(This week starts a series of profiles on the country’s heads of real estate companies and related fields, and their influence on our cities and our lives.)
Sid Consunji walks into the room in his slippers and crewneck shirt, and immediately apologizes for being late. No, he was not late, we tell him — we were just too early.
If you expected to see the CEO and president of DMCI Holdings wearing a nice and crisp corporate suit and sitting behind a sleek desk, you probably don’t know Sid Consunji. For here’s a man who won’t think twice about getting his hands dirty — literally and figuratively speaking. After all, he grew up around construction sites, tagging along with his father, David Consunji, the revered father of the modern construction industry, when the latter went to work.
“Back in grade school, after our morning classes, my brothers and I would go and play with the gravel, sand and cement in construction sites our father would take us to,” Sid fondly recalls.
As we look around the conference room where Sid Consunji entertains us, our eyes are riveted to a sign on a wall that says, “When someone asks for our portfolio, we’re almost tempted to say, ‘Look around you.’ “ And on another wall is a construction safety signage of a man with a shovel that says: “DMCI Holdings at work. At the rate our nation is growing, this will soon become a very familiar sight.”
Indeed, over the last 65 years, DMCI has become a very familiar, friendly sight, lording it over our cityscapes with its edifices, structures, highways and skyways. Among these are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila Hotel, Westin Philippine Plaza, Shangri-La Hotels, Rizal Theater, Tower One and Exchange Plaza, PNB Escolta, Ortigas Center financial district, Manila Doctors Hospital, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, UP Chapel, South Metro Manila Skyway, and the Pangasinan-La Union Toll Expressway.
Because DMCI carried his name, David Consunji made sure all his projects had that unmistakable seal of quality and excellence. And to think David Consunji started his business with only P500, a second-hand cement mixer, and a pocketful of dreams.
What was David Consunji’s biggest project?
Inarguably, the answer to that question is raising eight children — five girls and three boys — with his wife, the former Fredesvinda Almeda. And building a loving home for his family.
“My father was a Renaissance man,” says Sid. “He knew his engineering, he liked sports, he enjoyed art. But he always made time for his family. We were always with him visiting construction sites. He played basketball and golf with us.”
When David Consunji, DMCI chairman, passed away in 2017 at age 95, the torch was passed to his eldest son Sid who now serves as chairman, president, and CEO of DMCI Holdings though the workaholic and very down-to-earth Sid doesn’t care much for titles and the trappings of success.
Like his father, Sid is an engineer (he graduated from the University of the Philippines with a civil engineering degree). He says he enjoys managing his company, tries to end his day at 10 or 11 p.m., and limits his night life to dinners with close friends. He has no social media life either but is a big fan of YouTube and Netflix.
Keeping his father’s legacy alive, Sid is always guided by the lessons he learned from his dad. “To thine own self be true,” Sid repeats his father’s favorite quote from Shakespeare. “He taught us the value of hard work and to always treat people kindly.”
What is it that distinguishes DMCI from the others?
Sid tells us, “I think we aim at studying modern urban lifestyle so we try to anticipate the needs of a modern urban lifestyle and to provide the amenities that will make it affordable and enjoyable. Like everything we do is gated because everybody is worried about security. There’s access to public transport because most people have only one car or none at all. We try to create amenities that the average Filipino enjoys like a basketball court, gym, swimming pool. If the condo is small, we try to put a lot of function rooms so people can socialize without having to use their own condo. We try to put a lot of trees, depending on the cost of the land. We try to create something different, to create the best value for people’s money.”
Sid adds, “We’re trying to transition to be globally competitive, to be relevant to the Filipino society.”
So, what does Sid consider as DMCI’s greatest project to date?
“The next one,” says Sid with an impish smile on his face.