Tandang Sora Avenue, Quezon City: The History of the MWSS Administration Building

1980 Gabriel Formoso - MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park
1980 Gabriel Formoso – MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park

At the edge of Katipunan and Tandang Sora avenues in Quezon City, rises above the trees is the tower of the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) complex. This water tower stands as a testimony of the history of the Philippine water systems, which started in Manila during the early 1800s.

Pasig River from Intramuros, Manila
Pasig River from Intramuros, Manila

The City of Manila was built as the center of political and economic power during the Spanish colonial period (1565-1898). Since its founding as a colonial city, Manila relied heavily on the Pasig River and its tributaries as its source for drinking water; as well as food, transport, irrigation, washing clothes, bathing, and the disposal of wastes.  Although some districts and household relied on their own wells, most of the residents had fetch water from the river to their homes for more than 300 years. This system proved to be very inefficient and unhygienic. In the early 1800s, the Spanish merchant Francisco Carriedo y Peredo (1690-1743) raised a substantial amount of funds from his earning with Manila-Acapulco-Madrid galleon trade, for the construction of a water system in Manila. Although Carriedo was never able to see his vision come to being, it was a Franciscan friar, Felix Huerta, who continued Carriedo’s plans more than a century later, after Huerta discovered the forgotten funds, while working at the San Lazaro Hospital, in Manila, in 1878. And in 1882, the first Manila water system was inaugurated, with the waters of the Pasig River, San Juan River, Estero de la Reina, and Estero de San Miguel were tapped and distributed throughout the city, using a complex piping system that converged at a fountain in the Sampaloc District of Manila. The fountain and water system was named after Carriedo.

1882 Francisco Carriedo Fountain, Plaza Sta. Cruz, Manila
1882 Francisco Carriedo Fountain, Plaza Sta. Cruz, Manila

The Carriedo Fountain was first located at the Rotonda de Sampaloc, now called the Nagtahan Interchange. However, with the road expansions in Manila, the fountain had to be removed and transferred to the MWSS Complex in Quezon City, in 1976. In the 1990s, the City of Manila demanded that the MWSS return the fountain, and a compromise was made. The National Artist for Visual Arts, Napoleon Abueva, was commissioned to create an exact replica of the Carriedo fountain and install it at the MWSS compound, while the original fountain would be transported and installed at its new site, at the Plaza Santa Cruz, in Manila.

 1990s Napoleon Abueva - Francisco Carriedo Fountain Replica, MWSS
1990s Napoleon Abueva – Francisco Carriedo Fountain Replica, MWSS

Napoleón Isabelo Billy Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.

Manila Water Supply System (MWSS), Recto Avenue (Paseo de Azcárraga)
Manila Water Supply System (MWSS), Recto Avenue (Paseo de Azcárraga)

The Carriedo Water System started with delivering 16 million liters of water per day, to 92 million liters per day by 1909. In the previous year, the name of the Carriedo Water System was changed to the Manila Water Supply System. And in 1909, the MWSS also opened Wawa Dam, along the Marikina River, which would become the main source of water for Metro Manila, until the opening of the La Mesa Dam in Marikina (1929), the Angat Dam in Bulacan Province (1967), and the Ipo Dam on the Norzagaray River (1984).

1949 National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority, Ermita, Manila
1949 National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority, Ermita, Manila

In 1919, the MWSS was once more renamed to the Metropolitan Water District. In 1949, the name changed once more to the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), which coincided with its transfer to the new office building in the Ermita District, in Manila. And finally in 1971, the name was changed to its present title of the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS), which in turn coincided with the plans to transfer to the new home, in the Old Balara District, of Quezon City.

1938-49-59 Balara Filters Park, Quezon City
1938-49-59 Balara Filters Park, Quezon City

The new MWSS compound was to be part of the 60-hectare Balara Filtration Complex, which was developed in 1938 as the main treatment facility of water from the La Mesa Dam. From 1949 to 1959, the filtration complex would be opened to the public as the Balara Filters Park, with swimming pools, parks, playgrounds, hotels, and an amphitheater for performances by noted celebrities of the time. The public park would be eventually shut down in the 1970sm reopened in 2003, then closed again in 2008.

Throughout the park, there were many sculptures by Fermin Gomez, which celebrated the beauty of water, the Filipino spirit, and the workers who gave their lives for the construction of the park. One of the most noted sculptures of Gomez is that of the fountain, fondly called Bernadine, which is found at the rotunda near the park entrance, from Katipunan Avenue. A study for Gomez’ sculpture is on display at the 4th floor of the MWSS Administration Building’s roofdeck.

Fermin Yadao Gomez (1918-1984) is a classical sculptor, from Tarlac. Gomez graduated from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) School of Fine Arts, under the tutelage of Guillermo Tolentino. At the outbreak of World War II, Gomez returned to Tarlac, where he put up a bakya (wooden sandal) shop, where he carved the soles into intricate designs. In the town of Camiling, he created a 10 ft tall image of San Miguel de Arcangel for the 100 year old parish of the same name.  This caught the attention of Enginer Manuel Mañosa of the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), who commissioned Gomez to create a piece that would embody the company’s service to the public. What Gomez created was a monument of the god Neptune with the goddess Venus astride on top of a giant turtle. This impressed Mañosa, who hired Fermin to create more sculptures for the company. With that, Gomez moved to the Balara area, in Quezon City. Shortly after his move, Guillermo Tolentino invites Gomez to teach at the UP School of Fine Arts, which was now at the Diliman campus, in Quezon City. After his retirement in 1973, Gomez and his family moved to Parang, Marikina; where he continued to create small scaled sculptures, until his death.

1989 La Mesa Dam and Reservoir (2,700 hectares)
1989 La Mesa Dam and Reservoir (2,700 hectares)

Built in 1929, the 2,700 hectare (27 square kilometers) La Mesa Dam and Watershed Reservation is 13 kilometers from the Balara Filters Park, in the Novaliches District of Quezon City (formerly part of the Municipality of Marikina). The La Mesa Dam and Reservoir can hold up to 50.5 million cubic meters of water, and it was first constructed by Eng. Pedro Siochi y Angeles (1886-1951) and Company, as part of the part of the AngatIpoLa Mesa water system. Now the La Mesa Reservation is a known biodiversity sanctuary in the city, which opened to the public as the La Mesa Eco-park, in 2004. The park offers swimming pools, a butterfly garden, adventure sports, horseback riding, educational tours, or just a simple nature getaway within the structure by noted architects Felino “Jun” Albano Palafox, Jr. (born 1950), FranciscoBobbyTronqued Mañosa (born 1931), and Manuel Tronqued Mañosa Jr. (1927-2016).

 1980 Gabriel Formoso - MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park
1980 Gabriel Formoso – MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park

When the plans to move the MWSS to Quezon City was formalized in 1972, the task was awarded to Arch. Gabriel Formoso to realize this daunting project. With the compound, Arch. Formoso was to account for all the district offices that would oversee the regulation of water to the 17 cities and municipalities of Metro Manila, as well as parts of the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga and Rizal. This would include the offices in handling the management of the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa Dam System and the Balara Filters Complex. The MWSS Administrative Complex was completed in 1980, and it was created in the Brutalist style, which was trendy in the modern Philippine architecture of that period.

 1980 Gabriel Formoso - MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park
1980 Gabriel Formoso – MWSS Administration Building, Balara Filters Park

Arch. Gabriel Papa Formoso (1915-1998) graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) School of Architecture, and established his own firm by the 1950s. Formoso was a fellow of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), was the founding chairman of the Kanlungan Architectural Foundation of the Philippines, organized by UAP Fellows. Formoso has designed about 80 buildings and more than 150 residences; and his major works include the Central Bank complex in 1970, the Metropolitan Museum in 1973, the Antipolo Valley Golf Club in 1960, and the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan, 1960. In 1977 Formoso received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila, and in 1990 the UAP conferred on him its highest honor, the Likha Award and Gold Medal of Merit.

 1980 Gabriel Formoso - Local Water Utilities Administration Building, Balara Filters Park
1980 Gabriel Formoso – Local Water Utilities Administration Building, Balara Filters Park

During and after the construction of the MWSS Complex, First Lady Imelda Marcos Romuáldez (born 1929) commissioned many established and upcoming artists to lend their talents for the beautification of the buildings’ interiors. And presently, the MWSS collection boasts of paintings and sculptures by Antonio Abaya, Fred Alcantara, Hermes Alegre, Angelito Antonio, Ros Arcilla, Angelito Balagtas, Manuel Baldemor, Lito Barcelona, Norma Belleza, Victorio A. Bumanglag Jr., Norberto Carating, Roderico Jose Daroy, Rolando Delos Santos, Trias Diano, Jun Dibdib, Demetrio Diego, Jeff Dizon, Fermin Gomez, Roger Gutierrez, Edgar Doctor, Raul Isidro, Prudencio Lamarroza, Raul Lebajo, Alfredo Liongoren, Nemesio R. Miranda Jr., Edsel Hermoso Moscoso, Mario Munar, Justin Nuyda, Romulo Olazo, Danny Pangan, Mario Parial, Al Perez, Raul Piedra, Loreto T. Racuya, Rodolfo Ragodon, Pat Reyes, Cenon M. Rivera, Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr., Juvenal Gerrit Sanso, Mauro Malang Santos, Rolando Santos, Fernando Sena, Jun Tiongco, Carlos Valino Jr., Luisito Villanueva, Jose Pempe Ybañez, and Hugo C. Yonzon Jr.; as well as works by the National Artists for Visual Art: Napoleon Abueva, Ang Kuikok, Jose Joya, and Hernando R. Ocampo.

 5th Floor Hallway
5th Floor Hallway

Part of that art collection is a gallery of portraits of the former directors of the MWSS since 1919, found at the 5th floor hallway of the MWSS Administration Building. The first set of paintings was created in 1980 by Luisito Villanueva.  Follow up portraits were created by Fred Alcantara, Jun Dibdib, M. N. Ong, and Fernando Sena.

Former Directors:

1930-1934 Paul W. Mack by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1934-1938 Gregorio Anonas by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1938-1947 Ambrosio Magsaysay by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1947-1955 Manuel Mañosa by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1955-1963 Susano R. Nagado by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1963-1966 Jesus C. Perlas by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1966-1969 Antonio C. Menor by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1969-1976 Sergio M. Isada by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1976-1983 Oscar J. Ilustre by Luisito Villanueva (1981)

1983-1986 Abor P. Canlas by Luisito Villanueva (1984)

1986-1987 Jose Yap by Fred Alcantara (1986)

1987-1992 Luis V. Sison by Fred Alcantara (1987)

1992-1994 Teofilo J. Asuncion by Fred Alcantara (1988)

1994-1995 Ruben A. Hernandez by Fred Alcantara (1994)

1995-1997 Dr. Angel L. Lazaro III by Fred Alcantara (1995)

1997-2000 Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea by Jun Dibdib (1999)

2000-2001 Jose F. Mabanta by M. N. Ong (2001)

2001-2006 Orlando C. Hondrade by Fernando Sena (2006)

2007-2008 Lorenzo H. Jamora by Fernando Sena (2010)

2008-2010 Diosdado Jose M. Allado by Fernando Sena (2010)

Luisito “Chito” Katindig Villanueva (born 1938) is a classicist painter, known for his portraits of noted businessmen and government officials. Born in the coastal town of Navotas, Villanueva started his art career by drawing the seascapes and fish markets of his hometown, after World War II. Villanueva would later enroll at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts, but had to drop out due to financial constraints. Leaving school, he continued to hone his skills and produce art, and even joined several art organizations, such as the Dimasalang Group of Romulo Galicano and Sining Tambobong of Angel Cacnio. Villanueva even opened a studio at the Grand Central Mall, in Caloocan, where he exhibited his works and gave art workshops to the next generation of artists in the towns of Navotas, Caloocan, Malabon, and Valenzuela. He is currently active in promoting the arts in his hometown, and is an active member of the Navotas Historical Commission. Villanueva career as a portrait artist has had him busy with many public art pieces, including the portraits of many city mayors throughout the country; and being in such demand, he was only able to conduct his first solo exhibition in 2008.

Fred Alcántara was an illustrator, comics artist and painter; who hailed from an artistic family. Alcántara started his professional work at the Ace Publications in the 1950s, doing advertising illustrations and painting on the side. Alcántara would illustrate a few comics with writer Tony Velasquez in such works such as “Sa Ngalan Ng Pag-Ibig” in Tagalog Klasiks. Every now and then, Alcántara would participate in group exhibitions.

Fernando “Nanding” Belen Sena (born 1948) is genre painter, who is considered the Father of the Philippine Art Workshops, as his nearly 50 years of artworks shops have produced many of the great contemporary artists from the 1980s to present. A native of Tondo Manila, Sena was born to a home of very modest means. As a child, Sena helped his parents augment their income by selling newspapers, and found his natural inkling towards art by copying the illustrations of the comic and movie advertisements in the newspapers he sold. In elementary school, Sena’s teachers recognized the boy’s talent, and would ask him to draw historical figures for the school library. And in high school, Sena was further able to hone his skills by entering a vocational course in commercial art. Sena would finally take his undergraduate studies at the School of Music and Fine Arts of the University of the East (UE), but could not complete it in time due to financial constraints. During a period he stopped his studies, Sena took a free workshop at the Children’s Museum and Library Institute (CMLI), where he would later volunteer giving art workshops in 1975. Before that, Sena was able to complete his  Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Painting in 1971. After his stint of teaching at the CMLI, Sena would continue to give free and paid workshops, all over the country. He would also have a short stint teaching at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), in the 1990s. Conducting his first solo exhibition in 1973, Sena would continue exhibiting throughout the Philippines and abroad. To promote art making in the communities, Sena established the Kabataan Tondo (formerly Troso) Art Group (KATAG) in 1975 and Art Discovery and Learning Foundation Inc. (ADLFI) in 2001. Sena’s work had opened his own participation with many art groups such as the Saturday Group, the Wednesday Group, the Art Association of the Philippines, and the Iguhit Alaminos .Due to his tireless work in promoting art, Sena was recognized as one of the “Ten Outstanding Manilans” in 1979, as one of the “Outstanding UE College of Fine Arts Alumni” in 1986, as one of the “Most Distinguished UE Alumni” in 1989, and honored the and “Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan” in the field of painting by the City of Manila in 1995.

1990s Napoleon Abueva - Francisco Carriedo Fountain Replica, MWSS
1990s Napoleon Abueva – Francisco Carriedo Fountain Replica, MWSS

In 1997, the MWSS entered a new chapter in it history, as it allowed two private companies to take over its daily distribution operations: the Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. The MWSS continues to operate as an overseer to the tow companies, and continues maintain operations of the water sources and filtration such as the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa Water Reservoir and Balara Filtration Complex. At present, all three entities operate at the same complex, with Manila Water Company occupying the 2nd and 3rd floors of the MWSS Administration Building, and the Maynilad Water Services occupying the North Building of the MWSS Compound. Despite these radical changes, the MWSS and its private partners continue the legacy started by Don Francisco Carriedo, more than 300 years ago.

MWSS Administration Complex

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