The Visayas Avenue, in Quezon City, is a 2.6 kilometer stretch of road, which starts from Elliptical Road in the south, and ends at an intersection of Tandang Sora Avenue in the north. Constructed in the 1960s, the Visayas Avenue was named after one of the three island groups that make up the Philippines, and the other two roads, Luzon and Mindanao avenues, run almost parallel to the Visayas Avenue. The development of the Visayas Avenue was part of the Quezon City master plan as the new seat of the Philippine government, to house many of the government offices along the Elliptical Road and the other nearby roads. Presently, the southern portion of the Visayas Avenue is dominated by government offices, whereas the central and northern areas are filled with business establishments and restaurants.
Starting at the Elliptical Road is the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) Office, at the southeast end of the Visayas Avenue. The BSWM started as the Division of the Soil and Fertilizers, in 1921, and was renamed to the Bureau of Soil Conservation in 1951. The bureau went through two more reorganizations, until it was finally named the BSWM in 1987, and moved to its new home in 1990.
Right across on the southwestern end of Visayas Avenue is the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) office, which was first constructed in 1987. The DA was first established in 1898 as the Department of Agriculture and Manufacturing, the DA has gone through several reorganizations and renaming, until it was finally entitled as the Department of Agriculture, in 1987. The latest building in the compound is the Research and Development Management and Information Center (RDMIC), which was opened in 2004.
Right beside it is the DA Bureau of Agricultural Research compound is the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) compound, which was first opened in 1987. Established in 1930 in Manila, the move to Quezon City allowed the BPI’s different divisions to have their own office buildings within the compound, such as the National Pesticide Analytical Laboratory, Nationals Seed Quality Control Services, and the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Product Standards (opened in 1998).
The next compound in the DA complex is the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), which was opened in 1978. Within the Philippine Animal Health Center / Animal Disease Diagnosis and Reference Laboratory (opened 1992), the Viral Vaccine Production Laboratory, the National Dairy Authority (founded 1995), the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (established 2013), the Livestock Development Division, and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (established 1973).One interesting feature about the GAI compound is that all the streets are names after domesticated animals.
In the heart of the Bureau of Animal Industry compound is an Art Deco sculpture of a woman standing beside a Carabao (Bubalus bubalis), looking nobly into the distance. This “Tribute to the Carabao” is a replica of one of the monuments that the Italian sculptor, Francesco Riccardo Monti, created for the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol, between 1933 and 1935.And in 1938, after Secretary Eulogio “Amang” Adona Rodríguez Sr. (1883-1964) of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce saw the statues in Negros, he commissioned Monti to create a replica for the department’s office at the Agrifina Circle, in Manila. During the 1945 Battle of Manila, the department office was heavily damaged, while Monti’s sculpture surprisingly remained unscathed. And when the renamed Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources moved to its current location in Quezon City, in 1959, the sculpture was also transferred and tucked away into was would eventually become the BAI compound.
Francesco Riccardo Clementi Monti (1888-1958) was an Italian sculptor who resided in the Philippines from 1930 to 1958. He was the son of Alexander Monti, who hailed from a long line of masons and sculptors in Cremona, Italy. Francesco would be distinguished as the only one of his clan to train formally in the arts, as he would enroll at the Institute of Ponzone for Decorative Arts and Technology and the Royal Academy of Breza in Milan. Upon completing his studies, Monti would return Cremona, and launch a very successful career creating many public sculptures for the city, where he developed his Art Deco style. His work slowed down with World War I (1914-1918), as Monti jointed the Italian military. After the war, he returned to sculpting, and he was honored, in 1924, with the title of Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy, for his artistic endeavors. In 1928, Monti design was selected as the grand prize winner for the Caduti Austrio-Ungheresi Monument design competition in Cremona, for a memorial for 33 Austro-Hungarian soldiers killed in Cremona in World War I. Sadly, the judges would later reverse the decision, and award the prize to another sculpture, due to political wrangling of the fascist politicians in power. This greatly dismayed Monti, and he decided to leave Cremona. He moved across Europe, and later went to New York City, where he met the Filipino Architect Juan Arrellano, who invited him to visit the Philippines. Monti would later shuffle between Italy, Hong Kong, and the Philippines; until he finally settled in Manila in 1932. Monti would collaborate with Arch. Arellano and sculptor Guillermo Tolentino in many projects, before being incarcerated by the Japanese in World War II (1938-1945). After the war, Monti received many commissions for the sculptural work in the rehabilitation of the structures damaged by the war, as well as new infrastructure developments throughout the country. Monti’s works can be seen on the Manila Metropolitan Theater in Manila, Philippine Military Academy in Baguio, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, and the Don Bosco Technical School in Mandaluyong City. In 1948, Monti started teaching at the UST School of Fine Arts, and help develop their sculpture program. Among his distinguished students were AngKiukok, Leonardo Hidalgo, Ting Ping Lay, and Virginia Ty-Navarro. Monti worked with many Filipino architects and artists, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), in 1948. He died in 1958, and was buried in his adoptive land, the Philippines.
The last part of the Department of Agriculture complex is the National Food Authority Warehouse (NFA) compound (established 1972), with the National Meat Inspection Services (established 1972) located within the premises.
Right across the Bureau of Plant Industry compound is the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) compound, on the west side of Visayas Avenue. Established 1986, the PIA compound also houses the offices and studios of the government’s People’s Television Network. First established as the Government Television (GTV-4) in 1974, the TV station changed its structure and names several times, to Maharlika Broadcasting System in 1980, to the People’s Television (PTV) in 1986, to the People’s Television Network (PTNI) in 1992, to the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) in 2001, and finally back to the People’s Television Network in 2011.
The last government offices along Visayas Avenue is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) complex. First established as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) in 1917, the department was renamed as the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1974, and relocated to its present home in Quezon City. The DENR took on its final name in 1987.
Part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources compound is the Forest Management Bureau, which was established in 1987.
Right after the NFA and Forest Management Bureau offices, the rest of the buildings along Visayas Avenue are business establishments that range from banks to construction supplies. One of the more significant establishments in the area is the Conspiracy Garden Café, which serves local and international cuisine, while art exhibitions and performances of noted musicians and poets are held every Monday to Saturday nights. Established in 2003, by a collective of artists, academicians and developmental workers, the Conspiracy Café has become a major cultural hub for Quezon City.
Aside from business and government institutions, the Visayas Avenue has its fair share of places of worship, to keep the business owners, employees and nearby residents following the straight and narrow path. Among these houses o praise are the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness, the Iglesia ni Cristo Lokal ng Visayas, the Kapilya Ng Pagkabuhay on Central Avenue, the Parish of Mary the Immaculate Conception on Wisdom Street (established 1990), and the San Agustin Center of Studies (established 1984) and Columbary on Fisheries Street. However, one of the most significant churches is the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parishon Road 6, which was designed and completed by the National Artist for Architecture, Jose Maria Zaragoza, in 1961.
Although there are just a few significant art and architectural pieces to be found near or along Visayas Avenue, there are still so many stories that the business owners, employees, residents and visitors can speak out about their experiences in their thoroughfare. Part of those stories can be told by the many children who have passed the halls of education in the area, such as the Mines Elementary School in Vasra (established 1961), the St. Anne Special School on Carmel Avenue (established 1974), the Maria Montessori School (established 1981), the Ste. Anne de Beaupré School in Teresa Village (established 1987), the Quezon City Hope Christian School (established 1999), and the Academia de Bellarmino along Road 1 (established 2005). Who knows how these future generations will redefine the Visayas Avenue, and maybe add more to its history and heritage?