Cubao Hole: This Is the Story of That Once-Idle Lot on the Corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard
Often as we make our way across the city on the way to work, school or wherever, we find ourselves wondering about certain buildings or areas. Like that big hole along EDSA and Ortigas Avenue.
Another area of the city that has piqued our curiosity is that piece of land on the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City. Today, it’s the site of a planned mixed-use development by Filinvest called Activa, but for decades it was just a huge empty lot that stood in stark contrast to the extremely busy urban neighborhood of Cubao. Who owned that piece of land and why did it remain idle for so long?
The earliest record we could find of that land dates back to March 1944. According to court records, that land was originally part of a larger piece of land based on a survey for Valentin Afable on that date. The land was divided between Lot No. 4-B-2-A, which was in the name of Afable, and Lot No. 4-B-2-B, which was in the name of Eugenio Evangelista. Lot 4-B-2-B had an area of 8,371 square meters. Based on a separate court record, the Evangelistas purchased that parcel of land, including improvements, on April 28, 1944 for P237,234.34.
By June 1976, Lot 4-B-2-B was recorded in the names of the heirs of Simeon Evangelista.
Other than a brief period in the late 1970s when a deed of sale with mortgage was issued in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Nereo and Gloria Paculdo, who later failed to pay their obligations under the mortgage contract, Lot 4-B-2-B had been under the name of the Evangelista heirs until the early 1980s.
In 1982, during a road widening project for the adjacent Aurora Boulevard, an unsegregated portion of Lot 4-B-2-B measuring 906 meters was expropriated or taken away by the government. The remaining 7,465 square meters was designated as Lot 4-B-2-B-2.
It was this land—Lot 4-B-2-B-2—that the heirs of Simeon Evangelista sold to the Ramos family in May 1983. The Ramos family, of course, owns the National Bookstore chain of books and school supplies stores.
'Real owner' comes forward
However, in 1994, a woman named Memoria Encinas emerged and claimed to be the real owner of the lot. She filed a petition with the courts and as proof, she presented a reconstituted copy of her title to the land, the original of which was supposedly burned in the fire that razed the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City on June 11, 1988.
After the courts granted her a new Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT), Encinas tried to sell the property to Alfredo Ramos, president of National Bookstore Inc. Understandably, the Ramoses were concerned and brought the issue forward to the Land Registration Authority (LRA), which eventually launched an investigation. The LRA eventually set aside Encinas’ reconstituted copy of Lot 4-B-2-B-2, essentially siding with the Ramoses.
In 1996, National Bookstore Inc. filed an action for quieting of title, which basically means it wanted the courts to erase all doubts and rule that it was, in fact, the true and lawful owners of the lot.
Short video posted on July 6, 2018 showing the progress of construction
But Encinas was defiant. She claimed that she was the real owner of the property and that “neither she nor her predecessor-in-interest ever sold the property to anybody. She relied on the legality and regularity of the reconstitution of her title to the subject property.”
In June 1999, the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 215 decided in favor of the Ramoses and National Bookstore. The court ruled that a reconstituted title is only valid if no other certificate of title covering the same parcel of land exists in the records of the registry.
“A certificate of title considered lost or destroyed, if found or recovered, prevails over the reconstituted title,” the court said.
Long court battle
But of course, if you were Encinas, that’s not exactly the decision you want, and so she filed for a motion of reconsideration. Months later, in November 1999, the RTC completely reversed its ruling and sided with Encinas. The decision was mostly based on the fact that the title Encinas possessed was registered and issued on August 25, 1972, while that of National Bookstore was issued only on June 6, 1983. There was also another issue: that National Bookstore’s title is a derivative of an original certificate of title whose GLRO record number referred to a piece of land located in Bataan, not Quezon City.
The Ramoses then brought the case to the Court of Appeals, which, in a decision made four years later on October 2003, reinstated the original RTC order of June 1999. The CA found that National Bookstore was able to prove how they acquired the property legally through its records, including tax declarations in its name and in the name of its immediate predecessor, which was the heirs of Simeon Evangelista. Encinas, meanwhile, “failed to describe the circumstances of her ownership or possession of the land and to identify her predecessor-in-interest or the manner by which she acquired the property.” The court also found that the GLRO number in National Bookstore’s land title was merely a “typographical or clerical error.”
Enicinas then filed a motion for reconsideration with the CA that was denied in March 2004. Eventually she took the case to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for her, the SC upheld the ruling of the CA, saying that the Ramoses were able to prove that they had “the superior right and title to the property.”
“In contrast, (Encinas seems) to rely only on the alleged weakness of (National Bookstore)'s evidence, without asserting any proof other than her reconstituted title to the subject property,” the SC said in its decision dated November 19, 2004.
Artist's visualization of Filinvest's Activa project on the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard
Idle lot no more
And so Lot 4-B-2-B-2 remained idle while it was tied up in litigation all throughout those years. However, the Ramoses eventually decided to sell the lot in 2014. Filinvest Land Inc. purchased it for close to P1 billion. According to a report in Manila Standard, the Ramos family initially wanted to auction the property since several real estate companies have expressed interest over the years. But former Filinvest Land president Joseph Yap, who is the husband of current FLI president Josephine Gotianun-Yap, said that the company was able to negotiate with the Ramos family to acquire the lot.
In 2016. Filinvest started construction on Activa, its mixed-use development on the property. It seems the company was also able to extend the lot from the original 7,465 square meters (0.74 hectares) to 12,000 square meters (1.2 hectares). Initial reports said that the first tower of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, but with probable delays caused by the pandemic, we wouldn’t be surprised if that gets pushed back.
In any case, it seems we’re finally going to be able to see something rise out of that corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard for the first time in over 70 years.
Updated photos of the Activa project can be found on the Skyscrapercity discussion page.