Words Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images Patrick Kasingsing (2017 Francisco Mañosa exhibit at the National Museum)
“For all of his more than 60 years of architecture life, Ar. Bobby Mañosa designed Filipino,” opens the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) profile on National Artist for Architecture Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa. He strongly believed that architecture should be “true to itself, its land, and its people,” and he owned up to this by demonstrating designs that respect Filipino culture, context, and community. His built legacy includes the San Miguel Building in Ortigas (designed with his brothers), the Coconut Palace or Tahanang Pilipino in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, and his very own residence in Alabang.
It is safe to say that we owe it to the legend for championing Filipinism in architecture, especially during the times when colonization seeped in and crawled through our structures. Forms of foreign influence kept rising, but Mañosa stood firm in reminding the Philippine built environment of the beauty and wisdom behind the bahay kubo and bahay-na-bato. We commemorate his birth anniversary today by remembering his tireless crusade in championing Filipino identity in architecture.
Born to sanitary engineer Manuel Mañosa, Sr., and film and stage actress Maria Tronqued, Bobby pursued a degree in Architecture right after high school and graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in 1953. Several writings about the architect reveal that he initially wanted a music career given that he played jazz piano, but fate traded notes and keys for plans and diagrams.
After college, Mañosa worked alongside two of his seven siblings, Jose and Manuel. Graduating from the same university with the same degree, the trio established the architectural firm Mañosa Brothers in 1954. Together they designed projects regarded as landmarks such as the Sulô Restaurant in Makati Commercial Center and the Colegio de San Agustin in the same city. Possibly their most prominent work is the San Miguel Building which continues to stand as a gem in the Ortigas central business district up to this day, which is characterized by an angled façade and lush balconies. The structure is recognized as one of the prime examples of Brutalist architecture in the country and is complemented by the iconic landscape design by National Artist for Architecture Ildefonso Paez (IP) Santos.
Two decades after collaborating with his brothers, Mañosa founded his firm called Francisco Mañosa & Partners in 1976. Here, he emphasized his reference to age-old Filipino building practices and championed designs inspired by the bahay kubo and bahay-na-bato. He showcased Filipino sensibility in his multiple residential and hospitality projects, underlining the importance of designing with respect to the tropical climate and with the use of indigenous materials. One of his considered masterpieces is the Coconut Palace or Tahanang Pilipino within the CCP Complex, an octagon-shaped structure that is often used as a government residence. The palace borrows its shape from that of a coconut before it is served, with its roof inspired by a salakot or Filipino hat. It is currently owned by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and was built with sustainable local materials such as indigenous hardwoods and coconut husks, shells, and lumber.
Forming the architect’s fine Filipino portfolio are the Amanpulo Resort in Palawan, the Mactan Shangri-la Resort & Spa in Mactan, Cebu, the 2001 Aquino Center in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, and the JMT Corporate Center in Ortigas. All of which follow his high regard for showcasing Filipino values and combining traditional construction techniques with modern building discoveries.
Apart from being a man of culture, Mañosa was also a man of faith. He designed a number of churches and religious structures, two of which are located in Las Piñas: Bamboo Organ Church (1976) and Mary Immaculate Parish (1988). Possibly his most prominent religious work is the EDSA Shrine, a small, modern worship space with a massive statue of Mary, Queen of Peace. The Roman Catholic church remains active up to this day and was declared an Important Cultural Property in 2019.
While the legacy of Mañosa is survived by the structures he left our fabric and the practice continued by his family, his journey and everything that he believed in reminds us of architecture’s capacity to shape and sustain a nation. NCCA says that “ what is most valuable is that Mañosa was in the heart and soul of a Philippine architectural movement,” as he left us with visual reminders of the spirit of our culture and community. We owe it to him to always remember. •