Published on page A19 of the June 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
IF one were to go on a trip down memory lane, these would be some of the scenes likely to be seen on Makati?s Reposo Street of old:
Carriages drawn by horses, their hooves pounding a staccato beat on the street lined by fire trees and vacation houses.
Behind these houses, vacationing rich Filipino and Spanish families would often be seen having picnics on the prairie as they listened to music coming from a rondalla or watched the performers in a zarzuela.
The whole stretch of Reposo?which has since been renamed Nicanor Garcia, after the first mayor of Makati?was then a relaxation haven for the illustrados who lived in Intramuros, Manila, during the Spanish era, according to Senor Guillermo Gomez.
Gomez, a Spanish enthusiast and one of the oldest members of the community, wrote a paper on the area?s history.
Called Plesantero (pleasant place), the old Reposo was nothing but a dirt road hemmed by fire trees that flared during the summer. The trees were purportedly imported by the De Ayala Roxas clan from Mexico.
The Ayalas? bloodline, Gomez said, can be traced to the old Roxas family who originated from Batangas and were considered Indio Principalia (local elite).
?One tradition says it started with one Datto Malibay who became a vassal of the King of Spain, thereby becoming Spanish,? Gomez wrote.
Malibay?s ancestral land was vast, starting somewhere near the mouth of the Pasig River and ending in a strait connected to the Laguna de Bay.
This native principalia was said to have intermarried with Spanish peninsulares such as Rojas (Roxas), Ayala and Chinos Cristianos bearing the name Lim de Castro and Dian.
?But later generations married more Spanish peninsulares like Melian, Soriano, Olgado... down to the latter day Elizaldes,? Gomez said.
The Zobel Roxas founded the township of Sta. Ana and Makati. They expanded their property by acquiring land owned by the Jesuits, who were allegedly expelled by the King of Spain from the Philippines.
It was the Spanish Jesuits who ran the church, convent and primary school that comprised the original Parroquia de Macati, Gomez said.
The church, built on a hilly portion of the town, overlooked the Pasig River and Catholic cemetery.
The church was believed to have been built near the spot where the St. Andrew?s Parish Church now stands. The cemetery was located near a tramvia line that linked the town of Pasig.
Gomez said the old railway passed through what is now known today as J. P. Rizal. The line stretched from the Museo de Makati in Barangay Poblacion, down to Guadalupe Nuevo and Guadalupe Viejo, and toward Pateros and Pasig.
Reposo, which also stood for ?resting place,? ?began as some kind of a native picnic ground (lugar de asueto) and a promenade that [led] to the riverbank road now called Mabini,? Gomez related.
However, with the advent of the American invasion, Reposo gradually lost its popularity. ?It faded away from memory along with its fire trees,? he said.
Tree of enlightenment
Instead of the fancy horse-drawn carriages that ferried promenaders, the stretch is now full of a parade of cars caught in a traffic jam. The fire trees, meanwhile, have been replaced by decade-old Bo, the tree of enlightenment.
Dr. Ike Tolentino, a silviculturist or tree expert, said the Bo tree is ideal for the area because it thrives in tropical climates and is low-maintenance.
Reposo, however, has experienced some sort of revival in the past two years.
The neighborhood has gained popularity for its art and photo galleries, furniture showrooms, chic restaurants, and a mural adorning one side of the street, making the stretch a promising art district.
?We want to make Reposo the art center of Makati,? Eduardo Soler, art gallery owner and president of Grupo Reposo Inc., told the Inquirer in an interview.
The non-profit organization, launched in March 2004, is composed of more than 30 business establishments in the area. Soler and his wife, Dori, Rose Marie Yenko and William Tan are among the group?s pioneers.
Grupo Reposo Inc., according to Soler, was formed to promote the street as ?a crossroad of the arts and design from Eastern and Western cultures.?
Last year, the group launched the first street art festival, ?Tibok Sining sa Reposo? with the support of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
This was followed by last month?s ?Pintahan at Musikahan sa Reposo,? an activity which coincided with Makati?s foundation anniversary, and was aimed at bolstering the group?s dream to awaken people?s appreciation for culture and arts.
?We want to serve as a model for urban communities, encouraging them to have their own burst of soul through the visual arts, music and cultural events,? the group said.
Not far from now, Grupo Reposo sees a ?spillover? of the art district to other neighboring areas. ?If that happens, then we have made the street a destination anew, where people could come when they visit Makati,? Yenko said.