Stories of wisdom and hard work behind the Ilocano vision - First of a series

These past weeks and months, I made casual visits to the VENVI complex in northern San Nicolas. Construction work goes on with obvious intent. A bustling troop of close to a hundred workers, drivers and equipment operators have been working overtime to erect the 3- storey 365 Plaza since April this year. This labor force is supported by the twenty-or-so lean, mean yet very friendly on-site staffs of the Venvi Realty Corporation (VRC), Venvi Development Corporation(VDC) and Venvi Holdings Construction Corporation(VVHC). The 365 Plaza will be the first vertical development to be completed within the 20-hectare property.

The VRC-VDC, owner and developer of this soon-to-be operational complex, is managed by COO Architect Ike Madamba. The construction firm is manned by Engr. Francisco Butay. At the helm of the Venvi Group of companies is the founder and President Atty. Hilario P. Valdez, whom I refer to as the young Ilocano with the vision.

In my interactions with the Venvi people, it occurred to me that it would be worth the while to provide the public a face and meaning to the men and women whose hands, minds and hearts are responsible to one of the single biggest development in this northwestern region of the country. Indeed, I have gathered a collection of facts and stories interesting enough to stand alone. The revelation is that these stories are sewn neatly into an unfolding tale of well-executed steps towards the “Ilocano vision”.

So here comes.

I. ENGINEER IKKO – The Venvi Scout, Groundman and Builder

He is a 42-year old Civil Engineer, and the typical hardworking Ilocano professional. Watching the construction work from a distance, you couldn't tell Engineer Ikko from the rest of the workforce. He wears the blue Venvi working clothes, hardhat and boots, and gives his hands to the work while giving the necessary instructions to his men. You wouldn't know that he is the Manager of the Venvi Holdings Construction Corp.

After months of talking him to sit down for an interview which he has always declined with a smile, I finally caught him in the middle of a short break time in front of the construction bunkhouse office. It wasn't much of a structured interview than a conversational sharing of seemingly different stories. But it was enough to provide me the conclusion that I was talking to a key person of this Venvi story in Ilocos.

Engr. Ikko remembers around the year 1997, Venvi President Atty. Larry Valdez instructed him to scout for lots to buy in the area. It was also around that time that Venvi was buying land in the now-established 200 hectare Venvi Agri-Industrial village sitting on Mt. Simmilla of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.]

Though normally unquestioning, he admits now that he expressed apprehension on Atty. Larry’s choice of area. The place was then a low lying idle portion of San Nicolas, with only the roadside properties viable for residential and commercial purposes. He though then that the cost of development was too big a hindrance. Atty. Larry responded confidently, “Development requirements will be easier to solve in time. What’s more essential in the choice is good location. If you choose a bad location, business would be bad no matter how much easier it is to develop.”

Engr. Ikko must be one of the best witnesses to this piece of development foresight. After almost a decade of negotiating for Venvi land acquisition in the place, he is now at the head of the Venvi construction firm which transformed the ground to an enviable 20-hectare plain 23 meters above mean sea level, and starting a series of building constructions on it.

The first lot acquired was a 4,000 square meter roadside property of the Abadilla family. Acquisition continued, until 105 meters of frontage was achieved. Then purchases were made inwards. The experience was varied and difficult.

There were cases where lot was purchased from a seller, then other claimants enter and demand payment too. Venvi dealt reasonably with such cases, despite the obvious weight on capitalization. Here Engineer Ikko learned another lesson in business wisdom. Atty. Larry’s rationale – “We wouldn't want to establish business in an area where certain local people, for reasons they were not satisfied, would wish our business ill (or in Ilocano ‘lunod’)” Aside from double compensation, Venvi gave additional benefits to the sellers and their families. There are at least twenty(20) workers from these families who are now gainfully employed at the 365 Plaza construction project.

Engineer Ikko tells of another case where the seller (or other interested parties) overstep the limits and unscrupulously present abusive demands. Venvi dealt with them squarely. He gives special mention to a recent case when a claimant to an already purchased lot fabricated documents and demanded P25 M from the purchaser. Venvi countercharged, and finally the claimants sued for a settlement of P50,000.

If I had my way, I would have sat down with Engr Ikko the whole day. But it just isn't his way. As I watched him walk towards the 365 Center construction and blend into his working men, I wondered, “How could one be such a hardworking achiever, yet remain as silently humble and real?” Well, that the Ilocano way!

Then I feel the urge to further probe into this interesting community named Venvi.