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UNCENSORED: Sky City Tower

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By Manuel L. Morato

Yes, that big hole in Ortigas Avenue corner Edsa is still there.  Sky City Tower, the developers had dreams of it becoming the tallest building in the country.  The lot owner of this now deep, deep hole on the ground measuring 4,109 square meters is named after San Buena Realty.  The original plan was “to build a 77 storey mixed-use building with an eight-storey basement,” according to Esquire.  I am sure that most of us know about this huge, deep hole on the ground in the corner of Ortigas Avenue and Edsa.

According to information received, “some people assumed the area as already under San Juan, but it’s actually in Barangay Wack-Wack, which means it falls under the jurisdiction of Mandaluyong.”

Tropical Hut Restaurant was on that property before and it was one of the most visited restaurants in Metro Manila.  I, too, used to go there.  But it was eventually fenced in and the structure demolished.

The homeowners association of Greenhills East Subdivision (GEA), the residential subdivision that lies directly west of the property “voiced opposition to the project and brought up numerous complaints against the planned development – that it would violate the privacy of the residents; that it would threaten their water supply; and reported that the building would cast a huge shadow on the homes, among other issues.”  The lengthy legal battle essentially stalled the project.  I commented on the same issues in one of my columns a few issues ago.

On my part, having read what a lady-friend had texted to me a few days ago, I found a great similarity to what is happening to us in our own residential neighborhood here in Scout Gandia St. corner Tomas Morato Avenue, Barangay Sacred Heart.  Two highrise commercial buildings just sprouted and one of its buildings was where the ancestral home of my late parents.  Tomas B. Morato, my father, who with great humility I mention was the First Appointive Mayor of Quezon City by President Manuel L. Quezon on October 12, 1939, the day the Charter of the new city, Quezon City, was signed, which with all honesty and humility, again, our six-bedroom home built by my father was considered historical; and it fell under the Republic Act 10066 of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to preserve historical structures all over the country; that structures 50 years old and above cannot be demolished without going to Court which will decide if the structure is historical or not; and if none of the heirs oppose in court the demolition of the structure 50 years and below.

The Ayalas follow this law.  In the 46th year of the Intercon Hotel in Makati, before it reached the 50th year, the structure was demolished to put up a new and bigger hotel named Ascot Hotel.

For structures 50 years and above, any planned demolition must have a court decision that has the authority to declare the structure a historical site and cannot be demolished.

I was bunking on the Republic Act of PGMA that we can preserve our ancestral home that was over 70 years old, constructed by my late father in the 1950s.  It was a six-bedroom house, a large house wherein we grew up.  It would be difficult to construct one like it today.  Why?  Because my father was once honored the “Lumberman of the Year” in the 1950s.  He owned the Philippine Plywood Corporation; among the first exporter of plywood to the U.S. and other parts of the world; and the Sta. Cecilia Sawmills, Inc. founded in the 1920s, named in honor of his first wife, Doña Cecilia Racoma de Morato from Calauag, Tayabas now Quezon Province – the home province of President Manuel L. Quezon as well where my father and Quezon were close friends from childhood.  President Quezon was from Baler, now Province of Aurora.  But during their time, Baler was part of Tayabas considered First District of Tayabas; and our hometown of Calauag was referred to as the Second District of Tayabas.

Much later when we regained our independence from the United States of America as one of its Commonwealth from 1898 or so to 1945 when we regained our Independence.  The dividing of Tayabas (Quezon Province) followed thereafter on or about 1947 by the 1st Congress of the Republic. 

The northern Quezon Province was renamed Province of Aurora; and the Southern part was renamed Quezon Province, our home province.  I remember my father, who became a member of Congress as the first Congressman of the 2nd District of Quezon Province.  The 1st Congressman of the 1st District of Quezon was represented by Fortunato Suarez.  Lucena City as its capital.

I do not remember when our home province of Quezon was split into two: The First District in the northern part; and 2nd District in the southern part to Tagkawayan: and Baler as the capital of the newly named Province of Aurora.

I was then a teenager and I often tagged along with Papa and Mama whenever they visited Doña Aurora A. Quezon in the Quezon ancestral home in Gilmore Street, New Manila, when Doña Aurora and the three children, Baby, Nini and Nonong gathered in that house.  Baby and Nonong lived with Doña Aurora.  Nini was then already married to Philip Buencamino and lived elsewhere.  I remember that Nini and Nonong were not particularly happy about the dividing of our home province of Quezon, which my father as a member of the First Congress of the Republic represented the 2nd District of Quezon Province in the First Congress of the Republic in 1946 to 1949.  He then resigned in the middle of his term in Congress and did not want to enter politics ever again.

If I remember correctly, Doña Aurora, Baby Quezon and Philip Buencamino were ambushed going to Baler.  Those who ambushed apologized to Nini and Nonong Quezon for shooting at the convoy of Doña Aurora Quezon and party.  It was a case of mistaken identity and the culprits asked the family for forgiveness.

He told the family that the corruption was so rampant; that he wanted “no part of it.”  He brought the entire family to our summer house in Spain and we were enrolled in schools: a Jesuit school in Barcelona for me and “Jesus y Maria” girls school for my sisters in Madrid.

Going back to the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, the overshadowing of the Sky City Tower in the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue is what we objected to as well here in our area which got their “Special Permits” from the Quezon City Council then headed by its Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte Alimurung.

While the Ordinance No. SP 2502, S-2016 applies in our residential area, “Medium Density Residential Subzone (R-2-A),” allowing up to seven floors between Timog Circle where the statue of our father is; to the corner of Roces Avenue na hanggang 5 floors lang but was increased to 7 floors in the rezoning.  However, with the approval of the members of the City Council, the final approval granting 20/21/22 or higher floors approved only by the Vice Mayor, which she did.

Without the approval of the Vice Mayor, the “Special Permit” cannot be given by the members of the Quezon City Council alone.  But the Mayor has the power to veto.  Unfortunately, then-Mayor Herbert Bautista did not veto the granting by the then Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte Alimurung of “Special Permits” on my mother’s property and the one across, in front of our ancestral home which part of the structure fell on 2 residential lots and the frontage, commercial lot granted “Special Permit” to also go up to 21 floors.  But I so happened to have been in the Session Hall to complain in 2019 why were highrise buildings were being granted up to 21 floors in a residential area.

I was briefly given the chance to be heard.  I tried, but after a few minutes, I was told we will discuss the matter some other time.  A certain Mr. Dexter Co’s request was taken up, the alleged owner of the 21 storey building also given “Special Permit” at the same time the property of our parents was also given “Special Permits” just to find out that the property of our late mother did not belong to us anymore.  According to Sta. Lucia Land, it belongs to the Belmontes already; and we only found out about it until much later.

Anyway, Mr. Dexter Co in that session requested another floor, up to 22 storeys and it was immediately granted. The members of the City Council just looked at each other, and the request for another floor up to 22 was immediately approved.  No questions asked.  I just heard: “approved.”

The complaint of the Greenhills East Association of overshadowing their village together with the possible weakening of the water supply that the Sky City Tower can cause in their residential village.  Their complaints were heard.

I also complained about the overshadowing of our neighborhood, meaning to call the attention of the contractor and now owners of our property that the two first highrises in our residential area will totally prevent the morning sun, the fresh air and the weakening of the water supply in the entire neighborhood siphoned by the 2 misplaced highrise buildings in a residential neighborhood.  All the trees planted by my father 70 years ago were all cut.  Our garden served as the “lung” of our compound.  And consider the danger the two buildings impose on the residential homes around the two buildings granted “Special Permits” by the Vice Mayor then which favored her own family.  It is so documented and our lawyers have said documents extracted from the Registry of Deeds and revealed all the manipulations the group did.  We did not even have to search for they accidentally or intentionally thought that their documents were “airtight”. Their lawyers submitted the falsified documents in Court thinking that they were above board.

Hindi yan maitatago.  As I always said, ” There are bad people sitting in power, but still the good ones outnumber the bad ones.”

We have gone through and still going through very sad times – my three sisters and I; at great expense.  But we were told that we have no chance in the Quezon City Courts at all.

The situation we are in is the least we expected.  Those who did us wrong were those who were in power behind the throne in the past regime.  But they managed to infiltrate the current regime.  Can you believe that?  How were those people suddenly embraced by the present leadership?

It puzzles me for I am not a politician.

I am dumbfounded how those in power in the past regime; and true yellow could again be walking in the corridors of power now, and flaunting their power again.  They are “in” again, they say.

Let it be so for hope springs eternal, as the saying goes!     

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