It’s not every day you see titans of Philippine architecture sit down for coffee. Carmelo “Meloy” Casas, Principal Architect of CASAS + Architects, and Jose Pedro “Bong” Recio, Principal Architect of RCHITECTS, did just that. Once the dynamic duo behind Recio & Casas Architects, the two old friends reunited after 16 years of pursuing their individual paths. As they sat down over coffee, they reminisced about their years of collaboration. And they couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the iconic buildings they created together.

portrait of Meloy Casas and Bong Recio in suits in front of a glass facade

Their conversation meandered through memories of late nights at the drawing board. Brainstorming sessions that sparked innovation. The exhilarating rush of seeing their designs come to life in the Metro Manila skyline. Despite the challenges they faced along the way, their partnership yielded remarkable success, establishing them as pillars in Philippine architecture.

Amid the success of Recio & Casas, the two principals decided to establish their own separate firms in 2008. The news came as a shock to the local architecture community and had been talked of the town. After over a decade of establishing their individual careers, the two architects reunite to take on a new challenge as the leaders of the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA).

Despite their separation, Casas and Recio’s relationship stays the same. They have been good friends even before they built their professional careers. “If we could hold hands now, we’d hold hands,” Recio quips during the interview. “We’ve been okay. The fact that we’re both involved in the PIA made that relationship as fresh as the day we’ve met,” Recio adds. Casas, meanwhile, believes that the organization brought the two of them closer together. 

Being long time friends, time has strengthen their bond that nothing won’t deteriorate their friendship. Recio also highlights that being two practicing architects has been the common thread between them. 

Starting New Beginnings with Lessons from The Past 

Bong Recio and Meloy Casas having a conversation on Philippine architecture over coffee.

The 20 years Meloy Casas and Bong Recio worked together were fruitful. It allowed them to establish a strong portfolio that includes high-rise projects that Filipinos enjoy until today. For Casas, the two decades they’ve shared as architects helped them move forward on their own. “That gave us a lot of strength and experience to run our respective offices,” he said. 

Recio looks back to where and how they started working together. Both of them began their careers in Hong Kong as associates. They cut their teeth in firms like Eric Cumine Associates, Wong Tung International, and Palmer and Turner. He recalls how they had to adjust to the architectural landscape in the country. It was an industry completely different from what they were used to in Hong Kong. 

In the span of 20 years, Casas and Recio learned things about each other, more than they had back in Hong Kong. “The 20 years together helped us to become more mature architects,” Recio explains. Being at the right place at the right time also made it easier for them to enter the Manila architectural practice. 

Despite their thriving careers abroad, coming home to the Philippines to start their own practice had always been at the back of their minds. “Coming back was our ultimate goal as registered architects of the Philippines,” Casas reveals. “Our end goal was always to go back to Manila and start our own practice,” Recio adds. It’s their way of giving back to the country. 

Leading the Practice in Overcoming Challenges 

Bong Recio and Meloy Casas in an intimate setting talking about Philippine architecture.

As they caught up on each other’s lives, Casas and Recio discussed their newfound roles as leaders in the PIA. Their shared experiences continue to bind them together. And today, they’re eager to collaborate once again, this time in shaping the future of Philippine architecture.

“Despite the pandemic, the PIA continue to roll along in helping to continue [making] the organization even stronger,” Recio shares. He emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of community within the practice to inspire younger architects. “The younger architects will always be our lifeline because we will pass on the baton to the younger architects,” he says. 

As leaders, Casas and Recio make sure to groom the younger generation of visionaries to prepare them to take over the institute. One of their goals is to develop and bring them to higher levels of expertise in the industry. 

When he became president right before the pandemic, Casas has wondered “what is this all about?” He shares that he realized God works in mysterious ways. Might there might be a reason and purpose behind why they are in their positions in spite of the obstacles they face?

To Casas, the good side of leading the institute is that it provides an opportunity for members to meet great people, especially those who support them in the PIA Board of Directors. “They really kept their promise that they will always be at my side taking care of our activities and supporting us,” Casas shares. The PIA members get to network and meet fellow architects nationwide which foster collaborations. 

Inspiring the Next Generation of Filipino Architects

Bong Recio, titan of Philippine architecture.
Meloy Casas, titan of Philippine architecture.
Bong Recio and Meloy Casas having a conversation on Philippine architecture.

Casas and Recio also lead the organization to be helpful for the members. They assist in notable projects that promote and uplift the practice. Moreover, Recio recognizes they have big responsibility to the industry and the profession. “We know for a fact that these young graduates look up to us… That’s why we engage our time with the PIA because that is their entry door to meeting and getting to know us,” he explains. 

Recio further discussed their style of leadership, mainly about engaging with members rather than creating a divide between one another. To him, their generation prefers connecting with everybody so the younger generation will have a feel of what it’s like, what they have to do, and what the practice is all about. “Inspire them basically. I think that is one of the biggest responsibilities that Meloy and I have as leaders and members of the PIA,” Recio says. 

The PIA is the oldest Philippine architecture organization. Recio hopes the organization continues the mentorship of young and up and coming architects. He also wants to connect and reach out to more members nationwide, especially those in remote areas.

To Casas, the legacy he wants to leave behind is to carry the working style and the core values of being an architect and as members of the society on to the next generations of architects. 

What’s Next for Meloy Casas and Bong Recio?

In the past decade and a half, Casas and Recio successfully established their respective firms, taking on big projects across the country. Now reunited in the PIA, the local architecture community may wonder if they’ll ever work together on a project again. 

Casas simply answered: “There is always a possibility.” When it comes to their dream project, Recio looks back to their time at Recio & Casas Architects and refers to each project they did as a dream project. If a project lands on their laps, however, they would gladly work together. 

Dissolving their partnership was a mutual decision between the two architects. Casas and Recio want to set the record straight that they separated without without bitterness. They have maintained their relationship and continued to support each other throughout the years. 

The reunion of Meloy Casas and Bong Recio was not just a chance to reminisce about the past. It was also an opportunity to reaffirm their enduring friendship and mutual respect. As they parted ways, both architects felt a renewed sense of inspiration for Philippine architecture. They’re ready to embark on the next chapter of their journey, armed with the wisdom and camaraderie forged through years of collaboration.

Photographer: Kim Santos of Kliq Inc.

Sittings Editor: Arch. Geewel Fuster

Art Director: Marc Yellow

Grooming: Cats Del Rosario

Stylist: JM Gumatay assisted by Rouella Ann Garcia

Shoot coordination: Mae Talaid

Read more: Revitalizing the Pasig River to Transform Manila’s Social Fabric

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