What’s Now, What’s New, What’s Next in Property

Published February 1, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Johannes Chua

This is part of a series of profiles on a new generation of leaders, thinkers, creators, innovators, and trailblazers across many fields in the country. The list is drawn under the theme “What’s Now, What’s New, What’s Next” in celebration of Manila Bulletin’s 121st anniversary as an exponent of Philippine progress.

Kevin L. Tan: Magnate in the Making

It must be hard to imagine what a day – or what a conversation – might be with Kevin L. Tan, the eldest son of tycoon Andrew L. Tan.  When Kevin took the helm of Alliance Global Group Inc. (AGI) in 2018, he became the country’s youngest CEO of a multi-billion conglomerate.   

Kevin L. Tan

“As CEO, I’m in charge of strategic planning and direction of the entire conglomerate,” he said. It is no easy task as his day is filled with overseeing AGI’s financial operations, investments and acquisitions, and external affairs. In short, he is the face of the conglomerate in various public and private functions.

So what about conversation? It would be hard to discuss one topic alone as Kevin can shift into multiple subjects covering food and beverage, gaming and entertainment, tourism and hospitality, real estate development and quick service restaurants—even online delivery. He is, after all, part of these industries, as he holds directorships in AGI companies including Emperador Inc., Megaworld Corporation, Global-Estate Resorts Inc. (GERI), Empire East Land Holdings Inc. (EELHI), Resorts World Manila, and Golden Arches Development Corp. (the holder of the master franchise of McDonald’s Philippines in partnership with the George Yang Group).

All these positions did not just fall on his lap. Kevin learned the ropes of the business starting after college when he was tasked to sell condo units. Eventually, the roles assigned to him became bigger, such as starting a mall business, or building a property from the ground up. For the faint of heart, these tasks would be intimidating. But Kevin wouldn’t want to take the easy road, taking inspiration from the bold industry-changing moves that his father took at the start of Megaworld.   

“I’m continuously inspired by my father and carry with me the lessons he imparted on hard work and perseverance, and being humble amid all the success,” Kevin said. “He also showed to us that the success of the business relies on people, that we have to treat our team like our family.”

This kind of bond was tested during this pandemic. It is during this crisis that AGI strengthened its efforts to help communities by supporting its employees, even setting up a rapid testing center to ensure that those who are required to work from the field and office are safe. Kevin also revealed that the group has spent almost P1 billion in various programs to support affected communities and pandemic frontliners. This once-in-a-lifetime pandemic deserves an empathic kind of leadership, and it is not hard to imagine seeing Kevin as the right person for this moment.

Paolo A. Villar: Eyes on the prize 

It must be very intimidating to be the eldest son of the country’s richest man and the senator who garnered the most votes during the 2019 midterm elections. But Paolo A. Villar, vice chairman of the board and president/ CEO of Vista Land Group, holds his ground well, managing to stay out of the spotlight yet spearheading projects that change not only the landscape of the real estate sector but also that of the retail, communications, and technology industries. 

Paolo A. Villar

Paolo did not rely on his surname alone as he comes equipped with the tools to take the helm of a multi-billion peso company. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics. For two years, he was an analyst for McKinsey & Co. in the US from 1999 to 2001. 

He joined the Vista Land Group in 2001 as head of corporate planning then becoming the CFO of the company in 2008.  In 2011, he was elected president and CEO of Vista Land Group. In 2019, he became president of Vistamalls, Inc. He is also holding senior positions in various companies under the group. 

Inspired by his parents’ entrepreneurial spirit, it is to Paolo’s credit that Vista Land became one of the leading home builders in the country, providing a wide range of housing products across all income segments.  A few years ago, it was also Paolo who spoke about the group’s intention to diversify the business, and to enter other capital-intensive industries such as telecoms, integrated gaming, and infrastructure.  

Paolo prefers to answer questions about the business rather than talk about his private life. His actions are enough reflection to see that he has a strong, steady vision—a rarity among individuals at the age of 43. 

As for the challenges that lie ahead, Paolo sees optimism as reflected in the steady sales of Vista Land amid the pandemic, especially in the provinces. 

“We are happy to have witnessed the resiliency of the real estate sector through the sustained demand for the residential market, especially for the house-and-lot products in the provincial areas. For the first nine months of 2020, over 80 percent of the company’s sales revenue came from our residential products outside Metro Manila,” he said.

With that, Paolo is excited with the endless possibility that his family’s business conglomerate can reach. After all, building homes is just the start of providing life-changing solutions to Filipino families, the next would be to provide solutions to empower nation building. 

Mariana Zobel de Ayala: Commitment to values

I first “encountered” Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala walking in broad daylight at the Ayala Triangle Gardens.  This was around a decade ago and both of us were going to the underpass to cross the other side of the road. I was startled—the man whose surname is all over this city was just walking beside me, not calling attention to himself, as if he were just another executive.  

Mariana Zobel de Ayala

Perhaps, this is also the same impression of people who have met his eldest child, Mariana Zobel de Ayala. Mariana, after all, is described by friends and colleagues as unassuming even though her presence commands attention, and interviews about her mention how she arrives on time without fanfare and without a coterie of assistants. 

Appointed last August as the vice president for retail segments strategy and analytics of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Mariana comes at an opportune time, putting her insights and using her experience in property and shopping mall management to transform the world of banking into a business that is more hospitable and customer-centric.  She comes prepared as she used to be a director of Ayala Land, the deputy head of the Ayala Malls Group, the general manager of Ayala Malls The 30th, among other positions.

Mariana is a Harvard graduate and worked for two years at JP Morgan in New York before joining the family business. She also recently finished her master’s degree in business administration at INSEAD in Singapore. 

But more than her educational attainment and past work experiences, it is from the example of her parents where she derives her strength and inspiration.  “I learned from my parents the value of hard work, of humility, and sticking to one’s reason for being.  I’m proud to be part of a group that is committed to national development that would impact future generations,” she said in another interview.  

That would not be surprising as Mariana has set her eyes on helping build a better future, not only for her young child with husband Danel C. Aboitiz, but for the country that has given her family the opportunity of a lifetime.

Francis C. Gotianun: High on hospitality 

If blood is a measure of a man’s success, then Francis C. Gotianun would definitely occupy the top echelon. His grandfathers—Andrew Gotianun and David Consunji—are captains of the real estate industry and pioneers of national development, whose projects are now shaping the way we live, work, and travel. His family is behind Filinvest Development Group, a top conglomerate with interests in property, banking, sugar, power, and hospitality. 

Francis C. Gotianun

So how does a young man, not even in his 40s, find his way amid this environment filled with accomplished individuals? First, he equipped himself with a degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa in Barcelona. At the cusp of receiving his MBA, he got a “call of duty” from his family—the group is unveiling a new hotel in Cebu and they want him to be part of it.

Soon, Francis found himself in a leadership role, opening Crimson Resort and Spa in Mactan in 2012. He did not only learn the day-to-day operations, but also the important work behind it such as land acquisition, design and construction, to asset management. The success of the Cebu property encouraged the group to open a Crimson-branded hotel in Filinvest City and Boracay. 

Today, Francis is SVP for the Filinvest Hospitality Corporation. He is responsible for growing and managing the hospitality portfolio of the group under the homegrown hotel and resorts brands, which are Crimson, Quest (for the mid-market), and Grafik (for young travelers). He also leads Chroma Hospitality, a separate company that handles hotel management.  

Francis finds satisfaction in being involved in an industry that highlights the best of the Philippines, not only in terms of destinations but more on bannering our world-class hospitality. “I’m always proud when people commend our hotels and properties. They couldn’t believe that it is owned and managed by Filipinos.”   

Like any other business, the pandemic has affected the hospitality industry. This unprecedented development did not deter the group from continuing with its projects, believing that it would be more detrimental to halt projects prematurely. Late last year, Francis signed an agreement that would allow Filinvest to develop a new hotel with over 200 rooms inside Camp John Hay.    

“This year may be challenging, but we continue to look ahead and see a bright future. The hotel will be ready to welcome guests in four years in line with the recovery of the tourism sector,” he said. With his optimism, we only have high expectations—and high hopes—for a man tasked with a tall order.

Marco R. Antonio: Rise to the top 

People may say that it is inevitable for Marco R. Antonio to become the president and CEO of Century Properties Group, Inc. (CPG). His father, Ambassador Jose E.B. Antonio, who is now executive chairman, started the company in 1986. Marco begs to disagree, as Century Properties is “more than a family business.” 

Marco R. Antonio

“While it is family-led, it is not family run. The company’s successes are results of the collective efforts, and the wisdom and management experience of our senior leaders within the firm,” he said. “As I have had a long history of working with my father and siblings, I have developed  strong professional chemistry and a healthy working relationship with them and the rest of the organization.”

Appointed by the company’s board of directors in July 2019, Marco sees himself as a steward of the company, steering the course together with his brothers and senior leaders to deliver innovative real estate projects.

“I see my new role as an enabler, to get the whole organization to work together even better, and to encourage and support our entrepreneurial spirit,” he added. 

Marco started working for the company in 1996, when he moved back to Manila from New York where he was a real estate private equity analyst at The Blackstone Group. Through the years, he has taken on various roles including the management of residential and commercial leasing projects. 

The pandemic has posed new challenges for the company and Marco is aware that he came prepared to face this new normal. In fact, he first joined the company during a tumultuous time—when the country was hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis. 

“During these challenging times, I reflect on the example of my father. I learned the values of passion and persistence from him. He has an innate business intuition and is a consummate entrepreneur. He moves quickly and is able to naturally spot opportunities on the horizon. The values instilled in all of us from childhood were hard work, integrity, excellence, adaptability, and passion in our chosen endeavors.”

Mike Robles: Going for Growth  

The history of Sta. Lucia Land is the proverbial Filipino success story. There are disappointments, roadblocks, and challenges along the way. But more than that, it is a story filled with hard work, perseverance, and faith. 

Mike Robles

This is what Mike Robles has learned early on in his life. As the VP for sales and marketing of Sta. Lucia Land, he is aware how his father Exequiel D. Robles and uncle Vicente R. Santos started a small real estate trading firm, which grew into a subdivision developer, to becoming a leading real estate builder with almost 300 projects nationwide.     

“I have witnessed how hard my father worked, who toiled day and night just to unveil a project that we would all be proud of. That may be a subdivision, a golf course, or a condominium, but all these developments bear the high-quality built that Sta. Lucia is known for,” said Mike, who is one of the members of the Robles-Santos clan now directly involved with the company’s operations.    

The success of the company built by their elders is a motivation for Mike and his siblings and cousins to work doubly hard, in order to “further grow the business and to attract a new generation of customers.” 

“We feel it is up to us to uphold the legacy of our founders. We learned from their wisdom so we are equipped with the tools to surpass any challenge. We are grateful yet challenged at the same time—we want to make them proud,” he added.  

Aside from his role in the family’s company, Mike is also president and CEO of the Natures Renewable Energy Development Corp. (NAREDCO), a company that delivers clean energy across the country.

A graduate from the University of Asia and the Pacific with a degree in entrepreneurship and management, Mike’s skills have proven to be an asset as the company further expands its footprint, finding growth in areas such as office development, mall leasing, and condotel management. He is determined, more than ever, to continue building on the success story that his father has started.

Victor B. Consunji: The multi-faceted builder

Where in the world can you see a real estate executive running—and finishing—a full marathon? That person can only be Victor B. Consunji, grandson of David M. Consunji, esteemed founder of DMCI and the builder of landmark infrastructure projects (such as PICC and CCP) and mega highways.

Victor B. Consunji

Growing up in a family of engineers, architects, and builders, it was only natural for Victor to be involved in the family business. He, however, took an extra step by “building” his own brand in 2001 by launching the Victor Consunji Inc. (VCI).  What sets this apart, aside from it being an independent company, is that it is not just merely combining steel and stone to build a structure but also understanding foremost what clients need. 

“We design homes with the understanding of evolving urban lifestyles,” Victor said. “We want to offer spaces that are truly livable. You shouldn’t change the way you live just to fit a certain space… it should be the other way around.”  Victor encapsulates this building philosophy in a term called “craftsman-like pride”—where his team derives satisfaction by impressing home buyers with flexible configurations and customizable spaces. Today, VCI is known for its single-family homes and low-density private gated neighborhoods. 

Outside the realms of real estate, Victor is known for his pursuits as a seasoned athlete and an intrepid traveler. Prior to the pandemic, his Instagram feed was filled with adventures such as diving in Fiji, chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland, and biking in the Himalayas. These were interspersed with his photos at the gym, vacations with his family, and trips with wife Maggie Wilson-Consunji, a former beauty pageant titlist who is now heading a complementary business called Acasa Manila, a home and lifestyle brand that offers furniture and interior design services. 

The pandemic didn’t only halt a lot of travel plans for the Consunjis. In fact, he had to pivot his attention during the early months of the pandemic. He said the “crisis is a time to help” and with that, VCI gathered resources from family and friends (raising almost P20 million) to purchase medical-grade PPEs and hospital equipment. Victor even personally coordinated the PPE distribution to medical frontliners at various hospitals.

This kind of empathy only shows that he is more than an engaging character, proving that his desire to build homes is just the start of an exciting journey.

Gloryrose Dy-Metilla: Indigenous identity through architecture

By ZEA C. CAPISTRANO

Architects play a vital role in promoting the culture of a place. So for 34-year-old University of the Philippines Mindanao graduate Gloryrose Dy-Metilla, her life-long ambition is to “play a huge part in bringing the identity of cities in the Philippines through my architecture.”

Gloryrose Dy-Metilla (avdph.com)

 “I’d like to make a difference in the way Filipinos see their locality. When they enter a city, it should reflect their city and not some city that looks like another city,” she said.

 Gloryrose is a founding partner of Swito Designs Architects. Their team is currently working on the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 11 Cultural Complex, which is envisioned to become the landmark for culture and arts in Mindanao.

 She is also connected with the Bangsamoro Ministry of Interior and Local Government Infrastructure Projects where they work on designing the municipal halls, barangay halls, and public markets in several provinces.

 She is also the editor-in-chief of Filipina Architect Resource Magazine, and aims to help popularize Mindanao architecture to all Filipinos “so that there may be a pride of place in terms of pre-colonial architecture.”

She also wants to use the elements and principles of Filipino indigenous architecture to contemporary practice, and take these to the global scene.

 Gloryrose finished her Masters in Urban and Cultural Heritage at the Melbourne School of Design of the University of Melbourne in 2018 in Victoria, Australia. She is currently taking up her doctorate in Philosophy in Management at the University of Mindanao.

 She believes there is a limitation in showing Mindanao design’s diversity because there is “lesser research and resources.”

 “Right now, we only see the Maranao design and some indigenous weaves from Tboli tribes, etc.,” she said. To address this, she said more data on design is needed for it to “be contemporized in the proper manner.”

 “Mindanao architecture is more than just weaves and patterns. It is more of a way of life and how each detail has meaning to the one inside the architecture. For me, the intangible aspect marries the tangible aspect when it comes to Mindanao Architecture,” she added. 

 Gloryrose said people “tend to find their identity in architecture such as that of Mindanao architecture.”   “The love for identity never goes away.”

 
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