He’s always cautious. Never boastful or conceited. When he speaks, though, everybody listens. In the over 25 years that I’ve known Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran, it was the first time that he bragged about the new refurbished headquarters of the Department of Finance (DOF). I had the privilege to have him and Assistant Secretary Didith Tan, head of the International Finance Group, as tour guides.
It has been a little over two years since I set foot at the Department of Finance (DOF). That was July 3, 2017 to witness the swearing in of Nestor A. Espenilla as BSP governor and Monetary Board members Antonio Abacan, Jr., Peter B. Favila, and Felipe Medalla.
The meeting room where the late BSP Gov. Nesting took his oath before SecFin Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez is no longer there. It has been turned into offices of undersecretaries. The lobby of the left wing of the sixth floor, which used to be vacant, is now fully utilized with long rectangular tables adorned with glass vases and matching chairs for meetings. Comfortable sofas are placed for visitors waiting to be ushered-in to meet concerned officials.
More than century-old woodcarvings depicting the country’s domestic economic activities such as planting rice and Filipino bayanihan hang on the wall. These woodcarvings are made out of narra, our national tree, and used to hang at the Bureau of Internal Revenue building built in 1904.
Like the editorial office of Manila Bulletin, there’s a designated dining place. The DOF workforce, including the top officials, is prohibited from munching anything in their respective workplaces. This is to prevent any Mickey, Minnie, Ratatouille, and roaches to co-habit and make the place their hide-and-seek playground.
I know every nook and cranny of the DOF offices. DOF and BSP were among my beat assignments from way back then. Impressed by its transformation is an understatement. It was as if I was stepping into a private corporate office. The old rickety elevator has been replaced. The restrooms are sparklingly polished. It used to be that “your nose will lead you to it.” Unlike in the BSP, though, users have to bring their own tissue and hand paper towels.
It’s still a work in progress. “It’s not yet done. There’s no turn over yet from our contractor,” said proud Boss Gil, as he is fondly called because he’s the most senior of all the Usecs. He said an executive elevator will still have to be installed. He is not only the department’s chief economist. Overseeing the progress of the renovation is, also, part of his administrative responsibility.
The last leg of my tour of the newly renovated DOF offices was at the topmost with two meeting rooms, a gym, and of course, the cafeteria. “We have a better view of the domestic economy. Even better than the BSP,” he said pointing to the mushrooming buildings under construction around the metropolis, from Makati to Pasay, as far as the eyes could see.
Indeed, the bay window of the cafeteria of the refurbished DOF headquarters inside the BSP complex provides diners like Boss Gil, Asec Didith, and the department workforce a better view of both the economic horizon and Harrizon Plaza’s impending redevelopment.
I felt a bit nostalgic when I crossed over to Harrison Plaza, shortly after. It’s no longer bustling with shoppers. It’s dimply lighted. Decrepit. Some of the tenants are slowly leaving the mall. They have been given notice to vacate by end of the year. Anchor tenants like National Bookstore have packed their bags already. The first air-conditioned shopping mall in the country, which opened 43 years ago will be demolished. SM Prime Holdings, in partnership with the Manila City government, reportedly plans to build within the complex mix-used residential towers and BPO offices.
The wheels of the business construction industry continue to turn.
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