Brothers Dino and Gelo with their father, Bobby Mañosa.

He never worked a day in his life: Francisco ‘Bobby’ Mañosa

Dino Mañosa opens up about his father's holistic life philosophy and staying true to principles

  • August 29, 2017

  • Written by Dino Mañosa

  • Photographed by Ron Mendoza

I was born in the early 70s. It was a time when Filipino self-esteem seemed to be at its ebb due to our political instability. In school, I was bombarded with ideas that the Philippines was a “poor” country and our future unsure. Talk was always about migrating abroad for a “better life.” It bothered me greatly as a boy, as it often made me feel that I was part of the losing team.

But I was one of the lucky ones. I would come home to a father who defended not only Filipino architecture and design but also championed Filipino pride in everything he said and did. He often quoted his own father who would tell him, “Love your country. It’s the only one you have.”

He stood for his convictions; not many men do that. Often, this meant turning down projects because of the misalignment of values. I recall during the Asian Crisis, we were experiencing major cash flow issues at the firm. Many of us executives had not gotten their salary for some time. No one was interested in Filipino architecture—the fad was Mediterranean. We had few jobs and they were far between. Dad called me into one meeting with potential clients (foreigners) who had a whole set of plans already prepared by their architect and needed a reputable firm to sign as their local counterpart. The amount for his signature was in the mid 7-figure range. I had the task of having the difficult conversation about this with him. He never budged or thought twice. He kept saying, “Please understand that my conscience will never allow me to design anything but Filipino.”

He constantly reminded us even while we were still young kids that his father left him a good name to work with and that we had to do the same for our children.

Francisco Bobby Mañosa
Mañosa in the dining room of his son Gelo’s home

READ MORE: Succeeding Success: Bobby and Gelo Mañosa

As someone who cared so much about his name and reputation, the National Artist Award fiasco was one of the saddest times for my father and the family. Malacañang sent a fax congratulating him. It was great for a few days then the whole thing erupted. It was a very confusing time for us, as none of us understood the politics involved and neither did we wish to get entangled in it. We did not know who were truly friends who wanted to help, and who were just using us to get back at an unpopular president.

It was mixed feelings of sadness, embarrassment, anger and apprehension. I recall at the height of the fiasco, when the artists were protesting at the CCP, I visited Dad at home and I saw him extremely sad in front of the TV. He looked at me and said, pointing at the TV, “Those are all my friends there. I want to be there with them, but I cannot. I don’t understand what has happened and why.”  To this day it is with much discomfort that we are constantly correcting people who call him National Artist.

In hindsight, Dad’s reputation has weathered the storm and speaks volumes of the kind of architect and man he is. To me, it shows that because of his integrity and reputation, we have been able to move forward as a family with a clean conscience and leave that very dark period in our lives.

My dad will be remembered as one man who championed and truly believed that the Filipino deserves an architecture of their own that they could be proud of. He played a major role in a movement for architects to proudly practice and evolve Philippine architecture and design.

As a boss, he always considered everyone working for him as family. He loved to fool around and have fun at the office with employees and clients.

He was also a very playful father. When we were growing up, he would kick off his shoes and get down on the floor to play with the three of us. His sense of humor is legendary. He is one of the kindest souls I have ever known, truly an inspiration for me to emulate.

He was—still is—a perfectionist. Good enough is never good enough. He is extremely artistic, passionate and determined. He always says, “I have been an architect for the last 50 years and I’ve never worked a day in my life.” 

This story first appeared in BluPrint Special Issue 3, 2013. Minor edits have been made for

About the Author

Dino Mañosa is CEO of Mañosa Properties, Inc., which builds residential townhouses following his father’s design philosophy of “Philippine contemporary green architecture”.

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