MANILA, MARCH 14, 2008
(STAR) CITY SENSE By Paulo Alcazaren - Last week I talked about a favorite place in the metropolis — the green UP Diliman campus, the heart of an institution that is celebrating its centennial. This week we look at another from my top 10 list of the best open green spaces in the city — Greenbelt in Makati and, in particular, its newly opened section Greenbelt 5.

Greenbelt 5 is the fourth new section of a continuing project to redevelop the original Greenbelt complex of the country’s premier business district (Greenbelt 1 and its eponymous park). The original Greenbelt was developed as a one-hectare oasis of trees, water, an aviary, and the original Ayala Museum by Leandro Locsin. It was fashioned out of the original plant nursery set up by the Ayalas when they were first constructing modern Makati in the 1950s.

Greenbelt evolved as an adjunct to the growing Makati Commercial Center in the ’60s and ’70s; expanding slightly in the late ’70s and early ’80s to include the first Greenbelt complex, cinemas, a transport station, supermarket and car-park building also by Leandro Locsin. I frequented the park because of the aviary, the museum, the San Mig Pub and nearby, the Bookmark Bookstore (to which I switched when PECO and Erehwon disappeared).

Since the late ’90s Ayala Land has embarked on a long-term revisioning of the site to turn it into a distinct district of Makati, probably the most delightful in terms of mix of uses, refreshing landscapes and pedestrian friendliness. Elevated pedestrian ways, wide sidewalks, and internal parkways make the place eminently accessible (and universally accessible with numerous provisions of ramps and elevators for the handicapped).

The hodgepodge grouping of open space and commercial blocks was slowly consolidated and reconstructed according to a master plan that has given us G2, G3 and G4 — a series of tropically sensitive shopping and restaurant clusters, with a residential component and the new Ayala Museum as corner anchors. All these are linked both to the main business district and the original commercial center now known as Glorietta.

The park itself and the chapel (with its iconic Ramon Orlina cross sculpture) has been retained and enhanced — a cultural bow to Filipinos’ two favorite activities: praying for salvation from evil and shopping till they drop. Of course the third favorite pastime, which is eating (and drinking), is more than adequately accommodated in the whole complex.

Greenbelt 5 is the latest sequel to this continuing saga of urban vivification. It is more of the same, but better and with more space than most luxurious commodities in a crowded city. My first encounter with the new section was a great dinner at Chateau 1771 (thankfully replacing the sorely missed branch that closed in El Pueblo in Pasig). The new restaurant is one of a slew of new offerings, which are branches of established names and some new ones.

The restaurant is in a prime spot at the corner of G5’s main structure, a textured modernist-white block that sits comfortably on an expansive paved plaza. Wonderful! Finally, a real plaza, open to the sky, fringed with mature trees and accessible to a public starved for such delightful places.

Chateau’s great food is enhanced by the fact that you can opt to eat al fresco right outside its doors — a la Italian piazzas! On the other side of the plaza this strategy is continued in a stretch of restaurants fronting the park itself. Zuni, another upmarket restaurant offering Mediterranean and European fare, anchors the section. The structure is linked at the end with the Ayala Museum, its water garden and G4 with its frontage on Makati Avenue.

Above this restaurant row is the shopping cluster, a three-story internalized street with chi-chi shops and even more restaurants, which face the park and give diners real views of lush greenery and not just wallpaper or the passing throng. The additional three stories of restaurants are, in fact, linked with the park via a clever terraced bamboo garden. This seamlessly links the indoors with the outdoor greenery and the grand plaza.

The plaza itself draws shoppers and diners into the complex and itself links a new dedicated entrance on Legaspi Street with the plaza and park beyond. A linear fountain adds drama to this (again spatially generous) urban space. G5 is made even more accessible via a depressed roadway that runs under the whole two-hectare green space, much like the traverse roadways — 66th, 79th, 86th, and 96th Streets — that go under New York’s fabled Central Park.

We will continue next week, going inside and looking again at the whole Greenbelt series and why it works so well as an urban district of delight.



A man and his daughter prepare palm fronds on a sidewalk in Manila ahead of Palm Sunday, which marks the start of Holy Week.




Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved