Within a weeklong event showcasing some of the best of Northern Mindanao’s speakers, companies, and products, including some new interesting inventions, Orobest Expo 2.0 has this year proven to be able to have a special role in the digital events world of this new normal.
There are two of the value propositions behind the company’s success to survive amidst the big competition. These are; first is we specialize in green design projects, something that is new to the market; and second is we focus our projects in emerging cities, where there is a great demand for real estate products,” said Architect Romolo Nati during his lecture at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines last October 18, 2021.
IDC Primavera Sales Office officially moved to its brand new green office space at Citta Verde @ Primavera City. Phase 1 of the 4 phases of development of the Primavera City project complex. Citta Verde @ Primavera City is the third eco-friendly mixed-use complex developed by IDC in CDO. The project follows the company’s flagship Primavera Residences Towers A & B, also located in Uptown Cagayan de Oro.
Infrastructure was at the center of the discussions during a recently concluded virtual summit named “Roads, Bridges, and Tunnels”.
What had started as an operation with a naked desk in the offices of Pueblo de Oro Development Corporation in Uptown Cagayan de Oro has now finally reached its milestone of inaugurating its own offices in the newly built Primavera City tower in Phase 1, just beside SM City in Pueblo de Oro Business Park, Uptown CDO.
A space used to be just a space. But now more than ever, because of the pandemic, real estate is more connected to people’s health and wellbeing. A space with certain attributes is more attractive to buyers compared to properties or developments without these characteristics. For example, green developments enjoy attributes that are appreciated more and more by today’s real estate market.
As people’s tastes and preferences change, so do their behavior and habits. COVID-19 is likewise leaving a legacy of changed cities, public and commercial spaces, and residences. I would divide these pandemic-related changes that affect architecture and human developments in three main categories: digitalization, transportation, and residential and public spaces.
Digital innovations are creating a huge impact on the way cities and public spaces are being designed, developed, and used by people. For example, in cities like Amsterdam, citizens can use an app to check in real-time which public areas are crowded or congested so they can avoid these spots. Technology already allows us to choose the easiest route to our destination, and I do believe that there will be more digital innovations to help us better handle our time in many ways.
Transportation is changing at a fast rate, mainly because of the reduced mobility required for remote working. On top of that, new trends include the popular use of bicycles and electric scooters, walking, etc. as an alternative means to travel. It’s one of the positive effects of the pandemic, which helps to lessen traffic and pollution and allows us to save both time and money.
All around the world, real estate products located in less congested areas and developed according to green building principles have seen an increase in value. These are developments and properties with more open areas, easy access to outdoor spaces like terraces, gardens, etc., and with residential units that have abundant natural lighting and ventilation. The market quickly realized that being in a green environment is part of living a healthy life.
Our outdoor activities are changing, too. People are starting to appreciate outdoor commercial spaces, al fresco dining, and open public spaces like parks, plazas, and squares. When I arrived in the Philippines many years ago, I noticed that unlike the citizens of Europe and even the US to some extent, the Filipinos were not in the habit of dining al fresco even while the local weather is often nice and conducive to this activity. So I think it’s a healthy decision to be more open to it now, and I hope that the practice lasts beyond the pandemic.
The Philippines, like the rest of the world, is aligned with trends in transportation, aggressive digitalization, and the use of public spaces. Local real estate clients are more interested in green developments, specifically those outside congested areas like city centers. The market has a new appreciation for locations that can be reached easily via new highways and roads, condominiums with open spaces and easy access to outdoor facilities, and developments that use natural ventilation, natural lighting, and sustainable energy sources.
So while it is true that only people can change society, we can see that architecture and design are gradually evolving alongside the social changes to fit our new circumstances and to deliver meaningful and transformative developments for the people.
One of the things that remote working has accomplished was the diffusion of the capital-centric working model, which means that workers need not stay within the city center to do their job. The multipolar world of work is becoming more popular and acceptable as companies and organizations find ways to successfully navigate through the current crisis.
We at Italpinas Development Corp. (IDC) are quite used to working remotely, maintaining our head office in Metro Manila while running operations in provinces like Cagayan de Oro and Batangas. In our organization, there was no restructuring necessary because remote work habits and practices have been in place since the beginning. For example, we are used to holding online meetings and have the appropriate tools to do it efficiently.
And while it’s true that the remote work setup has been around for some time, the pandemic made it more necessary for all of us to be good at it. Since we can’t work inside the office the way we used to and because our mobility has been restricted, we’ve all come to embrace the WFH solution, which has proven itself to be effective, sustainable, and cheaper for both employer and employee. And this is why I think many organizations will not be abandoning the trend even beyond this pandemic.
It’s helpful to realize that remote work presents its own set of challenges, like the temptation to fall into what we Italians call sciatteria, or a certain sloppiness in the way we maintain or care for ourselves. Remote workers need to set their own rules to make sure that they continue to move physically or work out, enjoy a change in scenery once in a while, and connect with others even as they spend most of their hours cooped up at home. All this is necessary for the wellness of their mind and body.
Silence is an important component of the WFH scenario. With housemates and children around, it can be a challenge to find a quiet and peaceful place to do one’s work. Ideally, a remote worker needs to have a private workroom or even a simple corner where he or she can work undisturbed. Otherwise, it is important to find an ideal area outside the home—in a co-working space perhaps, a common area, or a meeting room inside the residential building.
Finally, there are some items that need to be checked as far as the actual work area is concerned. First of all, it’s always best to use natural light, if it’s available. And it should come from the work table’s right or left side. If the light source is at the back, you need to use a curtain or some other means of diffusing the light so screen visibility will still be optimal. Make sure the workroom is well lighted but not too bright. Our eyes are already working hard from staring at screens the whole day, so it’s wise to care for them by finding a good balance in lighting.
Clutter is another concern. I would say that it would be ideal to work in a room with a minimalist design, one that is painted in colors that are not too intense. White, cream, off-white, light gray, and similar hues are friendly to the eyes. And because oxygen is a priority, natural ventilation is preferred over air conditioning, as long as the air is pure and clean. All of these abovementioned factors contribute to a remote worker’s work performance and overall wellness.
Being a second-generation leader in any business may seem like a walk in the park. With the foundation of the company already established by earlier generations, all that’s left for the next leader is to keep the business running. But some second-generation builders attest this is just a common misconception.
While it is considered a blessing to be a second-generation leader, there are challenges for them especially with the changing times.
“I think it’s a different kind of stress,” Century Properties Group Inc. president and CEO Marco Antonio says in a recent webinar organized by Property Report PH.
‘Blood, sweat & tears’
Antonio, the son of Century Properties executive chairman Jose E.B. Antonio, said while he is very appreciative of all the opportunities that have been given to him by virtue of “the blood, sweat and tears of the first generation,” he emphasized that he still needs to put the hard work in to be able to reap the rewards.
“I never felt any entitlement. But I’m very appreciative of the platform that was already there that we can build upon,” Antonio says.
Cathay Land Inc. president Jeffrey Ng shares the same view, adding that the new generation of leaders have more challenges to face.
“It’s easier for me right now in the sense that I don’t have to start from scratch. On the other hand, it’s also more challenging because now, things are more competitive, more complex and businesses are bigger,” says Ng, son of the late steel tycoon John Ng, founder of Cathay Metal Corp.
“You have to manage it on a bigger scale. So we really have to step up to the plate and pay attention to many other things being built, pay attention to the details and make sure that the things we develop are for the long term,” he adds.
Keeping the family legacy
As a second-generation leader, Ng emphasizes the need to continue the legacy of the earlier generation.
For Ng in particular, this means developing projects for the long term.
“I think basically, you have to develop things, look at things for the long term you have to make sure that we continue the legacy of building good, long-lasting projects,” Ng says.
Antonio echoes Ng’s views, saying that it is the duty and the responsibility of the second generation of leaders to build on the legacy of the first generation.
“As the second generation, we hope to build stronger pillars for the organization. It’s really rallying the company toward today’s generation,” Antonio says.
A new player
While a lot of today’s leaders in the real estate industry are from the second or third generation of builders, there are still new movers and shakers. They, too, are making waves in today’s property market.
One of them is Italian architect Romolo Nati, chairman and CEO of Italpinas Development Corp., a property developer focused on building sustainable projects.
When Nati established the company in 2009, there were already a lot of good developers in the market, a challenge he faced.
“To be a second-generation developer, you have to provide something new, something different, something that has not been done before,” Nati says.
“We need to go the extra mile,” he adds.
This has been the focus of the company since it launched its first project in Cagayan de Oro City called Primavera Residences.
Antonio also acknowledges the need for the second generation of leaders to differentiate itself from the previous generation, emphasizing his push for product innovation.
“So my father really started with high-rise condo development, but we injected a lot of unique, differentiated features in our projects,” Antonio says, adding that this was prompted by the emerging lifestyles of the residential market.
Among these innovative products offered by Century Properties in today’s market is the man-made beach of its six-hectare Azure Urban Resort Residences in Parañaque City.
In line with offering unique products, Antonio also highlights the need to diversify the company’s offerings. He cited that from being established as a core condo development business in the previous generation, the company has now expanded to other segments of the property market such as affordable housing and leasing assets.
“So I think in terms of unique characteristics, it’s really I guess product, technology information and how that can be done in today’s context as well as growing and diversifying the business,” Antonio says.
Use of technology
Despite the challenges of being a new player in the market, Nati, as part of the next generation of builders, was able to leverage on using various design technologies, which were not available to the previous generation, to offer unique value propositions to their clients, in line with his company’s focus on green developments.
Nati says that with the use of software, the company is able to analyze the direction of the wind and sun, elements which help their developments become more sustainable.
Using a parametric software allows local conditions to be factored in the design of the building and its features so that it is maximized for natural ventilation and natural light, he adds.
Adapting to the pandemic
While technology can be used to add to a project’s value proposition, it has also been vital in helping businesses adapt during this pandemic.
For Cathay Land, Ng says Cathay Land’s developments have wide open spaces that have allowed the company to serve the needs of its customers during this pandemic.
Cathay Land’s projects already cater to the needs of their customers amid the pandemic, he says.
“People want to have more space in their rooms, so we provide three to four bedroom units. So people can now work from home and even their children can study from home. So these are what I think we can offer our home buyers—space and the amenities,” Ng says.
These wide spaces can be found in Cathay Land’s projects such as its South Forbes project, a master-planned township of boutique communities located at the Metro Silang-Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay business and residential hub.
For Century Properties, Antonio says the company has been applying end-to-end digital solutions in its operations.
In addition, he shared that the company also conducts unit turnovers digitally. Antonio also stresses the importance of technology in doing business today especially with the pandemic.
“For our buyers abroad—our kababayans—instead of them coming back home, we do the unit turnover online,” Antonio says.
Learning from the previous generation
While builders of today continue to inject their own styles into how they run their business, this does not mean they have forgotten the values they learned from the previous generation.
For Antonio, the guidance of the previous generation is very much present, as his father is still “very much hands-on” in running the business.
Ng, for his part, says the company continues to adhere to the legacy established by his father of developing a strong land bank and good, quality projects of the times. He also does not forget to give back to the community, as his philanthropist-father has taught him.
For Nati, he is thankful that he is also able to learn from older Philippine developers and from everyone else.
Indeed, as the next generation of builders aims to continue and expand their businesses further, more exciting and innovative things await the Philippine property market
Italy and the Philippines have enjoyed good trade relations in the past. They continue to do so and it’s looking like the future is bright as far as bilateral trade goes. In 2020, figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that the Philippines imported about $584 million worth of goods from Italy, and exported products worth nearly $200 million.
As an Italian who has been living and doing business in the Philippines for the past twelve years, I recognize that there are, indeed, many business and investment opportunities here in the country. That is why it was no surprise when Enrico Letta, president of Associazione Italia-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), disclosed that Italy intends to expand its businesses in the Asean region, with the Philippines as its top priority. This was shared during the online webinar “Italy-Philippines: Discovering the Opportunities,” co-organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ICCPI) and Associazione Italia-Asean in January 2021.
Our company’s (Italpinas Development Corp) investment in Cagayan de Oro was mentioned during the online webinar as one of the “notable investments of Italian businessmen in the country,” along with Fendi, Stefano Ricci S.p.A, and Novabala JV Corp. This should excite other Italian businesses, specifically those in the garments and textiles business, infrastructure, aerospace, renewable energy, and machinery.
Board of Investments OIC Lanie Dormiendo said these are the sectors that could present good opportunities for Italian entrepreneurs. Personally, I think that there are also possibilities in real estate, tourism, food and beverage, infrastructure, and power.
This is where IDC can contribute, I believe. As a successful Italian-Filipino partnership, we can share our story and experiences with the new Italian companies that are planning to invest here. IDC was born out of the enthusiasm of the two founders — an Italian architect and a Filipino lawyer — and nurtured by their understanding of and deep respect for the country and its people, as well as the hard work of every member of the organization.
As far as culture is concerned, I don’t think Italians will have a hard time adjusting to life in the Philippines. We have so many things in common — from traditions and culture to religion and our values. The Philippines has made it easy for corporations to do business here, too — processes have been streamlined and English is the language used in business. The business environment is dynamic and comparably better than many other countries. I am looking forward to seeing a bigger and livelier community of ItalPinoys in this part of the world.
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It was the American historian, philosopher of technology and author Lewis Mumford who said that the natural environment should shape the nature of humankind. He believed that man’s basic needs—food, clean water and air, adequate living spaces, etc.—have to be respected so that humanity, as a whole, can thrive.
In a world of more than seven billion people and limited natural resources, sustainability has become a major issue—sustainability in terms of food, power or energy, natural resources, and so on. Only three percent of the world’s land surface is covered by urban areas, but around 55 percent of the world’s current population live in these areas. The megacities, where millions of people live, are major centers of consumption.
The development of an urban ecosystem plays an important part in the issue of sustainability. This interaction among humans and their urban environment has to achieve a certain balance so that the needs of both nature and man can be met.
While governments and businesses definitely have roles to play, the civil society—and that includes the family unit, mass media, and individuals, too—can create a huge impact as far as environment protection and resource management are concerned. People should not wait for others to do the work that they themselves can do.
Everything we do has an impact on the environment. It is important to keep this in mind and to understand that cooperation can result in more significant positive changes. We cannot underestimate the contribution a single person can make even just by making the slightest adjustment in behavior or consciousness.
Economic growth is necessary for development, but it is not enough. Also important are education, health, environmental sustainability, the protection of society’s weaker layers, etc. It is not right to take economic growth as the only parameter in measuring development. To do this may be dangerous for man and the earth itself. A more acceptable, holistic and lasting approach must be adopted sooner rather than later.
A society that prioritizes social and ecological well-being, not only focused on promoting consumption at all cost, can perhaps produce happier citizens and a cleaner environment. The degrowth concept is very close to this idea as it is all about the transformation of communities for environmental justice and the creation of a good life for everyone.
Going back to Mumford, he did write that “the physical design of cities and their economic functions are secondary to their relationship to the natural environment and to the spiritual values of the human community”. Many of his most significant ideas were written more than 50 years ago.
So all this is nothing new, but the implementation and action are a different matter altogether. And that’s why all sectors of society need to work together to build a balanced ecosystem founded on every individual’s conscious effort toward environmental sustainability.