Grand Benedicto and his grand vision for Cebu and BEyond

Grand Benedicto grew up in a lumberyard in Mandaue. As a young boy, he saw how wood was processed and turned into furniture for his family’s export business Berben Wood Industries; he also grew up in the family’s cement plant, Mabuhay Filcement, in San Fernando, Cebu.

Enrison Holdings president Grand Benedicto says BE Hotels and Resorts is now expanding to residences: “It’s a deliberate reverse direction on our part. The BE brand is very well known for our resorts, and we can do the same high-quality residential projects.”

You can say he knew how to work these two building materials before he knew how to ride a bicycle, and that construction and design run in his blood.

“That’s where we all started — in our lumberyard,” Grand Benedicto, president of Enrison Holdings Inc., says of growing up in Cebu with his four siblings, Benedict, Enrilen Joy, Mylene Jade and Enrison.

The children of Enrique and Helena Benedicto now hold various positions in Enrison Holdings’ business ventures, which include BE Residences, BE Hotels and Resorts, Enrison Land, Benedict Ventures, Mabuhay Filcement and Berben Wood Industries. At one point Grand’s father Enrique helmed nine companies and was Honorary Consul of Belgium, a position Enrison now holds, while Grand is Honorary Consul of Romania and Joy of Hungary.

The Benedicto siblings may have been playing in the furniture factory as kids — but they were learning as well, and so when they graduated from university (with business and finance degrees) their dad handed them the reins to the various companies.

“It was like when they taught us how to swim, they just threw us in the water,” says Joy Benedicto-Tan with a laugh.   

Growing up in Cebu — a province with an extremely strong pride of place, history and identity — Grand says it was only natural that “When you build things, it’s nature that inspires you.”

You can see this in how Grand’s vision for their BE Hotels and Resorts has turned out two amazing resorts, the award-winning BE Grand Resort Bohol, completed in 2015, and BE Resort Mactan in 2011.

The name BE, with its modern logo of two lowercase letters running into each other, was Joy’s idea and stands for Beyond the Expected.

“Beyond the expected” is the promise that Grand says each of their properties is upholding now that the BE brand of resorts and hotels has expanded into office and residential development.

Last year, they completed Mabuhay Tower, a 17-story BPO office building in Cebu IT Park, another office tower in Cebu Business Park will be completed in 2020, and their first foray into residential is BE Residences Lahug, a 20-story building planned with innovative architecture as well as refined interior design and finishes. 

It’s an unexpected direction for a resorts brand since most real estate companies start with residential and commercial developments, and only later branch out into the hospitality and tourism sector.   

Grand laughs and says, “It’s a deliberate reverse direction on our part. The BE brand has equity in the region and is very well known for our resorts, and we figured we can do the same high-quality residential projects.”

Joy, who handles the financial side of the company, adds, “With resorts, you’re committed to your clients for the weekend or a week, with an office tower maybe three to five years, but with a residential condominium you have a lifetime commitment. We want to show not just Cebuanos that we can give them quality and value in a resort- and design-oriented condominium. For anyone who’s investing or buying their first home, they buy into a brand, but what is a brand really? It’s a relationship. Even as it is only our first condominium, they already know our resorts so they trust us and know the quality we deliver.”

Grand says, “Our BE Residences will be blueprinted with global-standard features and amenities, including advanced home tech, resort-inspired amenity areas and state-of-the-art storage facilities.”

Enrison and BE Residences chief operations officer Nova Noval, whose industry experience includes 18 years in real estate and over a decade in brand management and advertising, says, “Joy is a visionary, she can imagine and reimagine things in every project. And with Grand at the helm, BE Residences can top any local or national developer — just give us five to 10 years! I’ve worked with so many people of his age in bigger real estate companies and I can honestly say that Grand is very good at looking at the big picture and managing it all.”

Enrison Holdings and Be Residences chief operations officer Nova Noval, president Grand Benedicto and Joy Benedicto-Tan at Mabuhay Tower in Cebu IT Park

To get an idea of the quality and innovation that’s in the plans for the residences and even the office towers, one needs to have a look at how BE Grand Resort Bohol was developed.

Located on a cliff on the northern end of Panglao island, BE Grand Resort Bohol was designed to embrace the terrain of the land, and the waters of Panglao which seemingly extend into a “village” composed of one-story and two-story villas with winding pools right outside their balconies. To one side is the hotel building with 189 deluxe rooms and suites. One forgets there are that many rooms because the architecture, landscaping and master plan of this three-hectare property have produced an atmosphere as idyllic as the stretch of sand beyond the swimming pools.

BE Grand Resort Bohol sits on a three-hectare property on Panglao island and is currently expanding. Designed by architects Luijo Nakpil and Paulo Alcazaren, it embraces the terrain of the land and features a “village” of one- and two-story villas and a 189-room hotel.

Designed by architects Luijo Nakpil of Nakpil and Associates and Paulo Alcazaren of PGAA Creative Design, BE Grand Resort Bohol is an example of how Grand develops properties: inspired by nature (in this case Panglao’s waters and the existing trees and plants on the land), creative solutions to design challenges, and a collaboration with the best minds and designers.

Luijo and Paulo have worked together in several projects for many years, while Grand first worked with Luijo in the renovation of BE Resort Mactan, turning it from Microtel into the first BE-branded resort in 2011.

BE Grand Resort Bohol’s lobby features furniture and lighting by designer Kenneth Cobonpue.

What’s notable about BE Grand Resort Bohol is that the collaboration between the two architects started from the beginning. “It’s also what made the design so successful and the project fun to do,” says Paulo and adds that in most projects, landscape architects are called in when the construction is almost complete.

Luijo says, “BE Grand Resort Bohol can be overwhelming with its size and so when Grand said we should start on the design, I said I needed a steady hand, and I called up Paulo to do not just the landscape architecture but also the site planning.”   

“The challenge was there’s no beach, the property’s on a cliff. That’s where we got creative,” says Paulo. “We invented the concept of ‘infinity beach.’ It’s the same concept as an infinity pool continuing into the sea; here we created a beach on top of a cliff that seems to continue below. It’s really very special when your client has a vision and that he puts his trust in the people he works with, then something like this happens.”

Both architects are now working on the expansion of the resort.

At BE Residences Lahug, located beside Cebu IT Park — an address where you’ll definitely want to be — the architecture by ArchHaus Asia is just as creative. Four home styles are housed in one 20-story tower: two-story units that combine a condominium and a subdivision home; three-story townhomes called maisonettes; garden suites; and studio to two-bedroom flats.

With BE Residences, Grand says, “We’re building homes that bring fresh and global solutions to the way Cebuanos and all Filipinos live.”

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This is the first of a series of special features on BE Residences, BE Hotels and Resorts, and their other developments in Cebu and Bohol.

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