In my previous article on New Manila, I wrote of the history of the place, as well as of the many landmarks of this historical part of Quezon City. What I didn’t tackle were the stories of the old mansions in the area, and the families who lived in them. Some are still standing, but are in a state of disrepair. Other homes have been bulldozed to make way for the modern architectural tastes of the new residents.
The New Manila district was first developed in the 1930s, by Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady (1877-1955), who had purchased the former Jesuit friar lands of San Juan Del Monte from the America colonial government of the Philippines (1898-1946). Doña Magdalena was a Lebanese, whose maiden name was Wadi’ah Hashim (or Wadiyah), before changing her name when she converted to Catholicism, when she settled in the Philippines. Doña Magdalena came to the Philippines with her husband, Juan Ysmael Sr. (1864-1908), whose Lebanese name was originally Hanna Mansour Gemayel, but had to change it to Ysmael, due to the difficulty of Filipinos and American in pronouncing his name. Hailing from the Bikfaya region of Lebanon, the Ysmaels took as ship to Australian around 1905, to escape the persecution and force military drafts of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which had controlled the country. While on route to Australia, their ship had to make an emergency stop in Davao, due to engine trouble. The Ysmaels and many other Lebanese families disembarked and fell in love with the country. Soon the Ysmaels moved to Manila, and established a steel manufacturing plant along España Boulevard Extension.
Doña Magdalena would join her brother Faride T. Hashim Sr. (1841-1931), who had migrated earlier to the Philippines, and establish the Manila Grand Opera House, which allowed Doña Magdalena’s family to hobnob with Manila’s wealthy and powerful, and build more business and political connections.
Years after Juan’s death, Doña Magdalena would remarry to another Lebanese migrant, Kemal “Dodo” H. Hemady (1884-1952), who would help her establish the Magdalena Estates, which is now called New Manila. Doña Magdalena never had children with Kemal, and she raised her three from Juan: Felipe, Magdalena, and Juan Jr. They would continue the businesses of their mother, and would intermarry with other notable local families, such as the Recto and Perez-Rubio clans, further cementing their continuing influence in Filipino society.
Doña Magdalena saw the cool atmosphere of this hilly Jesuit land as an ideal residential area for the wealthy families of Manila, away from the over-crowded, dusty, and noisy streets of the city. When she started developing the Hacienda Hemady, both local and foreign families started buying up parcels of the land, and started building their mansions. Aside from the American colonialists, many other European and even West Asians purchased lots, and many of these were ambassadors to their respective counties. Some of these foreigners were German nations, which led to the transfer of the German cultural center, the Goethe-Institut (established 1961 in Pasay City), to a new property at the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Gilmore Avenue, in 1978. However, the growing traffic in the area and the construction of the of the overhead Light Rail Transit overshadowing the building would lead the Goethe-Institut’s relocation to the City of Makati, in 2006.
For the Filipino residents, the most famous would be President Manuel Luis Molina Quezon (1878-1944), who moved into to #45 Gilmore Avenue, in 1927. The President was suffering from Tuberculosis, and needed the fresh clean air to help his recuperation. While residing in the Hacienda Hemady, President Quezon was investing in upgrading the nearby Santol Sanitarium (established 1918), of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society Inc. (established 1910). The new sanitarium was open and renamed the Quezon Institute in 1938, which included new buildings designed by the National Artist for Architecture, Juan Nakpil.
Arch. Juan Felipe Nakpil (1899-1986) was the son, of the musician and composer, Julio Garcia Nakpil (1867-1960) and Gregoria Álvarez de Jesús (1875-1943); who were known for their efforts during the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898). He initially took up engineering at the University of the Philippines, then he later studied architecture at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts, in France. After working for several architectural firms, Nakpil eventually opening his own architectural firm in 1930. Nakpil’s most noted works are San Carlos Seminary, Iglesia ni Cristo Riverside Locale (Now F. Manalo, San Juan), Capitol Theater, Captain Pepe Building, Manila Jockey Club, Rufino Building, Philippine Village Hotel, the Quezon Hall and Gonzales Halls of the U.P., and the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna. Nakpil was given the honor of National Artist for Architecture in 1973.
Although the Quezon home has been demolished, with its interior moved to a museum replica of the house in the Quezon Memorial Circle, one of the mansions that still stands and has sparked the curiosity of many passersby is the Villa Caridad, along Broadway Avenue. The eclectic Mediterranean styled house was built in the 1930s by Architect Domingo Lerma, for his relative, Dr. Jose Lerma, a Stanford graduate of dentistry and antique dealer/collector. Both the architect and dentist were from Tondo/Bicol clan of the zarzuela director, Florencio Lerma (1861-1897), who was martyred during the Katipunan Revolution of 1896-1898.
By the 1950s, Dr. Jose Lerma retired from his practice and moved to a smaller home in San Miguel, Manila, as living in such a large home was too cumbersome for an aging bachelor. The mansion was purchased by the Tondo/Nueva Ecija Ongsiaco-Gallego family, and was renovated by Arch. Alejandro Yelab Caudal (died around 1955), who was known to have designed many pre-war mansions in Manila and Bulacan. The new residents named the mansion Villa Caridad, after the matriarch Doña Caridad Valasco Ongsiaco-Gallego (1896-1974), who had established the Gallego Institute of Agriculture and Industry in the province of Nueva Ecija, in 1953, to help rehabilitate the post-war agricultural sector of Central Luzon. The Ongsiaco-Gallego used this mansion as their base in Manila, whereas they would spend much of their time in the hacienda in the province of Nueva Ecija, called Rancho Caridad. Both Doña Caridad and her husband, Don Manuel Viola Gallego (1893-1976), are buried in their Nueva Ecija estate.
Another famous home along Broadway Avenue is the stately manor of Don José “Pepe” Roura Santiago de León (died 1934) and Doña Narcisa “Sisang” Buencamino-de León (1877-1966), one of the founding families of the LVN (De Leon, Villonco & Navoa) Studios, which was built in the nearby Cubao district. Don Pepe and Doña Sisang met in their hometown of San Miguel, Bulacan, where Don Pepe was the Capitan Municipal of the town and Sisang was a local seamstress. The couple engaged in the business of rice production, and later Doña Sisang was nominated as a director of the board of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, by President Quezon. During this time, the De León’s commissioned the National Artist for Architecture, Pablo Antonio, to design their home in the newly acquire property in Hacienda Hemady. Sadly, Don Pepe passed away one year before the house was completed in 1935. Shortly after her husband’s death, Doña Sisang was invited to invest in the fledgling film industry, and in 1940 she was elected as president of the company, where she would buy out the shares of her co-investors a lead the company until her death. Doña Sisang’s home in New Manila became a hub for the local show business people, and is still a popular filming location to this day.
Arch. Pablo Sebero Antonio, Sr. (1901-1975) was a pioneer of modern Philippine architecture, moving from the Neoclassical aesthetics of the American Occupation (1898-1945) to the modernist Art Deco and International styles. Antonio first took a correspondence course in architecture and structural engineering, before enrolling at the Mapua Institute of Technology, but had to drop out due to the lack of funds. Fortunately, Antonio was sponsored by Eng. Ramon Arevalo, and he was able to complete his studies at the University of London. Upon returning to the Philippines and obtaining his license, Antonio’s talent was easily recognized and he was getting projects for institutions such as the Far Eastern University (FEU), Philippine National Bank, and Manila Railroad Company. Some of Antonio’s most noted works are the Nicanor Reyes Hall and Administration Building of the FEU, Manila Polo Club, the Galaxy Theater in Manila, and Ramon Roces Publications Building. At a latter point of his career, Antonio became president of the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA). Antonio’s continuing thrust for a modern Philippine architectural landscape led to many awards and honors such as the Architect of the Year by PIA in 1952, the National Award of Merit for Architecture by the government, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1971, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1972, and the National Artist in Architecture in 1976.
Also on Broadway Avenue is the home of Dr. Potenciano Carpio Malvar (1867-1964) and Doña Eusebia Fule. Dr. Potenciano was born in Batangas, to Capitan Municipal “Imoy” Maximo Malvar (1844-1930) and Tiburcia Carpio (1845-1908). Dr. Potenciano is the younger brother of the famed revolutionary general, Miguel Malvar (1865-1911). Potenciano took his medical studies in Spain, and practiced in the Philippines, before being called to serve as a politician. Dr. Potenciano served as the governor of the Province of Laguna, representative of the municipality of San Perdo to the 2nd Philippine Legislature, and mayor of the municipality of San Pablo. The mansion along Broadway Avenue was built years after Dr. Potenciano’s retirement from politics.
A mansion on Broadway Avenue that is going through renovations is home of Dr. Félix Ochoa Cortés (1905-1968) and Doña Amparo Joven y de Keyser de Cortés (1911-2010), where Dr. Felix hailed from Manila, and Doña Amparo came from the town of Bacolor, Pampanga. Built in 1932, the house was a wedding gift of Dr. Felix to Doña Amparo, and was designed by a certain Arch. Enrique Santo Tomas. The house was taken over by Japanese forces during the war, with one of the officers was a Kempetai intelligence officer, who had worked for the Cortés’ undercover as the family gardener. And after the Battle of Manila (1945), the fleeing Japanese soldiers tried to destroy the house by leaving booby-trapped explosives in one of the cabinets, hoping to kill the American soldiers who were going house-to-house. Fortunately the nitroglycerin based bomb was neutralized, and the house was saved.
Dr. Cortes’ grandfather, Jose Doroteo Cortes y Yangco (1838-1919), was a lawyer and gobernadorcillo of Santa Cruz of the Santa Cruz district of Manila, who was famous for submitting the 1888 petition to Queen Maria Christina Henrietta Désirée Félicité Rénière (1858-1929) of Spain demanding the expulsion of all friars from the Philippines, and later worked for President Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (1869-1964), during the Katipunan Revolution (1896-1898) against Spain. On her paternal side, Doña Amparo came from a political family, in Bacolor, Pampanga; tracing her to roots to Don Juan Joven, a Chinese trader from Binondo who transferred to Bacolor, and eventually served as its gobernadorcillo. Don Juan’s political legacy was continued by the Pampanga Governor Ceferino Joven. On her maternal side, Doña Amparo’s maternal grandparents, Mariano Keyser and Leonora de Leon Keyser, were wealthy Spanish land owners from Bacolor. Doña Amparo’s family was part of the noted Kapampangan clans that united to establish the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO), in 1918. The PSUDECO Compound in San Fernando, Pamapanga, in now considered a heritage site.
A few houses down of the Joven-Cortes home is the mansion of Senator and Speaker of the Philippine National Assembly of the Japanese Occupation, Benigno Simeon “Igno” Quiambao Aquino Sr. (1894-1947). This was his home with his second wife, Doña Aurora Lampa Aquino (1910-1998), and one of their sons, the future senator, Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. (1932-1983), was the playmate of the eldest son of Dr. Jose and Doña Amparo Cortés. The most other children of Senator Igno & Maria Aurora “Maur” Aquino-Lichauco (born 1931), Senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino (1939-2015), Maria Gerarda “Ditas” Aquino (born 1935), and television and film director Maria Guadalupe “Lupita” Aquino- Kashiwahara (formerly Concio, born 1937), Senator Maria Teresa Aquino-Oreta (born 1944), and businessman Paul Aquino, until their selling the home years after the war. Senator Ingo’s political roots started with his father, Servillano Aquino y Aguilar (1874-1959), who was the mayor of Murcia, Tarlac, and served as a general during the Katipunan revelation against Spain (1896-1898) and Philippine-American War (1899-1902). Senator Ingo’s political aspirations extended to some of his children, whereas it was his daughter-in-law, Maria Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino (1933-2009), and grandson, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Cojuangco Aquino III (born 1960), who have achieved the highest position of President of the Philippines.
One discrete property along Broadway Avenue is the location where the educator, social worker, and politician, Geronima Josefa Tomelden Pecson (1895-1989) resided after the World War II. Pecson is recognized as the first Filipina senator, who served from 1948 to 1954, and the first Filipino and woman to be elected to the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) in 1950. At the wall outside the compound, there is a historical marker that was installed by the National Historical Commission.
One of the old mansions that has been demolished is the home of Chief Justice José Y. Yulo (1894-1976). Judge Yulo came from Bago, Negros Occidental, and migrated to Manila to pursue his law studies in the University of the Philippines. As a corporate lawyer, Yulo was recognized for his skill and sharpness, as he was appointed as Justice Secretary by the American colonial Governor-General Frank Murphy, in 1934. He was later elected to the National Assembly of the Philippines, and served as the Chief Justice during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines (1941-1945). He was called upon to serve again as Secretary of Justice from 1966 to 1967, before his retirement. After his death, Judge Yulo’s son, Jose Jr., engaged in real estate and developed the old mansion and other New Manila properties into modern homes. One of those new residences is the infamous Boracay Mansion along 11th Street, now called the Quezon City Reception House, which was a key part in the impeachment hearings against then President Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada (born José Ejército y Marcelo; born 1937).
Another famous Post-War mansion that have been replaced with a modernist home is that of Doña Josephine Beley Murphy de Cojuangco (1896-2008) that once took most of the block between Balete drive, Bouganvilla and Hibiscus streets. Doña Josephine was born to the Irish-American John James Murphy and the Ilocana, Gregoria Beley; owners of the Alhambra Theater, in Baguio City. She married Eduardo Cojuangco y Chichioco Sr. (1902-1952), from Paniqui, Tarlac, and they resided in Santa Ana, Manila. After the war, the Cojuangcos were able to purchase the New Manila property from an American who wanted to return to the USA, after being interred at the Japanese prison camp in the University of Santo Tomas campus, during the war. The new house was a continuous work-in-progress, but DoñaJosephine was forced to foresee the completion of the home, after the death of Don Eduardo, in 1952. Presently, part of the lot has been converted to residential business establishments, while the site of the old house is now a modern mansion where her son, the businessman and politician, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., resides.
North of the Cojuangco property is where the old mansion of Senator Vicente María Epifanio Madrigal-López y Pardo de Tavera (1880-1972), a Spanish Filipino who hailed from Ligao, Albay. After his stint in politics during the 1940s, Senator Vicente would return to the business of real estate, which his wife, Susana Paterno y Ramos, had urged him into, before her death in 1941. Many of Senator Vicente’s real estate investments went to developing the gated residential subdivisions for the rich; such as the Corinthian Gardens in Quezon City, the Arcadia Village in Pasig, and the Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa. Senator Vicente also partnered with Doña Narcisa Buencamino-de León as one of the major stockholders of the Rizal Cement Corporation. He also had businesses in shipping, agriculture, and exports. After Senator Vicente’s death; the old house was converted to a row of modern town houses.
Another old home on Balete Drive was that of Maria Clara “Nena” Recto and Tomas “Tomasing” Topacio Garchitorena (1907-1966) of Tigaon, Partida, Camarines Sur. Nena Recto was the daughter of the first wife of Senator Claro Mayo Recto (1890-1960). Nena married Tomasing, and had two daughters: Maria Lourdes and Maria Elena. Lourdes died at the age of 2, whereas Elena died in a car accident, in 1949. Neighbors began to spread rumors about Elena’s death, and it linked to urban legend of “white lady” ghost who appears inside the rear seats of automobiles passing through Balete Drive. Although the stories were just creations of the idles mind, the death of their daughters proved too difficult for the couple and they divorced, and years later, Nena would marry the American WW2 veteran, John Arthur “Jack” Warner (1915-1972), and migrate to Spain. Nena and Jack had two children, Penelope Anne “Penny” Recto Warner (married a Count De Salamanca) and John “Jack” Arthur Warner, Jr., who are believed to be still alive as of the writing of this article.
There are many more ancestral houses in New Manila, whose histories are clouded from public knowledge, at this time. There are some ancestral homes hidden behind the high walls that passersby would not be aware of. And there are also mansions in plain site that no one seems to be talking about, including their caretakers.
Never-the-less, there are many more residents whose stories about their homes in New Manila have yet to be told. Among these noted New Manila residents are Chief Justice Ramón Avanceña (1872-1957); Senator Alejandro Durano Almendras (1919-1995), who lived in #54 Gilmore Avenue; Manuel Alcuaz y Tuazon (1897-1970) and Rosa Araneta y Zaragoza (born 1906), who purchased a house built in 1927 from the Italian-American, Louis Joseph Francisco in 1941; and the family of Don José Amado Araneta (1907-1985), who would develop the nearby commercial district of Cubao, in the 1950s. There were also the pre-war homes that were converted into modernist mansions, such as those of Dr. Jesus and Ambassador Rafaelita Hilario-Soriano (1915-2007) and Architect Carlos D. Corcuer-Arguelles (1917-2008). And for those old residents, the post-war center of the community would become the Shrine Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, which is the subject of my next article.