Horizon Manila's JR Legaspi: The son also rises

Jesusito Legaspi Jr., or JR, President of JBros Construction Corp., is not your typical real estate executive. It’s not even his age that separates him from the others but his infectious optimism. I met Legaspi during a precarious time -- the pandemic, where shaking of hands or face-to-face conversations are discouraged. Yet even from a distance, I could feel his  enthusiasm when he’s talking about his company’s grand project that would reshape the capital city -- Horizon Manila.  

Contrary to others’ opinions that a project of this scale should be entrusted to the hands of veterans in the field, I said to myself that Legaspi is exactly the best person to lead this project. And why not? He is building the city of the future and he wouldn’t want to make any mistakes because he himself would live and work there someday. 

The pressure is on the shoulders of Legaspi and he is good at setting it aside with his friendly demeanor and youthful vibe. But he did not come unprepared for the tasks ahead.

Artist's perspective of the future Horizon Manila. JBros Construction Corp. president JR Legaspi Jr. (Inset).

“While I am only 29 years old, I have been training under my father, also a civil engineer by profession. His company is one of the country’s biggest government contractors. I also have had the pleasure of being able to get sound advice from his peers, who are some of the most experienced and successful businessmen in the country,” says Legaspi. 

Aside from being a civil engineering graduate at the University of the Philippines, he reveals that “there was no ritual for my ‘personal’ preparation,” but he is confident to undertake this massive endeavor because “borrowing the words of Sir Isaac Newton -- I am standing on the shoulders of giants.”

This confidence translated to Legaspi thinking big for JBros Construction. In 2017, it was a good year for the company and it had the opportunity and extra capital to expand into a different business. It was only a matter of deciding which venture can take advantage of the company’s existing network and expertise. 

“Taking inspiration from my grandmother who passed away in 2016, she once told me that if I should ever have any extra capital, I should always invest it in real estate because ‘God creates new people, but not new land.’ But, even back in 2017, real estate prices within Metro Manila were at an all-time high, so buying properties did not seem appealing. We then looked into reclamation. It’s been done before in Manila. And the cost of reclamation is dwarfed by the potential value of land it will produce,” recalls Legapi when asked about Horizon Manila’s genesis.  “We then reconnected with an old family friend who has experience in reclamation, compiled an unsolicited proposal, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

This early, the enthusiasm of Legaspi is borne from the fact that Horizon Manila is not only about changing a landscape, as it also has a social component, something that our country desperately needs as we emerge from the brunt of the pandemic.   

“I am excited about Horizon because it would truly uplift the Filipino people. Besides being a symbol of hope for a brighter tomorrow, Horizon would also help reinvigorate the economy and augment the government’s funds to fight and alleviate the after-effects of the pandemic.” 

Aerial view of Horizon Manila at night.

Aside from the billions projected from real estate taxes and business taxes generated by Horizon Manila, at least half a million jobs will be created, helping address the unemployment due to the pandemic.

Currently, the proponents are negotiating with two world-class European reclamation contractors -- Jan De Nul and Van Oord. Actual reclamation works may commence later this year. But Legaspi can’t wait to finally see the fruition of the company’s dream become a reality. 

“We project that the ribbon cutting would be conducted upon the completion of the horizontal development works in the first Island of Horizon in the third quarter of 2024. I am not ashamed to say this but I would really be very emotional as it is a sign of success and fruition of what would be seven years of non-stop handwork by then since we started conceptualizing in 2017. It will be the signal that we have successfully brought tomorrow into today and that Manila is already in the future,” Legaspi says. 

Artist's perspective of the Esports venue inside Horizon Manila.

A visionary in the making, I asked Legaspi how he sees himself a decade from now, when he is at the cusp of 40 years old. 

“In 2031, the vertical developments of Horizon would be in full swing. With the assets or the land already tangible and developed, investors should not be as difficult to come by, and, hopefully, Horizon will not require as much of my attention by then,” he says.   

Legaspi adds that by that time, he would like to focus on his childhood dreams. 

“I want to establish the biggest no-kill animal shelter in the country. I come from a family of animal lovers and I, myself, have always been an animal lover. I wish to be able to gather, treat, train, and send to loving homes all the stray animals in the country, or at least, within Metro Manila,” reveals Legaspi. “And the other one is to help students, especially the underprivileged, pursue science-related courses.” 

“My time at the College of Engineering in UP Diliman was an eye opener. I come from a family of privilege, and yet, I am outperformed by students who barely have anything. This made me think of how many more people have the potential to contribute greatly to the advancement of science, but are hindered by their socio-economic situation. I wish to be able to provide enough funding for these students so that all they have to worry about is their studies.”

Knowing these dreams from Legaspi only proves that he is the perfect man for this project of the future. I could imagine him seated at his top floor office in a building closest to the Manila Bay sunset contemplating his next moves and finding ways to generate the greatest social good.