To see and notice

I wonder when Legazpi Village, part of the Makati commercial and business district, was ever a “village.” By definition, a village is “a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.” Despite its well-attended Sunday market in the parking lot beside Washington SyCip Park, I cannot even imagine Legazpi having the elements of “village life,” whatever that is supposed to be.

On my research bucket list are the papers of Fernando Zóbel de Ayala that contain valuable material on precolonial, Spanish colonial, and post-war modern and abstract art. I am also interested in his involvement in the early development of Makati from the idle grazing land to the glitzy commercial and business district it is today. Zóbel looked at the real estate development and brought his view of Philippine history into it by conceptualizing the names of the various “villages.” Magallanes Village, for example, has street names that refer to the Magellan expedition. Trinidad and Victoria are the names of two of his five ships. Homonhon, Limasawa, and Mactan are important stops on the first voyage around the world. San Lorenzo Village streets honor Filipino artists, composers, and writers. Great names like Luna, Hidalgo, and Abelardo were joined by artists honored by Zóbel, some in their lifetime, long before the National Artist Award was created in 1972: Amorsolo, Edades, Garcia Villa, Joaquin, and Tolentino. Urdaneta Village street names hark back to the streets of the distinguished and ever loyal Spanish Manila, the city within (intra) the walls (muros). Forbes Park has street names drawn from plants: Narra, Mahogany, Anahaw, Talisay, Kawayan, Agoho, Pili, Bauhinia, Tamarind, and Banaba. The same for Dasmariñas Village: Kasoy, Kamias, Sagu, Avocado, Macopa, Mabolo, Acacia, Balete, and Molave. Such common names for the most expensive and desirable places to live in the Philippines.

Going back to Legazpi Village. It is named in honor of Miguel López de Legazpi, first captain and governor general of the Spanish Philippines. That’s why there is a Legazpi street there strangely separated from Adelantado, his official title. It is odd that Legazpi isn’t the main street running through the area, bounded between Dela Rosa and Amorsolo streets. These are not early conquistadores or missionaries but eminent Filipino painters: Fabian de la Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo. To ease the boredom while clocking in my daily 10,000 steps around the city, I stopped to see and notice the street names: Aguirre, Alvarado, Benavidez, Bernardez, Bolanos, Castro, Esperanza, Esteban, Gallardo, Gamboa, Herrera, Jimenez, Nieva, Ormaza, Perea, Rada, Rodriguez, Salcedo, Soria, and Sotto. Who on earth were they? What were their first names? What did each do to deserve a street name?

Offhand, I recognized two religious: (Miguel de) Benavides, who founded what is now the University of Santo Tomas and served as the third bishop of Manila, and (Martín de) Rada, one of the first Augustinian missionaries in the Philippines. Looking at the list above, I can safely presume none refer to a woman, and all these now-forgotten men figured in the early Spanish colonization of the Philippines. By the way, there are two Filipino surnames in the village, renamed from the original Spanish street names. Rufino replaced the original Herrera. I don’t know who Palanca displaced but it makes me cringe that a businessman made pompous with the full “Don Carlos Palanca Street” obliterated an older historical name. Surely, there are new developments where newcomers can be honored.

Without Zóbel’s notes, I will not know if these people I dug up from my reference books are the people referenced in Legazpi Village. (Juan de) Aguirre was a soldier who signed up with the Legazpi expedition, like the pilot (Esteban) Rodriguez. Most were missionaries: (Pedro de) Alfaro was the first Franciscan superior in the Philippines; Bolanos is misspelled, it should be (Pedro) Bolaños, one of the first Dominicans to arrive in the Philippines in 1587, he trained boys in music so the present Tiples de Santo Domingo trace their origins to him. (Juan de) Castro was the first Dominican provincial in the Philippines. (Juan) Ormaza (de Santo Tomas) was one of the early Dominicans, in the same way that (Pedro de) Gamboa and (Diego de) Herrera were Augustinians who accompanied the Legazpi expedition. Salcedo was tricky because there is a Salcedo Village across town, so I presume the Salcedo in Legazpi Village could be either Felipe or Juan, both captains, and both grandsons of Legazpi.

Monuments, street names, and commemorations are created to help us remember the past, but then they become so ordinary, so common we see them but do not notice. If one takes the time to notice and think about the things around us it puts us in context. Historical memory can be a welcome distraction from a chaotic present and uncertain future.

Comments are welcome at