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

II. Architect Ike—Venvi property development captain

I have always wrestled with the thought of doing serious interviews with someone at the head of a development outfit. Perhaps due to my social activist background which has turned me into a dyed-in-the wool person with hardened prejudices. Admittedly now, my interactions with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Venvi Realty and Venvi Development Corporations have made me think a lot.

Architect Ike Madamba first struck me as a straightforward manager who means serious business, with potential clients and the Venvi personnel alike. He makes sure plans and drawings are done and refined to the smallest detail. He wants meetings brief but meaty. He transacts work obviously demanding high standards and output even with the Venvi construction people headed by Engineer Ikko. This must have instilled lots of awe and respect among the Venvi ranks.

In conversations, I gleaned that Architect Ike is a proponent of the latest global concept of establishing well-located and meticulously planned development sites that will evolve over a period of time into strong and permanent business districts with grids as opposed to the old linear type. Examples of long-established business centers are Ayala Center, Araneta Center and Ortigas Center. Architect Ike likens their present project to Rockwell Center in Makati, which is now maturing into that league after a decade of gradual development.

Architect Ike and his team also considered seriously the physical factors of flooding and water resources. He advocated the conduct, and serious subscription to the study and recommendations of the flood hazard assessment of San Nicolas, specifically the site of the planned development of VVH Realty Corporation. It was conducted to assess the susceptibility of the site to flood hazards, understand the causes of flooding and identify measures that can minimize flood hazard in the project site and the whole area. [I wish I could get more space and time to dwell on this in the future, for reasons of education and real-situation usefulness for this Laoag River basin area.]

These, and certainly more aspects of Architect Ike that I haven’t come to know, would illustrate his serious and business-meaning developer nature. And rightly so. Architect Ike Madamba is at the forefront of Venvi property development. The 20-hectare-or-so Venvi property in San Nicolas is now his focus. He says his team’s role is to translate the “Ilocano vision” into concrete development plans, drawings, and operations. Venvi President Attorney Larry Valdez would tell them of his intentions and decisions, and Architect Ike would lead his team to the drawing boards, project site, and the relevant environment and market, to turn these into living structures and action.

Observing closer, however, I have come to discover the lighter side of Architect Ike which puts his intentions in perspective. For me to realize that, a day with him at the site of the ongoing 365 Center construction in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte was enough.

In a morning meeting with local potters who will supply the brick finishing materials for the 365 Center, Architect Ike started with a critique of the sample bricks submitted. He wanted more strength and consistency. The brick makers, mostly veteran women potters of the association, explained that the San Nicolas clay is among the best quality in the country. They were approaching the point of being intimidated, harboring the fear of losing the contract opportunity. Suddenly, Architect Ike smiled and announced, “We are taking your bricks. To make your work faster and further improve quality, I am willing to help you acquire a clay kneading (mixing) machine.” The potters’ fear turned into relief, then into excitement when the Architect added, “This is just for a start. You will be needing kilns. We will assist you in getting other supply contracts in future bigger construction in this complex!”

Architect Ike next met with another local group bidding to contract specific steel works of the 365 Center building. As he went over the submitted quotation bid, he gave the bidders and me a lifetime piece of advice on business relations. “In dealing with a cow, you have two choices. You can slaughter it, and you enjoy the meat outright (in Tagalog, karnehin). But that ends there. Or you can milk the cow. And it will be there for years, always ready for the milking (gatas).” He went straight to the contract bid, pointing out details of steel material, uniformity and finish. Then surprised the bidding steel men when he volunteered that Venvi will provide them scaffolding materials, electricity for their weld works onsite, and pickup of assembled parts at their work place. The meeting concluded on a mutually happy note of agreement. The bidders opted for the long-term milk, and the cow will be happy to grow and provide that.

In between and after these meetings, the architect gave instructions to his staff on engineering, marketing and administrative matters. He would always stress this as no “…smiling matter, and you better make sure you do it right and give me the result on time.” Then he invited them to join us for lunch. I couldn't help but appreciate his pleasant mix of serious business and educating broad perspective, with his way of avid interaction and cracking intelligent jokes. This probably explains how his onsite staff works efficiently and manages to enjoy it at their isolated bunk of an office.

Architect Ike describes his relationship with the visionary Attorney Larry Valdez as one with so much fruitful synergy. “Atty. Larry is so passionate with the place (and people), and I am passionate with my work.” The leader and the manager go through a process of dynamic discussions, sometimes disagreeing, but every time arriving at an enviably higher level of resolution.

Asked on his business views and forecasts of the project area, Architect Ike says that Venvi’s THE CENTER is where any investor cannot go wrong in coming in. “The location is ideal, the market is existing and very attractive. The Ilocanos are really very hardworking, and they can learn a lot more from their Ilocano counterparts in Hawaii.”

What are your intentions when you start business operations in the area? Architect Ike says, “When you enter an area, (in order to really succeed) you must come BIG and complete. We are doing just that in this future Ilocos metropolis.” As we view workers get up the 3rd floor of the 365 Center construction, the urge to hear and learn more from this developer rises.