initiated or promoted by Ayala itself, let us say by way of an avenue or boulevard renaming, a popular and prominent plaza or garden, during the lifetime of “Uncle Joe,” why not do the honors now that he is gone. After all, did he not express “that would be up to my successors.”

The Asian Institute of Management/AIM (lot donation of Ayala Corporation with the main building, a gift from Don Eugenio Lopez) is supposed to be known as the McMicking Campus. But who really knows about it. Very probable that it is an appellation, not even known by or familiar with all who attend courses at the AIM! The Wikipedia entry on AIM does not even mention McMicking at all!

I have a vivid recollection of the day the first shovel of earth was dug to commemorate the start of the AIM, still an empty lot, then, at the corner of Paseo de Roxas and de la Rosa street. In attendance was Don Eugenio Lopez, who was donating the main edifice that was to bear his name. Ayala CEO was Enrique Zobel (EZ or Enzo). Consistent with EZ’s panache and macho-ness, we decided to depart from the usual ceremonial shovel. No less than a roaring forward thrust of a yellow Caterpillar bulldozer was in officiation! I recall that the older dignitaries present were all in awe, as Enrique took off his white “de hilo” ‘americana’ (coat/jacket) and sauntered over, climbed and operated the ‘dozer, relieving Ka Leon Torres (originally from Calatagan, Batangas,) headman of the Ayala mechanics. Leon primed the monster and drove it to the site from the “Building 5” heavy equipment depot area which is now part of the Greenbelt complex. Great show…good ‘p.r.’ projection! The reputation of Enrique Zobel was in ascendance!

In further explaining the publicity shyness of “Uncle Joe” McMicking, it is best to borrow from Carlos P. Romulo’s personal impression. We remember CPR, don’t we? A statesman, a diplomat, university president, author and journalist. CPR says of Joseph R. McMicking: ”McMicking’s work was done inconspicuously, selflessly and anonymously”..…. “Indeed it is a rare virtue in our time to achieve anonymity, so that to come upon it in a man one admires is a privilege, as if one were admitted to a secret chamber of precious art treasures. And so it is that it is really easier to write about anonymity and modesty than to write about Joseph R. McMicking, who exemplified both." (The Anonymity of Great Performance… Manila Chronicle special edition Magazine, 23 March 1969)

Having ‘sat at the feet’ of JRM and imbibed some hand-me-down knowledge and wisdom, I feel having entered that “secret chamber of precious art treasures,” myself. Indeed, it has been a privilege. And I aim to share my memories.

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