There is an aristocratic and illustrious family in the Philippines called the Zobel de Ayala family. Their family name is actually Zobel but they style it by adding the "de Ayala" to indicate their spanish heritage. This family is the premier social and financial family in the Philippines since 150 years ago. They developed the business district of Makati and they started or still own the major utilities in the Philippines like Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Beer, Bank of the Philippine Islands etc etc. One of the Zobel de Ayalas built the $500 million palace of the Sultan of Brunei about 15 years ago.
A lot of filipinos know that "zobel" was german and hence they added the Ayala because they are direct descendants of the Duchess of Alba during the 1790's who married a spanish aristocrat surnamed Ayala (some say illegitimate Ayala) whose son ended up in the Philippines (as the Philippines was colony of Spain for 400 years) decades later. Hence, the closeness of the Ayalas to the King at that time. The present generation of Zobel de Ayalas are 7th or 8th cousins to the present Duchess of Alba in Madrid, the most titled woman of Spain and a prime mover of the Spanish Society.
The family was never in good stead with Queen Isabela who had a story rule and was glad that her reign was over in the 1860's. She ordered the family to pay taxes on land that was granted to them by the former King including land in the Philippnies which at that time was not productive at all!
This family is the closest we can get to "royalty" in the Philippines. Please see this link.
The spanish royals, the Spanish King Juan Carlos de Bourbon, his wife and their children, when they visit the Philippines on an official function or private visit never forget to call on their cousins.
Incidentally, the Zobel de Ayalas were the only ones allowed to buy a townhouse in Kensington Court in England, a stones throw away from Buckingham Palace where the Queen resides. This exclusive area inside the district is one of the most expensive real estates in the World and very exclusive since the Queen has to approve who her neighbors are. Mostly relatives, kings and queens of other countries people privy to the queens ear and other top level members of society in England.
The Zobel de Ayalas since their forefathers all studied in Harvard.
One query here is that more than 100 years ago. One of the Ayalas married a Zobel of german ancestry in the philippines or maybe in Spain. But it was this german business man who actually started the family conglomerate and expanded further by another german/american with the family name McMicking who married his daughter. This daughter is probably around 95 years old now and her name is Mercedes (Ayala) Zobel de Mcmiking. No children. And therefore for the past 50 years her properties have been managed by the present Zobel de Ayala family who are her grandnephews and nieces. She is one of the richest women in Spain and the richest woman of the Philippines (if she is still alive).
It was Colonel McMicking who transformed the swampy town of Makati just outside the city of manila whose claim to fame was the old manila International Airport into a powerhouse business ditsrict that is it today. It is unique in the sense that it was the first organized development unlike any other in South East Asia. There were zoning rules as far back as 50 years ago in this city. It is now a concrete jungle rivalling any business district in Asia. The City of Makati boasts the largest shopping mall in South East Asia called the Ayala Center. The business district (or city) of Makati is the home of the Embassies of most of the countries of the world and their Ambassadors live in posh villages which surround the city. All the head offices of Mulitnationals are in this city. The local residents here frown at politicians who buy houses here as surely they could not have afforded them unless they are corrupt. The american ambassadors house in premier village called Forbes Park cost $12 million dollars. The Sultan of Brunei also has house made for his filipina wife which cost more.
The city of makati is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago. When you see a quite impressive skyline during your descent in Manila then you will know that that area is a city alled Makati. The premier city of the philippines with only 2 million residents but burgeons to as much as 6 million during workdays. Not many people can afford to live there so they live outside the city and work in the city as salaries are much higher in the city.
This family is fascinating to all filipinos and if would even be more fascinating if you visit the Philippines and go to makati and visit the family museums and archives which is open to the public. There you will see the forefathers of the present family who are the prime movers the economy of the Philippies. A lot of the streets in the cityies of makati and Manila are named after memebers of the Ayala family: Fernando, Jacobo, Mercedes, Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas, Ayala Bridge leading to Malacanang where the President of the Philippines holds office etc etc.
There are also streets named after their family in Madrid.
Another thing is their aloofness and arrognace towards politics in the Philippines. They never entered it. They seemed to thing it was below their dignity to enter politics. Hence the survival of their wealth and name. Although alot of filipinos know they can easily pull strings here and there when needed.
Going back to Philippine Airlines which used to be owned by the family. Makati being the premier business of the Philippines is cut through with an 8 lane Avenue right in the middle and this is called Ayala Avenue. This street is the equivalent of Wall Street since all the big banks and mulstinationals have their offices here. All the embassies are on the side streets. The skyline is impressive but it is also shocking to note that it was the runway of the Manila International Airport more than 50 years ago! Which means that in the 50 years Makati was a swampland with only the Airstrip and a tine airport terminal. Philippines Airlines was Asia's first Airline. It has come along way. And you can see how Makati was developed and became the third most expensive (actually a fard third but still) real estate in South East Asia(first Hongkong, then Singapore). Do not forget to visit the Ayala Archive Center which is housed in the present old airport terminal beside the Ayala Avenue and you will see all the pictures there.
The current matriarch of Ayalas in the Philippines is Dona Mercedes Zobel de Mcmicking who is now about 95 years old and is in Spain in Sotogrande.
The current Chairman of the Board of Ayala Corporation in the Philippines in Jaime Zobel de Ayala who is a world class photographer. He is the nephew of Dona Mercedes and a former Ambassador to the Court of Saint James (England).
The current President of Ayala Corporation is his son, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. He is about 44 years old and married to Elizabeth Eder from the Colombian sugar family. They met in Boston while he was studying in Harvard and she in Smith College.
Bye for now.
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