Following a protracted legal battle, the property dispute between the Philippine government and the Sunvar Realty Development Corporation came to an abrupt end last August 16, 2017 after Sunvar acquiesced to an earlier government order to vacate the Mile Long compound in Makati. While this space is hardly the venue to discuss the complex dynamics of the case, this meant that the more than 250 tenants of the Mile Long Arcade, Sunvar Plaza Building, Amorsolo Creekside Building, Premiere THX Cinema, and the Gallery Building suddenly found themselves evicted.
This unexpected development brought about a state of frenetic confusion over the next few days. Aside from the vocal frustration of the displaced tenants, rumors began to spread that the adjacent Little Tokyo complex would be closing next, while others speculated about the future of the property. On a less urgent but nonetheless emotional level, loyal patrons of the complex’s several Japanese restaurants found themselves changing their schedules to accommodate one last meal.
I remembered my experience at the property; it had been a quick dinner at the long-defunct Amorsolo Creekside branch of Sango. I immediately agreed to visit the closing restaurants since I figured that it wasn’t too late to create good, albeit bittersweet memories.
Unfortunately, scheduling problems meant that the MBites team was only able to visit on August 24. As we found out from the newly installed guards who restricted our access, the last tenant had already left a few days earlier. With nothing better to do, we decided to walk the perimeter of the property to get a sense of what was once there.
Starting from the Sunvar Plaza building, we saw the vacant location of the Wagyu Japanese Beef restaurant, which was said to be one of the city’s best places for the luxurious delicacy. We then made our way past the open establishments of the unaffected Makati Cinema Square, through the drive-through of a McDonalds that had also been evicted, to cross the street to the next blocks of the complex, which we could only see from behind a short chain link fence.
While all that remained of Hoshi Matsuri, Yokahama Ramen: Yoshida Seimen, Tonkatsuya, Akitaya, and the Makati branch of Gyumon Yakiniku were signs for empty facades, what was clear was that the restaurants were just a minuscule part of a thriving commercial area. This included offices covering various fields, from tailors, medical clinics, and law and architectural firms, to a language school, and even a recording studio. Even more difficult to ignore was the closure of some of the complex’s larger tenants, such as the infamous Pharaoh KTV bar, the 42-room Creekside Makati Hotel, and the TIU Theatre, which was once the famed Louie’s THX Cinema before being renovated into a socially-oriented performing arts space by a Japanese filmmaker in 2014.
Once we reached the end of the complex, we decided that there was little reason to prolong our walk. Even if we had access, there was nothing substantial to see but hastily abandoned commercial space, which, when taken with the uncertainty about the property’s future, did not amount to much. As we left, we passed by a sign indicating that this was government property and that interested parties should call a certain office. This did little to distract our attention from seeing that one of the former dining establishments had left a row of empty sake bottles outside, gathering dust in a small, temporary testament to the death of a whole area as an unfortunate consequence of a complicated property dispute.