Original Article Published in Manila Bulletin on September 24, 2019
Written By: Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Floirendo family is one of the most recognizable names in business. With their main roots in Davao courtesy of the late family patriarch Antonio Floirendo Sr., who braved the challenge to start the development of the then “Wild Wild West” Mindanao, another younger Floirendo is stepping up to continue fulfilling the challenge.
Third generation RICARDO “Cary” FLOIRENDO LAGDAMEO has taken the challenge of helping the second generation preserve the family legacy and further expand the family business.
His late grandfather was among the pioneers who embraced the land of promise with the vision to make it as the world’s production hub for agricultural produce.
Indeed, Floirendo fulfilled his vision as he produced and sold bananas to the world from his Davao plantation. As a child, Lagdameo was fully aware of his heritage. Lagdameo is the fifth child of seven kids of Linda Floirendo Lagdameo, daughter of Floirendo Sr.
But not so many knew that his grandfather was also into the industrial side of business having engaged in the dealership of Ford vehicles called Davao Motor Sales or DAMOSA. Ford, however, left in the 80s so his grandfather transitioned into the real estate business in 1992. In 2000, the family started developing industrial parks and hotels making DAMOSA reached a full-scale real estate company.
DAMOSA is now considered a development company that aims to improve the lives of the people in Mindanao. “We see good investment opportunities that can be found in Mindanao,” says Lagdameo.
“Our thrust is to keep on growing the business,” says Lagdameo, who finished high school and college at the Ateneo de Manila and an MBA at the Columbia University in New York.
But even as the company turned to become a big real estate firm driving developments in Mindanao, Lagdameo said they are always reminded of their roots in agriculture.
“We continue to put agriculture in our projects,” says Lagdameo.
For instance, Damosa is now focusing on the development of AGRIYA, an 88-hectare master planned complex with an agricultural theme. Agriya is located in Panabo, a 20-minute drive from Davao City. It will be an agri-tourism project complete with residential, commercial, school, among other amenities.
Investments for the first phase would be around P3 billion to P4 billion. These include the first subdivision consisting of 177 house and lots, commercial areas, banana and aqua culture and a professional agriculture school.
At Agriya, house and lot buyers are encouraged to devote a portion of their lots to planting vegetables that they can sell to the commercial establishments in the complex. This is made possible as lot sizes are bigger than in the ordinary subdivisions. Lots are available in 400 and 350- square meters with the smallest at 200 sqms. Prices could range from the low side of P5.5 million and a high of P16 million for the upscale model. They hope to deliver the first few units by 2020.
Based on the survey results that DAMOSA conducted on potential buyers of Agriya, the relevance of bananas was consistently cited as a very important crop for Davao del Norte. The company took that seriously. Now, Agriya will showcase a banana plantation, production and packing to demonstrate what goes into the banana processing. It will showcase the intricacies from planting bananas to harvesting down to packing for eventual shipment of the fruit.
“Tourists will get to know what went into the banana production, there is so much that go into the process,” he adds. They have allotted 3 hectares for the banana showcase only.
“We feel there is nothing yet of this kind in Davao,” says Lagdameo.
To further strengthen its vision as an agri-tourism development, Agriya will be home to UP Los Banos, the country’s foremost agricultural school. UPLB will be offering studies for post graduates and agriculture professionals. This will be the first UPLB in Mindanao.
Damosa and UP have signed a memorandum of agreement in 2017. They are now in the final planning stage to start development by next year. Damosa has donated 3 hectares for the UP facility as well the first building.
The UPLB facility is meant for further studies of agri professionals and graduates in Mindanao because UP does not want to compete with other agricultural schools in the region.
Lagdameo has observed that students and agriculture people still go to UP Los Banos for further studies creating a brain drain for Mindanao. “By having this kind of campus, we keep our graduates within Mindanao,” he adds. Hopefully, the school will open in 2020.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of agriculture students especially that the current thrust of the government is agriculture. People are into backyard and sustainable farming. Filipinos are also starting to observe healthy diet so they like to grow their own vegetables organically,” he adds.
In addition, agri tourism is also being supported by the government. “So, we add more push to continue in that path.”
As head of the real estate business, the 41-year old Lagdameo is responsible for the overall strategic direction for all business lines of the real estate group. Already, Lagdameo has successfully achieved an annual revenue growth of over 500 percent for the company from 2013-2018.
Under his leadership, DLI has launched several milestone projects in Davao such as its first agro-industrial estate, its first condominium project, the first flexible workspace solution in Davao, and other mixed-use projects, which includes Agriya, the first master-planned agri-tourism development in the Davao region. He was also responsible for bringing in several foreign investors into various Damosa Land projects in the Davao region, including its agro-industrial park, Anflo Industrial Estate.
Lagdameo sees more opportunities in Davao. The economy is doing good and Davao is the fastest growing region since 2009. Davao grew at an average of 8 percent and above for the last 10 years, way higher than the national GDP.
Even in terms of real estate developments, Lagdameo said Davao no longer lags behind other big cities. Even the products and lifestyle of the people have become more sophisticated, more diverse and people are becoming savvy in their investments.
“Davaoenos have really come of age,” says Lagdameo noting that 35 percent of their units at Agriya have been sold to the locals already.
Damosa has grown tremendously over the past six years and is considered the market leader in Mindanao real estate business. Damosa has become one of the most successful businesses in the country. In recent years, the company has been recognized by various award giving bodies for its achievements in the property sector.
Prior to his role in Damosa Land, Lagdameo started his career as an investment banker. From 2010 to 2014, he served as the chief investment officer for IP Ventures, Inc., an investment holding firm that has subsidiaries operating in the information technology and IT-enabled services space.
From 2008 to 2010, he worked for investment firm CLSA Exchange Capital as an investment banking associate.
Although their roots are really from Davao, Lagdameo was born and raised in Manila. With his work now in Damosa, Lagdameo has no choice but work in Davao for most of the week.
“I moved about six years ago,” he adds. This means, he is in Davao from Monday to Friday then fly back to Manila on weekends. It is like commuting on a weekly basis because he needs to be on the ground.
Lagdameo has observed that lots of people had been visiting Davao out of curiosity on what has been happening in the premier city of the south.
“Initially, people get curious but I saw lots of people coming back,” he adds.
He himself saw changes unfolding in Davao. “There is a different energy to the city, you can feel the vibrancy and excitement. So for me, this a good time,” he adds.
“Work was not too difficult, the most difficult was being away from family,” says the young executive, whose wife and two young kids are staying behind in Manila.
According to Lagdameo, he knew from the very start that he would be giving up his corporate job outside of the family business.
“I knew that one day I would, I just did not know when, but I told myself that at a certain point I have to start paying my dues after all the family business was set up for generations to partake in,” he adds. That day came in 2012 when his grandfather passed away. It gave him the wake-up call.
“I can see all the outpouring of support and it affects the community he helped and it was very inspiring. So, I told myself to make a transition to the family business,” he recalls.
“There was a soul searching involved,” says Lagdameo of his decision to join and work in the family business in Davao. In 2014, he became vice-president of Damosa Land where he led the company and all its strategic efforts under his uncle Ricardo Floirendo.
Being an established company in Mindanao, there was not much of a challenge for a Floirendo heir. “But you have to learn how to play, learn how to deal with family politics. But for me, it was just a matter of adjusting to work styles and of not being afraid to take on new businesses to benefit the company and how to get them to buy into the business which has been there in Davao for so long,” he says.
And he found out that working for the family is fun as he enjoyed presenting new ideas. He may not be able to get automatic approval for his plans, but the family has been very supportive as they are now diversifying their products, and not just contented with the agri business.
The Floirendos still have some properties outside of Mindanao but they would like to focus in Davao and General Santos City.
“There are lots of opportunities and the market is big enough and our roots are really there in Mindanao so we are doing so much even if we do not go out,” he adds.
The third generation Floirendos are little by little taking care some of the family businesses with the help of some professional managers.
“A good percentage of our leaders are not family members and some board members are not family. We are a professional organization,” he adds.
They also have a team of 130 people, mostly from Davao. Lagdameo enjoys their company.
“They also enjoy being able to think on their own and execute projects because I do not micro manage. I would just tell them how I would like it done but I am more of listening of what their ideas are and how they would execute the project on their own,” he adds. He would expect project heads to be efficient in capital expenditures.
To foster team efforts, they undertake events in the office so people look forward to milestones. People, who excel, also are recognized but not to the extent of alienating certain employees.
There are things he learned in business: malasakit (compassion or concern) and integrity.
“First and foremost, everything we do always have a certain sense of malasakit and integrity. We just don’t build a building to sell, but there is always a deeper meaning in everything we do to be able to do with meaningful impact. That sense of malasakit is very important,” says Lagdameo.
That is why despite the big players from Manila that entered Davao, Lagdameo is confident they have the advantage as a local player, who knows Davaoenos so well. Damosa always tries its best to be a model in real estate developments and in putting their brand forward.
“We are from Mindanao so our roots are firmly planted and we are invested in Davao. So, if anyone who knows us for this rich agricultural heritage, we use that to our advantage and our partners know that they don’t just deal with me but family members. So, we have that personal touch,” he adds.
This makes the DAMOSA management so personal. “Our buyers are assured 100 percent that we are always there for them,” adds Lagdameo who is active playing golf if he is not running to de-stress himself.
On weekends, Lagdameo spends time with family to make up for his absence during the work days.
As a company, they also undertake a lot of outreach programs through the Antonio Floirendo Foundation where they conduct medical mission, build schools, grant scholarships as well as mangrove planting and coastal clean-up.
Unlike his grandparents, the third generation had their Manila upbringing. They were born and raised in Manila and went to the best schools in the country. Lagdameo, for his part, remembered visiting Davao on special family occasions only.
He now realized he should have visited as “often as I should.” Lagdameo remembered visiting Davao three times a year only during his childhood days.
While his grandfather was a well-known businessman in the country, particularly in Mindanao, Lagdameo admitted there was little interaction he had with him. He kind of looked at him from afar probably out of respect, not of fear.
“My grandfather was such a serious, stern person so I chose to kind of stay away, but it never stopped us from learning so much from him and seeing his effect on communities and families,” says Lagdameo.
He always looks up to his Lolo for being the game-changer of his generation. “What I definitely admired most about him is he had the propensity to build something out of nothing,” says Lagdameo as he noted that his grandfather gambled his life when he decided to take the challenge to go to Mindanao.
“It could have gone either way and for him to stay on that path and do business without shortchanging anyone around him, but helped them grow, I always long to follow that,” he adds.
“He laid down the foundation that is why it has been a conscious effort of the second and third generation to make opportunities to partake the growth of the business.”
Lagdameo is conscious enough to stay on course.