Slater Young proud of Banaue Rice Terraces-inspired project’s international feats

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Slater Young proud of Banaue Rice Terraces-inspired project�s international feats
'Pinoy Big Brother' 2012 winner and Cebu-based real-estate developer Slater Young talks about the latest international achievements of his high-end project The Rise at Monterrazas, almost a year after it courted some controversy online.

Slater Young proudly shared that his Banaue Rice Terraces-inspired real estate project in Cebu has been one of the Top 5 finalists chosen worldwide for the Architizer A+ Awards. 

MANILA, Philippines —  Called The Rise at Monterrazas, the luxe condo development set to be built on the mountainside of Guadalupe in Cebu City, was nominated in the Unbuilt - Multi Unit Housing (L + 10 Floors) Category. The winner will be decided by votes and announced in June.

The Architizer A+Awards is the “largest awards program focused on promoting and celebrating the year’s best architecture and spaces.”

The “Pinoy Big Brother” 2012 winner and Cebu based real-estate developer, who is working with the LLG Architects Design Studio on The Rise, told The STAR in an exclusive chat, “Ang laki ng karangalan dun (This is a huge honor) especially because it's Architizer. It’s an award that is respected by the architectural community. Hindi siya yung basta-basta may award. Importante talaga siya. Yung pagtawag ng architect sa akin, nung nag-email si Architizer sa kanila, parang nanginginig at umiiyak, ‘Huy, alam mo anong nangyayari?’

“So, I’m very, very happy. I’m very proud… What I’m most proud of is we stuck to the Filipino aesthetics. So when we are recognized outside of the Philippines, parang, ‘Uy Pinoy yan,’ even just by looking at a project, kaya nating i-relate na Pinoy talaga yan.”

Besides the Architizer, they were also shortlisted for the Best Conceptual Interior Design category of the Singapore-based awards-giving body, the Asia Architecture & Design Awards.

With wife and social media personality Kryz Uy.

“So we're racking up of all these awards, knock on wood, kayang manalo but just to be nominated… like kahit sa Oscar, ‘pag na-nominate tayo (magiging) masaya na tayo.”

Slater previously described the design as inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces, the so-called "Eighth Wonder of the World" and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines, working around the concept of “conforming” with than working against the natural terrain. The international recognition comes nearly one year after the project courted controversy with netizens bashing the project over “environmental risks.” At the height of the issue, he promised to work with more environmental experts in response to concerns. 

Called The Rise at Monterrazas, the luxe property set to be built on the mountainside in Guadalupe in Cebu City, is nominated in the Unbuilt - Multi Unit Housing (L + 10 Floors) Category. The winner will be decided by votes and announced in June. The Architizer A+Awards is the 'largest awards program focused on promoting and celebrating the year’s best architecture and spaces.'

When this paper asked for an update on his “promise,” Slater shared they planned to start work on The Rise this year but admitted that they took their time because “we wanted to address everything first before we get started.”

“Especially after the spotlight that was shone on us, parang sinabi namin, okay let's restudy everything, let's tap environmental (experts).”

What they did was, as Slater added, they turned to BERDE of the Philippine Green Building Council (PHILGBC), which is a program to “assess, measure, monitor, and certify the performance of green building projects above and beyond existing national and local building and environmental laws, regulations, and mandatory standards,” according to its website.

“They’re connected to the World Green Building Council, that’s their mother (organization). We asked them to go to the site… They listed down all the species, if there are any endangered flora and fauna, and they discovered it's just vegetation. It's a misconception, wala talagang forest.

“We tapped BERDE because they don't only look at the local; they look at the bigger picture when it comes to the social economic impact, the communities around, ano ang mangyayari, all these mga flooding na kini-question tayo, nakita na nila that before we even started, we had these in place already.”

The consultation is ongoing, as of writing. “I cannot promise pa na five stars talaga kami but just the design phase, five stars tayo sa BERDE… on track. It says already a lot just by being on track to five stars, that's where the top one percent of the sustainability na.”

The 40-year-old engineer-businessman said that while he felt sad that he needed to publicly defend the project, he wouldn’t get tired of defending it as well. “There were multiple times I thought to myself, I really don't have anything to gain from this aside from the project being the project. Personally, this is more stress than it might be worth,” he said. 

“After the issue, there was a low point really, am I doing this right? Meron kang imposter syndrome, maybe I’m too ambitious?... But now seeing the comments of other people na, ‘Vote tayo guys para sa atin ‘to.’ There are a lot of people that support us and it really does matter. They energize me.

“I think over time, especially with the support of friends, (I feel) we're doing something important, like there is that deeper meaning and that's what pushes me on.”

The deeper meaning Slater was referring to was what made him in the first place agree to partner with 8990, a low-cost housing developer that was diversifying its portfolio, on the project under a newly formed brand, The Mont Property Group, in 2021.

“Sabi ko if I'm gonna be part of this, it has to be meaningful… It has to push something forward, it has to strike a chord, it has to say kaya pala natin ‘to, as Pinoy,” he said.

Describing themselves as a smaller boutique developer but high-end (“Yung small enough to care but big enough to get the job done”), he said, “We want to be your Monique Lhuillier, we want to be your Cary Santiago,” referring to world-class Cebuanos. “Dapat Pinoy, dapat yung tipong may gagaya sa atin, gusto naming may gagaya sa atin, so that when we're driving around the Philippines, we don't see ugly buildings anymore… I feel like architecture contributes a lot to society by building beautiful places. Iba yung mindset natin even at work when we are in a good office versus nandun tayo sa dimly lit or not (nice-looking) places.

“And that is kind of like our mission to push Filipino artistry and Filipino design and it goes to show sa product na ginagawa namin and all the other products that we will be doing in the future.”

He cited one comment reacting to his talk at the United Architects of the Philippines National Convention recently, which “resonated with me a lot.”

“Hindi ito nangyayari just for monetary or business reasons. These types of projects take a lot of guts, and a sense of mission. The guts to sell at a very, very premium price, because it wouldn’t work any other way, because of the design and everything… It’s never before seen in Cebu, especially a development wherein the cheapest model that you can buy, the most economical is mga 50 million.

“I’m happy that our partners, our board of directors are very open to that. Pwede nila sabihin na, this is too ambitious, let’s go for the tried and tested, but yun yung agreement namin na dapat iba tayo.”

And despite the past controversy, he said the project is “selling well.”

This is what has been keeping Slater busy since “retiring” from acting. He’s still maintained his showbiz side through his YouTube channel ThatGuySlater, where he shares educational videos on architecture, construction, engineering, or all about the home. He also has the Skypodcast with wife and social media star Kryz Uy.

“I'm thankful for my platform. It helps me spread the word. I’m thankful that I meet a lot of people and they say na alam mo, I’m building my house right now, I'm binge-watching your show and it’s helped me a lot. That gives me more than anything else. Dun ako kinikilig,” he said.  

“But the acting side, nag-retire na talaga ako. That's why I'm very happy with Cornerstone also. They fully support me with everything I'm doing, the direction I want to take,” said Slater, who continues to be managed by Cornerstone for his social-media endeavors.  

But he will always be grateful for his showbiz experience for teaching him how to deal with being in the spotlight and controversies.

“Akala ko magiging vlogger na ako or magiging negosyante, mawawala na yun,” he quipped. “But yeah, I’m thankful to have that experience and I’m even more thankful of the support that everyone else around me showed.”

When things get chaotic, Slater destresses in the company of his wife and their kids. “Hinihila din ako paminsan-minsan ni Kryz na uy, balik ka dito, and that helps me stay grounded. Swimming the kids and just spending time with them. Just even watching TV with them, it’s a big deal.”

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