In this environment, they relish life


By Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:48:00 09/28/2008


MANILA, Philippines – A photograph of a woman, placidly sitting under a mango tree, in a garden of orchids and ornamentals, won a prize in the photo contest “Why I love Ayala Westgrove Heights.” The winner, businessman Joselito “Joel” Santos, remembers how his subject, his wife Geraldine, was relishing a tranquil moment in their garden when he snapped his D70 Nikon. His photo was trying to say that in Westgrove, one finds peace. The Filipino word for serenity, he says, is “tahan.” Add a suffix, it becomes “tahanan” (home).

To him, there’s no place in the world like a Westgrove home. Santos has lived most of his life in Ayala Land subdivisions—Ayala Alabang, Dasmariñas Village and now, Ayala Westgrove Heights. His father, Joselito Sr., then with Makati Development Corporation, the construction subsidiary of Ayala Corp., was the project manager of Ayala Alabang Village (AAV). The Ayala real estate development business was with the Ayala Corp. holding company back then.

On May 12, 1978, the family moved to 5 Molave Drive, the first home to be completed in AAV. Inspired by the bahay-na-bato, it was made of bricks, tropical hardwood and with capiz windows. Santos was 14 then and lived there until 1986. The development then was so new that the concrete road ended at their place.

A decade later, the Ayala real estate business was spun off into a separate company, Ayala Land. Today, Ayala Land Premier is the brand that carries the Ayala tradition and heritage of building the most distinctive and highly valued living communities, whether subdivisions or condominiums.

Pioneering communities
Thirty years ago, AAV was very suburban. There was hardly any traffic to get there from Makati. The wide tree-lined avenues and clean air were a refreshing break from the pollution in the central business districts. He recalls that at night, one could hear the musical chorus of the tropics—the crickets, cicadas and frogs. “Ayala Alabang back then was like what Westgrove is today,” he says.

Since he was enrolled in high school at Marist, Marikina, he’d spend weekdays in the family compound in Cubao and go home to AAV on weekends. In college at De La Salle University, Santos found it convenient to commute from AAV to Taft. There was a village jeep that did its rounds on the hour for commuters. Santos would drive up to Alabang Town Center and take the air-conditioned Love Bus. Ayala Corporation also had a daily shuttle bus from AAV to Makati Stock Exchange. It was travel in style, he recalls—a bus with a bar and lounge chairs. Sometimes he’d be the only passenger taking that 20-km ride that took only 30 minutes.

In 1986, the family moved to Makati where they already owned a house on Paraiso Street, Dasmariñas Village. Although he wanted the quiet environs of AAV, the family wanted accessibility to the heart of the city. As in most Ayala Land developments, the village has kept the trees that fringe the landscape. To this day, residents still relish the chirping sound of the birds and the sight of squirrels—yes, squirrels—scurrying around. The proximity cut down his travel time to La Salle.

Their home was a walk away from Ayala Center. It was so accessible that the boys could watch movies twice a week, have snacks at Pancake House near Rizal Theater, enjoy nature in the aviary near the old Ayala Museum.

In 1993, Santos got married. He and wife Geraldine stayed in Dasmariñas where his daughters were also raised.

One day, his brother, performer Jon Santos, guested at an Ayala Land corporate launch. Given a Westgrove brochure, Jon was impressed with the amenities and thorough masterplan of the community—underground cables for utilities, parking bays that eliminate the litter of cars on the streets, and wide pedestrian lanes.

He broached to his older brother the idea of moving to Westgrove. His eldest, Gabrielle Marie or Gabbie, was studying at St. Scholastica’s Manila. On learning that Ayala Land donated land and generously funded the construction of a school building at St. Scholastica in Westgrove, the Santoses decided to move south to Westgrove. Geraldine found work in the school to keep her busy.

Distinctive living
Today, aside from St. Scholastica’s, other schools near Westgrove are Caritas Don Bosco and La Salle Canlubang. Santos appreciates the fact that the development is slow yet steady. At Westgrove, some 150 households have sprung up in eight years, compared with subdivisions with rapid population growth of some 500 households at the same time.

When the family moved to Westgrove, Santos’ children (all girls), Gabbie, Josephine Marie, Therese Marie and Andrea Marie, missed the hustle and bustle of city life. The twinkling fireflies and the noisy crickets were new to them.

“You can live longer here. It’s far from pollution,” says Santos. “You’re not in the mall as often and you find yourself closer to nature.”

During Holy Week or summer vacation, relatives stay over. They would organize a barbecue cookout in the backyard and watch an outdoor movie.
Saturday nights, residents hear Mass at the clubhouse; the community church is being built. Since Westgrove was originally a mango orchard, during harvests, residents hold a festival and enjoy the bounty. The most romantic place is the lagoon where joggers meet and small-talk, or people can sit on a bench and read, or gather in a picnic at the gazebo.
There are three big clubhouses being planned in the subdivision for the convenience of the residents. The main clubhouse and Kidsgrove are now in full use. A comprehensive Sports Center will be completed soon.

Since they moved to their new environment, the family has taken up triathlon. When they were in Dasmariñas, Santos was a partner in a rock-climbing gym. “When we moved here, we had to find a new sport.” The girls got into biking and pedal around the village for a good 15 km every week. They also walk to and from the clubhouse—a total two kilometers. They do 60-80 laps in the 25-meter clubhouse pool.

Santos has coached the Westgrove team for several summers now. He trained some kids how to swim, then formed a triathlon team that joined competitions. “I didn’t charge. I wanted to keep the neighbors’ kids away from trouble. As a support, Ayala Land Premier would help sponsor the annual youth triathlon in Westgrove which I organize,” says Santos. One girl who lived in Bel-Air, joined the summer competition. When the parents came over to watch the event, they decided to buy the property. Since then, she’s been training in triathlon.

The Santoses’ athletic lifestyle is augmented by a vegetarian diet. The family buys organic vegetables in the country market in the shopping area outside the subdivision and vegemeat at the Adventist University in Silang, Cavite. Rustan’s grocery is near the Laguna Technopark, an industrial park for manufacturing plants.

Close to the subdivisions, a community center has a salon, Bank of the Philippine Islands, a drugstore and a convenience store. When the Santoses want a variety of leisure activities, they still prefer Alabang Town Center, Ayala Center in Makati or Tagaytay City. The place is also near Southern Luzon Memorial Hospital, a tertiary hospital and a police station near Technopark.

Worry-free living
The family feels secure in the environment—guards patrol the place, even the hilly terrain. When the family moved in in 2000, the security guards would even escort the residents to the Technopark. Given the vast space and adequate security, the children feel free to move around.

One of the charms of living in Westgrove is, it is conducive to building a close-knit community. Visitors could knock on the door to look at the architecture of a home. Once a couple, a British national, Peter Sutcliffe, and his Filipina wife, did an ocular of the Santos residence. On learning that Santos had a construction business, they tapped him to be their contractor. Sutcliffe had a studio built in his home and gave painting lessons to Gabbie. When the painter held an exhibit, Gabbie joined and sold a few works.

When a severe typhoon would disable power lines, Westgrove would be the first subdivision to have electricity restored. Santos quotes a priest saying that Westgrove villagers were more privileged in that aspect.

Water was never a problem. “Ayala Alabang has been around for 30 years, even as the population increased and became more developed, there was never any water shortage. Same with Dasma,” Santos says, noting how the Ayala Land subdivisions are properly conserved and their value remains strong over the years.

A balikbayan from Australia who wanted to retire in the Philippines bought a property beside the Santoses. “Some subdivisions are abandoned in 20 years. A nearby subdivision has only one household after all these years. With an Ayala Land development, he knew he was making a sound investment.”




For Ayala Land inquiries, feel free to call me.

Coco Midel


0917 580 2013