She built this city: The leading ladies of real estate 

WHAT does it take to be a woman in a patently man’s world like real estate?

Many moons back when I was starting off in real-estate marketing in the industry, I was nurtured by some of the most brilliant talents in the industry who happen to be women.They were Eunice Marie G. Velasco, an integrated-marketing genius who made the most seamless marketing campaigns while keeping hair and eyebrows on fleek; Iris Josef-“Mediano, with whom we made the Make it Happen, Make it Makati” campaign intended to arrest the exodus then of companies to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and preserve the preeminence of the Makati Central business district (CBD); Angela de Villa Lacson, who’s indirectly the real-estate marketing momma of many in Ayala Land and now sustainability champion; Yeng S. Tupaz of Alveo Land, who unwittingly taught me to navigate regional real-estate marketing, understanding the nuances of markets other than Manila; and now renowned regional art patron Tina G. Fernandez of the then preeminent Tagaytay Highlands whose kindness and generosity of spirit while I was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Tagaytay Highlands.

We spoke to four leading ladies of the real-estate industry. Hear from them straight, verbatim and unedited about what it takes to be a successful woman, the patented male real-estate world.

Angela de Villa Lacson (The president) 

She is the president and CEO of Oak Drive Capital, a unique property company that has a selection of landholdings around the country including, but not exclusively, truly beautiful tourist destinations.

What’s a typical day like? (Visit to the site, meeting with architects, agencies, etc.)

“These are the typical activities of any hands-on developer. Yes, I do attend to these activities myself, but included now is travel around our islands as we identify development directions.”

What are the top areas and projects you’re very excited about? 

“Mega Manila will always be a draw, but our tourist destinations are our islands and their beach and food attractions. It is a wonderful experience to now address what will always be an economic engine for the Philippines if we are able to attract our share of the 1.2 billion world tourists.

Have you found being a woman to your advantage or disadvantage in the real-estate field? 

“No…being a woman should not be a factor to being effective, even in a male-dominated industry, such as the real-estate industry. This has never bothered me, even with another industry that I ‘grew’ up in also male dominated in my time, and it does not bother me at all now. What is important is to earn the respect of the principals of the industry, male or female, by doing what is right…for your customer, your employees and your shareholders.”

Eunice Marie Velasco (The marketer)

She is the marketing group head for Ayala Land Premier and ALI Residential Business Group, Ayala Land Inc. Ayala Land’s core strength is developing large-scale, integrated mixed-use estates. Because they are the most diversified and fully integrated property developer, they offer a full line of end-to-end real-estate products, ranging from residential, retail and office developments, hotels and island resorts to construction and property-management services.

They get to put in place all the important elements to complete the experience, not only in terms of how beautiful or pleasant it will be when it gets fully built, but they also make sure the estate works—that it thrives, that it is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. The best testaments are the estates we now see and experience like the Makati CBD, Nuvali, BGC and Cebu Park District. Their estates have become engines for economic activity and catalysts for growth across the country, and they continue to generate value over time. All these put impact not only Ayala Land as a company, customers or the real-estate industry, but the entire nation as well. Nation building may be a term that is loosely used in the industry, but in ALI, they take this to heart.

What’s a typical day like? (Visit to the site, meeting with architects, agencies, etc.)

“My day in the office will usually be like attending meetings for different purposes—from mancom meetings, to project-specific meetings, which involve concept development to strategy and budget meetings, also marketing group-status meetings. Then, there are meetings with creative and media partners, suppliers and other brands who we may potentially forge strategic partnerships with. On other days, I kick off my heels and wear comfy walking-hiking shoes for site visits with the team to see the land in its raw state and help come up with the best value and best use of the land and, later on, more site visits to see progress of development. It gets more fun when I get to hang out with my work colleagues on breaks, or even after work. I’m thankful I get to work with a bunch of fun-loving people. I must say, the team’s pretty balanced—the work hard-party hard kind of gang. So yay for that!”

What are the top areas and projects you’re very excited about? 

“Ayala Land’s residential business group—Ayala Land Premier, Alveo, Avida, Amaia and BellaVita all have something happening across most, if not all the Ayala Land estates. There is always something to watch out for in Nuvali, Makati, Bonifacio Global City, Vertis North in Quezon City, Pasig and even in El Nido, Palawan, or the VisMin area like Cebu, Davao and Cagayan De Oro. All these developments keep us at the edge of our seats. We always look forward to the next big thing.”

Have you found being a woman to your advantage or disadvantage in the real-estate field? 

“I am pretty lucky and thankful that Ayala Land is a professionally run company. I do not personally sense any bias toward a particular gender. Everyone is given equal opportunity, air time and exposure. There are female engineers and architects. Marketing, all the more, is not a gender-sensitive field. Some perks though, in my personal experience, is when I join site visits with the team, most of them adjust to my pace when it comes to trekking steep hills and crazy terrains. And, more important, after all the walking, hiking and trekking, I get to order the dessert I like as a reward! Other than those, it’s a pretty balanced world.”

Nerissa N. Josef-Mediano (The city builder)

She is the Assitant Vice President of the  VisMin Group of Ayala Land, Inc. ALI has been espousing sustainable communities, consistent with its mission of “enhancing land, enriching lives of more people”.

What’s a typical day like? (Visit to the site, meeting with architects, agencies, etc.)

“Nothing really routine or “typical” about my day or week or month, as we move with the changes in the environment and the times. I handle theVisayas estates, and part of my roles is not only to acquire land, develop and manage estates in [the] Visayas, but also to explore opportunities for growth. ALI’s business is still mostly in Luzon; understandably so, as it started, as and still is, a Manila company. While it has started to expand geographically into VisMin more than 25 years ago, it had proceeded modestly and intensified efforts only during the last seven years. So bulk of my work is really to pursue new opportunities. While yes, there are meetings, e-mails, reports, site visits and the like, but there are  more out-of-the-box approaches depending on opportunities we see. With very volatile times in the Visayas and Mindanao, that means remaining fluid and flexible even with my own day-to-day activities.”

What are the top areas and projects you’re very excited about? 

“I’m handling [the] Visayas estates, so aside from strengthening our presence where we currently are [Cebu, Iloilo, Negros and Bacolod], we are also expanding to new areas.”

Have you found being a woman to your advantage or disadvantage in the real-estate field? 

“I think I am fortunate that ALI does not discriminate, especially not with gender. Any “advantage” or “disadvantage” is due to what we or I am able to contribute or not contribute based on directions or overall goals of ALI. Generally, if we have useful or usable experience, knowledge, skill, connections, etc.—that is respected regardless of gender.”

Hannah Yulo, (The deal maker)

She is the CFO of DoubleDragon Property Corp.

DoubleDragon is one of the fastest-growing property companies listed only a little over three years ago. So bullish had they have exceeded a market capitalization of $2 billion and aims to have a portfolio of 1 million square meters of leasable space with 70 percent banking on the brisk growth in the provincial area through the rollout of CityMalls and 30 percent coming from Metro Manila through their office spaces.

What’s a typical day like? (Visit to the site, meeting with architects, agencies, etc.)

“I’m a triathlete, so I am awake at 5 a.m. and either running or swimming.

“I am primarily responsible for fundraising for our projects, so the rest of the day I’m likely meeting with bankers, fund managers or having internal meetings with our chairman and CEO, Injap Sia, or holding one on one meetings with my department heads in treasury, accounting and corporate communications.”

“If I don’t have to attend business functions, I am, more often than not, catching up with friends or having a quiet dinner at home because I love to cook.”

What are the top areas and projects you’re very excited about? 

“We are very bullish in the provinces, and we target to have 100 operational CityMalls across provincial city centers all over the Philippines by the end of 2020.

“CityMall is at the forefront of modernization of provincial retail, and we are likely to dominate the space within the near term.”

Have you found being a woman to your advantage or disadvantage in the real-estate field? 

“I think in general, being a woman is an advantage regardless of what industry you are in. I embrace being a woman in the workplace, I believe that effective leaders have to demonstrate both strength and humanity, and being a woman makes these qualities come naturally.”

“FIRST DIBS” will create a special feature to all the unheralded men and women in the real-estate industry who have helped “build this city”.