Globe Asiatique's Delfin Lee: Redefining mass housing in the Philippines
- Christina Mendez, Conrado Diaz Jr. () - November 16, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - High up in his Ortigas Center office, Globe Asiatique Realty Holding’s (G.A.) founder Delfin Lee is all smiles as he briefly looks out the orange skyline. The man has reason to be happy, his two latest projects (Xevera Bacolor and Mabalacat) have literally sold like hotcakes and is poised to contribute close to P10 billion to G.A.’s top line growth, with almost 65 percent of the units sold in about a year’s time.

Starting out in 1994, the modest Lee had envisioned a company that would develop housing opportunities for low-income earners without the low quality standard or stigma that comes with that segment.

“We are in the business of building communities and not just houses. The ordinary Filipino wants a better lifestyle, a higher standard of living for his/her children than what they actually had while growing up. We at G.A. are going all out in order to make this particular Pinoy dream possible, and I believe we’ve been uniquely successful,” Lee points out.

G.A.’s ambitious corporate vision is best captured by their two flagship projects in Pampanga, the dream communities of Xevera Bacolor and Xevera Mabalacat which were launched back-to-back in 2007 and 2008.

Any first time visitor to Xevera Bacolor is bound to be initially skeptical. There was just no way this could be low cost housing in the Philippines! Old-world elegance meets modern Filipino, inspired by Spain’s classic architecture.

Amenities include transportation terminals and commercial areas, a wet and dry market, a church, a city town hall, a clubhouse with a sprawling pool, and a 34-classroom school built in partnership with the e-media program of ABS-CBN Foundation.

Lee points out: “For the Filipino breadwinner, the education of his kids is as important to him. So once he has his dream house, education is his next priority. We are happy to say that in Xevera Bacolor, the children of our buyers get access to free education, complete with free books and uniforms.”

The much newer Xevera Mabalacat is equally at par with the quality of that Xevera brand. It also features a school, church, town hall, a wet and dry market, a clubhouse with an Olympic-size swimming pool, commercial areas, an amusement park, and a three-hectare eco park. Its architectural design also brings to mind Spain’s exuberance and warmth. Residents get to enjoy the convenience of a transportation terminal, with the additional perk of a soon-to-be completed road all the way to Clark.

In line with G.A.’s focus of providing both the “software” and “hardware” elements for the built communities to thrive, the company also tries to provide livelihood opportunities to residents and keeps close cooperation with the local governments to help seek opportunities for their homeowners.

“Owning a house is well and good, but having a home within a community that is progressive, orderly, and full of opportunities is even better. When I set out to form G.A. in 1994, I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of some of the mass housing developers in the 1990’s who focused on building houses as cheap as possible and didn’t focus on the kind of communities that may thrive after the houses are built,” Lee was quick to point out.

Now finding its niche, G.A. is set to launch more projects this year, including The Courtyard, the New Sta. Rosa Homes in Laguna, Sameerah in Angeles City, and the groundbreaking Xevera Neo-Calapan in Mindoro.

“All these projects have one thing in common. They are all top-class developments made affordable for the average Filipino. Also, these projects gain market acceptability because they have assured financing from Pag-IBIG. Our focus is the end users. We strive to elevate lifestyle conditions through our housing projects and make it affordable to income-challenged Filipinos,” Lee explains.

He continues: “Owning a house in our properties is as easy as applying for a Pag-IBIG housing loan. All one needs is a loanable amount, now with a reduced interest rate, and payable in 30 years with Pag-IBIG. Having said that, any Filipino can now own a GA unit at an affordable and fixed monthly amortization.”

 This financial scheme is actually brainchild of Lee, assisted by his vice president for finance and executive vice president, and heir Dexter Lee. It is one of G.A.’s unique propositions that helped earn G.A. early credibility in the industry.

Perhaps the phenomenal success of G.A. in redefining mass housing in the Philippines can be attributed to its innovative financing schemes as well as in the unique marketing strategies that it has employed to reach out to the lower-income segments.

Some of their marketing highlights include a partnership with the iconic ABS-CBN reality show Pinoy Big Brother (PBB). The PBB house was actually modeled after a St. Monique Valais home and helped catapult G.A. to nationwide recognition.

Another successful partnership is with Willie Revillame’s Wowowee. In the program’s Bigtime Pera o Bayong game, the most coveted prize is a G.A. house and lot. The company also supported shows like Pinoy Dream Academy and Little Big Star.

On the marketing front, Lee is assisted by his daughter and protégée Divine who is G.A.’s vice president for international sales and marketing. Only 27 years old, the young and energetic Divine has brought a fresh, “out of the box” approach to tackling some of G.A.’s marketing challenges.

Divine further explains their logic: “Within G.A. we are open to fresh ideas and programs that more conservative companies in our industry perhaps would never even consider. In the end, we convey an attitude that is youthful and open, and to the extent that we can offer innovative solutions to the needs of our future buyers and customers, we always explore it. This way, G.A. is always adapting to the needs of an equally evolving market. ”

For instance, the much talked about grand launch of the G.A. Sky Suites in 2007 which was the brainchild of the young Lee, took the country by surprise. The three-day event featured collaborations with iconic Filipino fashion label Bench, iconic Philippine fashion designer Inno Sotto, and Pagcor through a celebrity fund-raising “afternoon casino” where G.A. donated proceeds to the ABS-CBN Foundation.

Now almost completed, G.A. Sky Suites is soon-to-be the tallest building on EDSA. An urban vertical project unlike Xevera Bacolor and Mabalacat, G.A. Sky Suites is a 38-storey residential condominium offering a design concept that includes two juxtaposed sculptural forms, which combine to form a dramatic edifice. Gardens soar to create points of interest in multi-levels. At night, the building glimmers with its glass fins as the roof angles towards the sky giving it an iconic appearance. Other features include al fresco dining, sky gardens, a swimming pool, and a playground. Beside it is the G.A. Corporate Center, which is similarly on track for its 2012 target completion.

It is of no surprise then that G.A. has accomplished much in a very short time since its incorporation in 1994 given its the reputation of non-traditionalism and non-conformity, not only in the real-estate industry but as also amongst their local and international clients who found that unique G.A. approach as very service-focused and customer-centric.

For instance, only a few years back, in 2003, G.A. took its first big leap into high-rise development with the G.A. Tower Condominium I on EDSA. Two years later, G.A. Tower II began construction. The G.A. Twin Towers offered a haven of amenities such as the swimming pool, gym, and spa as well as several fast-food establishments. The spacious roof deck had a beautiful view of the city skyline. The residents also enjoy utmost convenience because of its central location and proximity to the Boni MRT Station. This early success of the G.A. towers eventually led to the launch of the company’s most ambitious vertical project in 2007, the G.A. Sky Suites,

While these high-profile vertical developments created unprecedented hype for G.A., Lee never lost sight of his core mission, and forged on with what G.A. does best – community and townships development with Saint Monique Valais in Rizal in 2003, Chateau Valenzuela in Valenzuela City in 2003, Casa Ibiza in Antipolo in 2005, Golden City Business Park in Bulacan in 2005, and The Enclave in Pampanga in 2006.

Saint Monique Valais is one of the best-developed areas in Binangonan. A community located in a valley, it also houses Le Clole du St. Monique, the most distinguished school within the vicinity. Chateau Valenzuela, on the other hand, is a five-star condominium development inspired by the European culture. It has a total of 18 buildings, with each building named after a famous European landmark, having six floors and maximum of 84 units.

At Casa Ibiza, a vacation to Mexico now becomes an everyday indulgence. Casa Ibiza features a “car-less” architectural design, where each unit faces inward for a perfect view of the swimming pools, luxurious clubhouse, park with waterfalls, lagoon and the impressive landscaping. The modern American architectural aesthetic of Miami, Hollywood, and Malibu inspired The Enclave. This project in Pampanga featured nine modern style homes – Van Der Rohe, Koolhaas, Gehry, Breuer, Mayne, Holl, Aalto, Ungers and Meier.

Giving back to the community is similarly embedded in the company’s business model, and encourages all employees to participate in all of its corporate social responsibility endeavors. Although , the G.A. culture embraces this role with open arms. Beyond regular donations, G.A. is always responding to the needs of their communities and the needs of various organizations that they support. Lee immerses himself and listens to the people. As for the two heirs, Dexter and Divine, they need not be told what to do. In trying times, they are the first to run onsite, and first to get down and dirty with the people with the true spirit of service at heart.

“It’s very rewarding when after years of youthful exuberance, trying out and experimentation, one eventually discovers his true niche in this world. For G.A., I am happy that at a very young age, we have found our niche and our market has responded very well to us. Where we want to go, and where we believe we can continue to redefine Philippine mass housing, there is no stopping us.” Lee concludes.

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