There’s a reason why Filipinos remain one of the most important resources in the country. Aside from being hardworking, the citizens of the country are known to have in-born talents that make the country known around the world—and even shape the futures of many cities and countries across the globe.
The name Palafox may sound unfamiliar to the current generation, but to the Emirates and the City of Dubai, such a family name will always ring a bell. The renowned luxury shopping, ultra-modern, and lively urban scene of Dubai City is highly attributed to the co-founder of the Emirates and Father of Modern Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. And behind all these economic achievements of the urban city is the Filipino who helped build and plan the city.
Getting to Know the Architect and Urban Planner Felino Palafox Jr.
In 1977, Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. was invited and name-hired by Sheikh Rashid to help and plan a first-world city in fifteen years – a city that would serve as an example to other countries in terms of urban development and economic progress. As the visionary leader puts it: “Build me a garden out of the desert. Build me a city that will lead.”
While the responsibility seemed totally loaded for the then 27-year-old architect and urban planner, Palafox took the challenge when he was invited by Sultan Khalifa Al Habtoor and joined as Senior Planner and Senior Staff of the Planning Department of Dubai Municipality. By April 1977, he began to work as the youngest and only Filipino member of the team.
With such strong political will, good urban planning, design, and engineering, and excellent management, Dubai’s leader empowered the Urban Planning Team to make Dubai one of the most incredible cities in the world. Without him knowing, the architect’s decision to accept the invitation will make him one of the most important Filipinos in the history of the Emirates.
Along with the contributions he made to the Emirates, Palafox was allowed to bring his family and have them settle in Dubai—making them the first family to have lived in Dubai, and his second daughter became the first Filipino ever born in the Chief Port and Commercial Center of the United Arab Emirates.
The Palafox Legacy
Cited as one of the 48 Heroes of Philanthropy in Asia by Forbes Asia Magazine, Architect Palafox continues to carry out the vision of creating better spaces for people. Since the establishment of Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, they have garnered more than 200 awards and recognition. In fact, they became the very first Filipino architectural firm that made it to the Top Magazine in 1999—the only Southeast Asian architectural firm in the Top 100 Largest Practices and the Top 8 Leisure Projects in the World in 2012 for that matter.
In 2017, Architect Palafox was recognized by the JCI Senate as one of the Top Three Outstanding Filipinos in the field of Architecture. He was also identified by PRC (Professional Regulatory Commission) as the 2019 Outstanding Professional of the Year in Environmental Planning. Because of his exemplary achievements, Architect Palafox was conferred with honorary titles as Doctor Fellow by the Royal Institution of Singapore; the Royal Institute of Architects, Singapore; the Royal Institute of Development Consultants, Singapore; and the Royal Institute of Town and Regional Planners, Singapore.
But more than the help that Palafox made in building the future of Dubai from 1977 to 1981, one of the best contributions he made is creating a place for many Filipinos in Dubai – which they fondly call now as their second home.
The multi-disciplinary firm founded by Architect and Urban Planner Palafox is best known for the numerous projects they have undertaken in 38 countries, including that of the Fisher Mall (Quezon City), Crown Regency Hotels and Resorts (Dauis, Bohol), The Lighthouse (Subic), Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (Cotabato City), and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Master Plan (Metro Manila) in the Philippines.
Truly, when great talent is duly supported by great leaders, it is possible for a city or a country to reach greater heights.