DM Consunji: Pioneering in Makati’s high-rise buildings

photographS courtesy of A Passion to Build, A Memoir of David M. Consunji Don Andres Soriano

After constructing his first big project that was also his first for San Miguel Corporation, the Coca-Cola plant in Tacloban City, David M. Consunji went on to build the company’s warehouses in Pampanga and La Union.

The two would be followed by a number of landmarks of the 1950s, including the first modern hospital in Manila, the Manila Doctors Hospital; the domed University of the Philippines’ Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice which was designed by the promising young architect Leandro Locsin;  and Monterey Towers, the first high-rise building along Ayala Avenue.

 

Tycoon David M. Consunji receiving The Outstanding Filipino Award.

Best equipped triumvirate

Of the last, David wrote in A Passion to Build, A Memoir of David M. Consunji: “Ayala commissioned the young Lindy Locsin to design the first buildings that would serve as the models for the other structures that would be built in the business district. In turn, Lindy brought in Fred Juinio to be the structural engineer for the buildings. I, on the other hand, was asked by Fernando Zobel to submit a proposal for the building of what was to be the very first structure in the Makati business district: the  Monterey Apartments.

“In the Philippines at that time, our team — Fred, Lindy and myself — was probably the best equipped for the job of building a
high-rise like the Monterey. After all, we were the first to use 3000 psi concrete and the first to do a thin shell concrete structure.”

The Twin Towers.

One-page proposal

David recalled that word of honor and integrity mattered most when dealing with the big men and top honchos of Philippine commerce and industry. He wrote, “For the Monterey project, I prepared a proposal and submitted it to Don Alfonso Zobel, Fernando’s brother, the brother-in-law of Joe McMicking and father of Don Jaime Zobel. It was a one-page proposal that Don Alfonso readily accepted and answered with another one-page letter. The letter was in effect our contract for a project costing a little over P500,000. It specified 3000 psi concrete.”

Being one of the first modern buildings in the metropolis,  an architectural wonder of seven storeys, its construction attracted a lot of observers and onlookers. It was also aspirational – it had two apartments on each floor, it utilized flat slabs instead of beams, each unit had a three-meter cantilever balcony, among other first-of-its-kind features.

The San Miguel Corporation-Soriano Building at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas.

No haggle

From this noteworthy accomplishment, David proceeded to build the  Elizalde Building at the other end of Ayala and the  Rizal Theater at the Makati Commercial Center. Of the latter, David recalled, “It was the largest cinema at the time.”

Of the many tycoons he worked with, David remembered with greatest fondness Don Andres Soriano of San Miguel Corporation.

Don Andres was always  forthright with him. When they finally met after it was David’s bid that was approved for the construction of the San Miguel Corporation-Soriano Building, the old man told the young builder, “Mr. Consunji, I will not make tawad (haggle) with you. I’m going to give you the project even if you were not the lowest bidder, because I trust you. But could you promise me one thing?”

To which David replied, “Of course, Colonel. What would you like me to do?”

Don Andres told him that he wanted him to be personally responsible for the project.

David recalled, “As promised, I oversaw the construction of (Don Andres’) building. The SMC-Soriano was one of the first to grace the Ayala Avenue skyline. The 12-storey building was one of the biggest in Makati at that time. Unfortunately, Don Andres succumbed to liver cancer before it was finished and inaugurated.

Monterey Apartments, the first building in the Makati Business District.

Lola Kayang’s lemonade

To David, Don Andres  was a true friend who,from day one, treated him differently and, to David’s wonder, with much familiarity.

Once, David told his Tiya Nena about Don Andres’s warm attitude toward him. She replied, “You’re lucky he never forgot your Lola’s lemonade.”

It turned out that Don Andres, as a young boy, used to hunt on the property of his mother’s family, which was beside the land of David’s Lolo Isidro.

David shared, “After hunting, he would always stop by the house of Lolo Isidro and Lola Kayang… and Lola would prepare lemonade for him before his boat took him home.”

David could only muse when he heard his Tiya Nena’s story.

“Who would think that my grandmother’s kindness to a young boy for whom she made lemonade would help bring me a
multi-million peso project 40 years later?”


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