1. On a sunny day in March, royals descended upon the Manila Polo Club in Makati for the first Global Port Philippine Polo Open.

    Hoofing it up

    Princes and ponies. Sacrificing speed to handiness.


    Polo, like horse racing, is called “the game of kings” because of the prohibitive expense of keeping and maintaing horses. It does, however, rightfully earn its title, counting among its enthusiasts King Edward VIII, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, the current Prince of Wales and his sons, the Princes William and Harry.

    The game began in Persia, allegedly in the 6th century BC, and was supposedly played by the emperors and their courtiers on horseback. From Persia, the game spread to India, where it was then picked up by the British colonizers, who introduced the game on their home turf. The British then spread the game to the rest of the world.

    Polo reached Philippine shores in the early 1900s via William Cameron Forbes, a Governor-General of the Philippines during the American Occupation. During his tenure as vice-governor, from 1908-1909, the Manila Polo Club was established in its then location in Calle Real in Pasay. After the war, the Manila Polo Club was relocated to its present location in Forbes Park, which owes its name to Mr. Forbes. Mr. Forbes was such an enthusiast of the sport that he wrote and compiled pointers in a book titled As To Polo, published in 1919.

    On a sunny day in March, royals descended upon the Manila Polo Club in Makati for the first Global Port Philippine Polo Open. Present were HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei, accompanied by his son, Prince Bahar Bolkiah, and his nephew, Prince Qaqi Bolkiah.

    The Royal Brunei team played for third place against the Tang Polo team of China. Two matches were lined up for the afternoon, the other one being the championship game between the Global Port and San Miguel teams from the Philippines. Generally, games are organized and sponsored by companies, such as the Global Port Philippine Open, and the annual FILA Polo Cup. There are also games organized by the Manila Polo Club, such as the annual President’s Cup and the William Forbes Cup. The polo season in the Philippines begins in January and ends in March.

    Before the games began, early birds strolled about the field with their children. A billowing white marquee was set up by the field for the spectators, from which one could see the Makati skyline rising from the trees and the turf. A cowboy theme was enforced for the summer afternoon, so the guests strolled about in either checkered rodeo attire, or polished casual summer whites and lights. Meanwhile, the players sat in tents pitched closer to the field.

    After a while, the players rode their polo ponies (a misleading name for the full-sized horses used for the game), and lined up to face the audience, then rode around each other to begin the game.

    Most polo ponies today stand at about 61 inches, and may be of several breeds, although thoroughbreds are generally the most popular. According to online guides, an alert and attentive horse, with a lustrous coat and elastic skin is desirable. It is, of course, important to look for a good and calm-tempered horse for safe gameplay. A horse eight to 10 years old would be ideal for the game. A horse also needs to be trained in the game’s specifics, which involves gently brushing a polo mallet against a horse’s body, and then moving on to swinging a mallet under the horse’s body.

    In As To Polo, Mr. Forbes shares his tips on choosing a good horse, although he demurs from going into detail into factors such as height and age: “I like to see ponies that are well coupled and keep their feet well under them, and personally I sacrifice speed to handiness, although I know some players who sacrifice everything to speed.”

    A man with a Southern drawl that reminded one of Bourbon did the commentary for the games. The first point for the match was scored by Ale Agote, a player from the Royal Brunei team. The game is played on a field 300 yards long, and 160 yards wide. The field in the Manila Polo Club is named after Enrique Zobel, who holds the honor of being the first Filipino president of the Club (he assumed the post in 1963). Players astride horses score points by hitting a hard, white plastic ball with mallets through the opposing team’s goals, five feet wide, and marked by 10-foot poles. Players wear white trousers, shirts marked with their team’s colors, riding boots, and the necessary riding helmets.

    As the players rode under the sun, the audience enjoyed a leisurely afternoon. Servers moved about an audience seated on Tiffany chairs upholstered in white. Plates of canapes and smoked ham were offered to guests, while some guests ordered cocktails and lit cigars while chuckling at the excitement on the field.

    A game is divided into four chukkas at seven minutes each. It should make for a fast game, if not for many breaks taken by players to adjust their gear, or to change horses when the horses themselves tire of the game. The games then, last for an hour or two.

    The Royal Brunei team won over Tang Polo in overtime with a score of 5-4, thus securing third place in the open.

    The championship game began soon after, with the Global Port and San Miguel teams fighting for the championship. Flags from the countries participating in the open (the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, represented by the King Power team, China, and the US, represented by the ADEC Group team) were paraded by players on horseback, after which the Philippine team rode forward, and the rest of the teams rode off.

    Veteran player Iñigo Zobel led the San Miguel team, while Michael Romero, who should have led the Global Port team, was not able to play.

    During the championship game, Juan Jauretche, an Argentinian player playing for San Miguel’s team, fell off his horse. The normally staid audience rose from their seats in anxiety, as one of the two ambulances on standby rushed to help the player. Fortunately, the young man rose and got back on his horse, to everyone’s relief.

    The game picked up quite rapidly, with San Miguel scoring three goals, two by Iñigo Zobel, and the fourth point being secured by Jauretche, back on his galloping horse. He made a rather remarkable move by tossing the ball in the air with his mallet, only to catch it again and hit it.

    The sun started to set on the game’s third chukka in the championship’s 5-chukka game, coloring the field gold. The third chukka signaled the game’s half-time, which prompted the host to call members of the audience to the field for the divotting ceremony. As in other sports that engage horses, the divotting ceremony allows the audience to participate by going to the field to stomp on clods of dirt kicked up by the horses. Before the audience could approach the field, dancers in rodeo garb line- danced in accordance to the cowboy theme, to the tune of a pop song. After the dance, glasses of champagne were offered to guests who braved the field. Some ladies in high heels politely declined to join the ceremony.

    The San Miguel team won the match, scoring goal after goal, ending the game, and winning the championship, at a score of 9-4. The players shook hands with each other while still on horseback. Crystal trophies were awarded to the winners.

    After the game, while tables and chairs were set up on the field for a dinner party to celebrate the polo open, High Life asked Mr. Zobel about the fate of polo in the Philippines. “It died for a while… but it’s starting to pick up again,” he said, adding that the sport’s heyday was during the Marcos era. Interestingly, the club assumed its proprietary classification in 1977, during the height of the Marcos years. Asked if the Philippines would ever become a haven for polo, Mr. Zobel’s response was measured. “Well, it will take a little time to get there,” he said, “I think it’s a nice goal.” 


  2. As the first Filipino to win a race in Europe, the Prince of Speed is seen as the country’s Formula One hope.

    The track to an F1 trophy

    From the garage of Marlon Stockinger.


    Ranked ninth in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series standings, Filipino-Swiss race car driver Marlon Stockinger is living the dream at 23 years old. As the first Filipino to win a race in Europe, the Prince of Speed is seen as the country’s Formula One hope.

    Exposed to motor sports since he was a child, Stockinger sacrificed a lot of things to be able to pursue his ambition. At 17, he skipped university and left his family and friends to train in Europe and the United States. “In the end, I don’t regret it because it’s bringing me closer to where I’m supposed to go,” he said at a press conference for Globe Slipstream. During the event in August, Stockinger drove his Formula Renault car around a makeshift circuit in Bonifacio Global City, hitting around 200 km/h (well below his top speed of 310 km/h). “It felt like a Grand Prix atmosphere,” he said about driving on home soil.

    Stockinger knows that every triumph is a team effort. He joined the Lotus F1 team in February last year as one of the six drivers supported by the team in areas such as driving skills, physical fitness, health and nutrition, social and mental development, business ethics and PR training. “At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s driving the race car [but you are only] that last link.”

    At the Lotus F1 headquarters in Enstone, United Kingdom, there are 470 employees who research, develop, design, build and test the car. In the office, “computational fluid dynamics” is a term passed around often. The team concentrates on building “the best car that will give the driver the best chance for success.” This year, the team developed the Lotus WSR Gravity Charouz Formula Renault 3.5 car.

    The car is serviced and maintained by the team in the factory. In between events, it is fully stripped down so that the team can check all 30,000 components. This is performed under strict schedules. When races are back-to-back (a week apart) and in different continents, the turnaround must be quicker but no less precise. While there is only one driver running the show, the Lotus F1 team that goes to a Grand Prix is composed of around 85 members, including engineers, technicians, support crew, managers, electronics experts and logistics people. This number is reduced in the pit, where a handful of engineers works alongside a strategist, the race team manager and the team principal.

    In the garage, crew members await orders. They get as little as 20 seconds of calm before a car comes screaming in. After that, it’s three seconds of precise choreography. The car is lifted, tires are changed (each tire is assigned three men—one pneumatic wrench—wielding tire changer and a pair of tire carriers), the car is refueled, the windshield is cleaned, etc. Elsewhere in the garage, engineers look for any discrepancies through telemeters and liaise with those on the pit wall.

    During a race, the strategist and chief engineer work on Stockinger’s feedback on tires and traffic. The chief engineer directs on any sporting regulations, such as penalties and red flags. The engineers relay the information to Stockinger, instructing him about fuel, brakes, and set-up. In turn, Stockinger raises issues like car handling and tire wear. The race team manager communicates changing circuit circumstances like yellow flags, and controls the pit crew. The team principal oversees decisions on the strategy.

    "You take all the glory when you step on the podium but that trophy is not only for you," said Stockinger, "but the team as well."


  3. Throwback Thursday: Touché, sir

    The gentlemanly sport of fencing.


    There is an iconic photo that shows the Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal in the courtyard of Juan Luna’s Paris home. Dressed in a fencing jacket, he stands proudly in a contrapposto while his weapon bends as he pushes it against the gravel. He is flanked by Luna and Valentin Ventura, the three of them taking a pause from fencing practice as Luna’s wife watches from afar.

    Another grainier photo shows Luna and Rizal in the midst of a bout. Here, Rizal is shown in full lunge as he attempts to strike with his sword. Luna, meanwhile, parries the attack.

    These two images show that Filipino engagement with fencing is old and enduring. Despite this longtime fascination, the sport is perceived to be the preoccupation of the few. The perception is understandable given the relatively low coverage in sports news and its established image in popular culture.

    Many still associate the activity with the royal courts of Europe, a representation reinforced by stories such as The Three Musketeers, a novel written by the French author Alexandre Dumas, himself a practicing fencer.

    The history of fencing, however, goes further back. A report written for the International Fencing Federation says that there is evidence that fencing was practiced in Ancient Egypt, where opponents fought with swords and donned masks. Duels were also seen in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome and periods that succeeded, when wars were waged and won with swords.

    After the arrival of gunpowder, swordplay persisted as a form of leisure. Modern fencing is said to have started in 19th century France, where the rules, teaching methods, and arms of the sport were finally codified. By this time, the three weapons—foil, pée and sabre—had distinguished themselves. Furthermore, the sport ceased to be the exclusive pastime of dukes and princes as members of the mercantile and industrial class began picking it up.

    Fencing was one of the original nine events to appear in the first modern Olympic Games. In 1896, 15 male fencers from Austria, Denmark, France and Greece came to Athens to compete. Female fencers only started competing in the 1924 Paris Games.

    The London 2012 Olympic Games saw 212 fencers vie for medals in 10 events. Participants included French-flag bearer Laura Flessel-Colovic, China’s Li Na, Japan’s Yuki Ota, America’s Tim Morehouse, and Italy’s Aldo Montano, whose namesake grandfather was also a fencer and a medalist in the 1948 London Games. The Philippines was not represented this year. In fact, only two Filipino fencers have had the honor of becoming Olympians: Percival Alger, who competed in Seoul in 1988; and Walter Torres, who competed in Barcelona in 1992.

    The Philippine Fencing Association, the sport’s local governing body, reports that there are around 2,000 fencers in the country. Out of this number, some 250 regularly compete in the association’s monthly open competition. (Other countries also suffer a similar low membership count. According to one fencing website, the US fencing association has 22,000 members; Germany’s federation, 30,000; and Sweden, 4,000).

    But the tide is turning as more and more hobbyists try their hand at fencing. One of these recreational fencers is Myra Cruz, a 59-year-old lawyer from San Juan, who has been playing the sport for more than a decade. She trains with her personal coach and has her own fencing hall. The ambidextrous fencer plays all three fencing weapons with both hands. She also practices arnis, precision shooting, and dancesports. But of all her avocations, she believes that it is fencing that improves her coordination the most.

    Filipino fencers are also joining more international competitions. The Philippine squad has already won a slew of medals in several Southeast Asian Games. Private initiatives such as Ezkrima, a fencing training program established by former members of the national squad, are bringing the sport to more leisure players.

    Fencing requires a high degree of physical ability, stamina, and mastery of techniques. It is also a mental game. You need to respond quickly to the exchange of successive strikes as you try to outwit your opponent in making the first hit. Age and fitness might give a player an advantage, but more often than not, the man who thinks and reacts faster will make the hit.

    "The combination of moves is innumerable, and it’s up to you to think constantly of new ones. In a 15-point match against a person whose playing style you barely know, the moment you stop thinking about your game plan is the moment you start losing," says Brian Tamase, a medalist at the recent Philippine National Games.

    In fencing, success is decided on the piste, a 14-meter long metal strip where the bouts or fights take place.

    For this writer, the piste is a shiny, rough-surfaced battlefield, where you must constantly try to hold your line. Once you put on your mask, the din of the audience fades away. You are all alone, facing two adversaries: your opponent and yourself. You have to get over your nerves, analyze your mistakes, and draft your moves.

    All the while, you are also reading, anticipating and countering your opponent’s “intentions.” You have to realign your moves quickly because both defeat and victory can be instantaneous.

    Fencing has ever been a bastion of gentlemanly behavior. The sport’s white jackets and breeches exude respectability, the kind ilustrados showed at play and in real life. Indeed, a certain decorum is demanded on and off the piste, despite (forgive the pun) all that sabre-rattling. It isn’t surprising that no matter how dramatic or bellicose the bout might be, it must begin and end with fencers saluting the presider and each other. 

    Sidebar: A modern trinity of weapons

    Foil. A light thrusting square-sectioned weapon with a pistol grip and a safety button at its tip. Its bell or handguard is saucer-shaped. Hits are made by thrusting the weapon forward against the target area of the opponent.

    Target: torso only, as it mimics attacks on the most vital parts of the body.

    Épée. Like the foil, it also has a pistol grip and hits are made by thrusting its tip against the target area. However, the blade is heaviest of all the three weapons and it has a large handguard that is chalice-like in shape.

    Target: the entire body, including the head, arms, legs and feet.

    Sabre. A cutting weapon because points are made by slashing the edge of the blade against a target as well as thrusting its tip. Its has a wraparound bell and a handlebar grip.

    Target: upper body, i.e. the head, arms and torso as it mimics combat on horseback.


  4. Runner’s high

    Riza Mantaring, Sun Life CEO, on shoes that spring forward and being an ‘ordinary person.’ 


    Rizalina Mantaring, president and chief executive officer of Sun Life Financial in the Philippines, rises an hour before the sun. Under the cover of pre-dawn darkness, she stretches her legs, slips into one of her 10 pairs of running shoes, steps out the door, and runs.

    She rekindled her love affair with running in 2009, the same year she assumed the top post of the insurance services company. It was a grueling time: Sun Life recorded a drop in total premiums from Php13.1 billion in 2007 to Php8.5 billion in 2008. Its market share dipped from 17.2% to 16.8%.

    "The more stressed I became, the longer I ran," she said. "Before sunrise, it’s peaceful. It’s quiet." Five years after becoming CEO, Sun Life is now the number one life insurance provider in the Philippines. Local operations are considered by the Canadian mother company as among the strongest and most stable. Ms. Mantaring is still running. She runs full marathons, and has completed the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and most recently, the Berlin Marathon in September.

    At work, she takes charge, walking in and out of boardrooms in stiletto heels. Toward the end of the day, Ms. Mantaring stands at the large glass window on her sixth floor office and thinks of dawn, when she can run again.

    What brands of shoes do you wear?

    For a long time, I used Nike a lot. Usually it’s not that popular among runners, but for some reason, it fit me the best. You can add US$20 to customize shoe: you start with a particular style then you choose the colors, laces, and the text on the tongue. Lately, I’ve been using Under Armour. The one I used for Berlin is Under Armour. It fit my feet like a glove.

    What do you look for in a shoe?

    The fit has to be good. When you’re running long distances, you can get calluses and injuries [from an ill-fitting shoe]. I also look for good support. That’s why Nike is good, it has cushioning. If I’m going to use a shoe in a race, I want it to be responsive. I want it to spring forward. Otherwise, I feel like it’s pulling me back.

    For me, that’s the most important for a runner: the shoes. You typically have to buy a pair about a month before a marathon and then break it in. You can’t use the same pair you trained in for the marathon because it gets bruised. I’m always changing my shoes.

    Why running?

    It’s a lot more strenuous than the other aerobic exercises I’ve done. You don’t really plateau because you can always run faster or run longer if you feel that the exercise is not enough. You can run as hard as you want—or as soft as you want—depending on how you feel. And the sense of fulfillment that you get is different. In aerobics, when you finish the routine, that’s it. Here, you have a goal. You try to set a personal record. You’re competing with yourself. You’re not with anyone else. You challenge yourself, push yourself to see how far you can go.

    What goes through your mind while you run?

    Generally, nothing in particular. In the office, you’re always challenging your mind. But when you exercise, it’s completely different. You forget all the concerns, all the work you have to do. For some people, it’s like meditation. Your mind is blank. When I’m running, I’m just running.

    What keeps you running?

    First is the stress relief-side. When you’re in a highly stressful job, it’s even more important that you have an exercise. I hear so many people who get all sorts of illnesses by the time they reach 40. I’m already nearing 55, but so far, all my physical exams have very good results. The life-long exercise has helped to keep me healthy and to handle the stress that comes with the job. Next is the discipline that it instills. If you keep skipping training, you’ll never be ready for the race. That kind of mindset you bring to work. If you have to deliver something on this date, you have to make sure you’re doing it days before. And third, because you’re trained to fit running into your schedule, you manage your time better.

    Do you also tell your employees to run?

    No, but because they see me do it, they also do it. Since I became CEO, a lot of people have finished marathons and triathlons. It’s the fact that I’m an ordinary person, I’m not particularly athletic, I’m already old, but I can do the things I do. They think they can do it too, and they see that they can. 


  5. Behind the scenes of High Life magazine’s October 2014 “Having a ball” fashion editorial shoot. 


  6. Check out the highlights of High Life Magazine’s October 2014 issue. Out in stands on Monday.


  7. BenCab’s self-portraits


  8. The many faces of BenCab’s Sabel


  9. Ramon P. Santos and Francisco F. Feliciano, National Artists for Music.


    For full story, visit http://www.highlife.com.ph/Issue/112/A_much_needed_boost_for_contemporary_music.php


  10. Unappreciated, almost forgotten

    José María V. Zaragoza, National Artist for Architecture.

    WORDS Augusto VillalónPHOTOS Chippy Rivera

    José María, an almost forgotten icon in the development of truly Philippine architecture, totally deserves the distinction of finally being conferred as National Artist for Architecture.

    The unappreciated Zaragoza’s career spanned World War II eras, starting from the heady “Peace Time” of the Commonwealth days when the country weaned itself away from Spanish influence to embrace American ways. His long career continued through the post-World War II reconstruction of ravaged Manila, ending at the time after the country was shaking off the residue of a devastating dictatorship.

    The last 50 years are a relatively lost period in the collective Philippine memory. Preferring to focus our attention on the architectural heritage of the Spanish Colonial era, we seem to have shut out those momentous years of post-World War II Philippine architecture. This dynamic period evolved into the innovative modern residences and public buildings constructed during the halcyon pre-Marcos days of the 1950s and 1960s, a time when the Philippines was considered among the most progressive environments in Asia.

    The Marcos era continued progress of architecture in the country mostly by constructing its own genre of architectural monuments that were testimonies to the administration’s achievements. This trend in construction continued the age-old practice of previous regimes to proclaim their greatness through monumental architecture: the Spanish did it through building colonial towns and churches, and the American imprint was through neoclassic structures in the image of Washington DC during the early 1900s. They built provincial capitols, grand Manila structures like the Post Office, Philippine General Hospital, and Congress (now the National Museum of the Philippines).

    The post-war era was a stimulating time for the Philippines, when Asia recognized the country as a regional leader whose quality of life ranked among the highest in the region. We were certainly no backwater country then. The Philippines was the only Asian country with a smooth blending of Philippine, Spanish, and American influences, a unique quality that drew visitors from neighboring countries who traveled to Manila for infusions of its multicultural milieu that was evident in the unique local lifestyle and reflected in its architecture. It was said that at that time Manila, especially the sweeping seaside vista of Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard, manifested a distinct visual identity unlike any other cityscape in Asia, a cityscape more attuned to the Latino seaside boulevards of Rio de Janeiro in sight and feel. Zaragoza’s architecture evoked the seamless blend of Asian, Spanish (although in his case, more Californian and Latin American than Iberian), and American architecture that reflected the multicultural Philippine lifestyle.

    It is within this multicultural perspective that the architecture of Zaragoza should be viewed because it is in this context that he made his greatest contributions through producing architecture that was perfectly attuned to the tropical environment and the Philippine lifestyle. Although the previous generation of Philippine architects (Juan Arellano, Tomás Mapúa, Pablo Antonio, Andres Luna de San Pedro, and others) were foreign-trained, Zaragoza was among the earliest products of Philippine architectural education, having graduated from the University of Santo Tomás in Manila in 1936, and passing licensure examinations in 1938 to become the 82nd architect of the Philippines.

    He looked not only to his native Philippines for inspiration but actively broadened his horizons through seeking international contact. Early in his career, he initiated a vigorous personal correspondence with the great Frank Lloyd Wright, finally visiting the master’s Arizona atelier in 1956. Although Zaragoza imbibed American architectural influences, especially those of Wright, he was more deeply attuned to the European and Latin American spirit. It was this influence that set him apart from his contemporaries who looked toward the United States for inspiration.

    Zaragoza, a deeply religious man, earned a diploma in liturgical art and architecture from the International Institute of Liturgical Catholic Churches in Rome which developed in him an expansive, innovative and thoroughly reverential approach to church design as seen in the major religious structures completed during his career: Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Tala (1950), Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City (1954), Villa San Miguel in Mandaluyong (1954), Pius XII Center in Manila (1958) and, finally, the controversial expansion of Quiapo Church (1984).

    After closer study of his accomplishments, Zaragoza emerges as an unnoticed figure worthy of deeper consideration because of his unique place in the protracted search for that elusive “Filipino Architecture” because his architecture is, indeed, Filipino in every way.

    Culturally grounded in Philippine architectural vocabulary, Zaragoza distilled traditional forms and architectural imagery, reinterpreting them in the modern architecture of his day. For instance, he took the familiar Spanish colonial arches, removed the fussy baroque details of old, reconstructed them in cement, and rendered them into the simplified, unornamented shapes that are considered hallmarks of the sophisticated International Style of the 1950s. This monumental minimalism is best experienced in the procession of arcades surrounding the open courtyards of the Santo Domingo Church Convent in Quezon City: evoking cloisters of old through the use of simple yet eloquent modern architectural forms, unornamented, serenely elegant, an architectural composition evoking in a thoroughly modern vocabulary all of the familiar visual reminders of old Spanish colonial cathedrals in the Philippines. Zaragoza’s strict architectural composition—carried out with total restraint, without the overwrought baroque trappings that Filipinos love to the point of cliché—has proven itself to be timeless.

    The strong impact of Zaragoza on Philippine residential architecture was heretofore likewise unrecognized. His designs developed the visual framework associated with the popular “Spanish style” of architecture favored in residences of the 1950s to 1960s. Although no such style exists in Spain but rather recalls the sprawling California-style villas of Los Angeles, the genre was nevertheless called “Spanish style” in the Philippines. Among the best surviving examples is Zaragoza’s 1951 Casino Español de Manila, a shaded, cool, and serene oasis in the traffic-choked center of Manila, a sanctuary of gentility. The Casino Español features a series of interior courtyards framed with deep, arcaded loggias that open to the outdoors on one side and are separated from the interior spaces by arched door and window openings. Terra-cotta tile frames edges of low-pitched roofs. Heavily varnished wooden beams support low, sloping interior ceilings covering interior rooms that are walled with plain, painted concrete, and floored with ordinary red cement tiles. The look evolved into the residential prototype of the era. It was residential architecture so appropriate not only to the tropical environment, but to the pulse of the era. It was architecture that reminded but did not replicate the Spanish-American roots that influenced Philippine lifestyle during the post-World War II days.

    In 1960, the internationally eminent Brazilian architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa invited Zaragoza to be among the guest architects to participate in the massive project of designing Brasilia, the new capital for Brazil. This opportunity was not lost on Zaragoza: since that time, the Latino imprint on his work was indelible. In Brazil, Zaragoza discovered and understood how to work the plasticity of concrete that allowed the possibility of molding the material into distinct shapes. His architecture turned sculptural, lyrical, with a Latin exuberance that set him apart from his contemporaries.

    His post-Brazil work, notably the façades of the Meralco Center on Ortigas Avenue and Philbanking Building in Port Area (both built in 1965) and the Commercial Bank and Trust Company Building in Escolta, Manila (1969) insinuate the subtle flowing Latino lines of Brazilian architecture. Evoking Niemeyer’s cathedral in Brasilia, Zaragoza topped Union Church in Makati (built 1975, now demolished) with a crown of folded concrete plates.

    Continuing his exploraration of the plastic qualities of concrete allowed him to construct flowing, daring sculptural designs as seen in Virra Mall in Greenhills (built 1975, demolished January 2005), Saint John Bosco Parish Church in Makati (1977), and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Sucat, Parañaque (1979). The elegant Meralco Center in Ortigas (1965) is his strongest, most sophisticatedly subtle expression of lyricism in concrete.

    His catalogue of projects, whether completed or conceptual, illustrates his strongly individualistic architectural philosophy that continued to develop into full maturity through the years together with the progression of his practice. Within the timeline that charts the development of Philippine architecture, the contributions by Zaragoza are mostly unrecorded. The monograph, “José María Zaragoza, Architecture for God, for Man” takes an excellent step at documenting his architectural contributions and to make architects, educators, historians, and the public aware ofJosé María V. Zaragoza and his highly esteemed place in that forgotten period of Philippine history.

    The National Artist conferment assures Zaragoza’s place in Philippine architectural history at last, and just as importantly, establishes his work as truly Filipino.


    José María Zaragoza, Architecture for God and for Man, Ruben Defeo and Ma. Lourdes Zaragoza Banson, authors. Published by ArtPostAsia, Makati. Tel. (632) 811-5867.