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The Self Made man |

Arts and Culture

The Self Made man

KRIPTOKIN - Alfred A. Yuson - The Philippine Star

Us septuagenarians have a way of getting back together and doing things we never imagined we would, say, over six decades ago. As what transpired on Saturday, Jan. 21, when the coffee-table book Antonio A. Turalba: Passion & Integrity was launched at the Jose P. Laurel Hall of the Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club, a few days after the subject turned 79.

Tony Turalba is known as the architect turned property developer, whose name has become synonymous with that popular golf course in Lipa, Batangas. We first met way back in the early 1960s in UP Diliman. He had just been initiated into the Tau Alpha engineering fraternity, with whom I enjoyed close ties but which I couldn’t join since I was taking up courses related to philanthropy, er, I mean philosophy.

As a high school graduate of San Beda College, I followed in the footsteps of my Dimasalang-area neighbor and philosophizing buddy Eric Villegas, who entered Diliman a couple of years earlier with other Bedans like another Sampaloc stalwart, Manolo “Boy” Alcasabas. They became Alphans, with whom I got to associate habitually. These included the then frat head Jessie Ejercito, along with Gerry Garcia, Teddy Salud and Benny Yang. Tony Turalba joined in 1962, together with George Arellano, another early drinking buddy from Pinaglabanan in San Juan, as well as Cesar Abrera, Monet Serrano and King Aguiluz. These were the guys I hung out with daily, in both Diliman and San Juan.

Down the decades, we’d still run into one another occasionally, and hear updates on all the buddies with whom we enjoyed caterwauling camaraderie for much of the formative Sixties. Tony got married early to his college sweetheart Cristina Valera of Sigma Delta Phi. I heard of how they had set up a small architectural firm that expanded fast as a design-and-build venture, until it led them to partner with Pitoy Moreno for their first high-rise in Legaspi Village. Tony turned into a property developer, leading the Active Group in building residential subdivisions all over the metropolis. A signal achievement was Arcadia in the Ortigas Center.

Then came his greatest challenge: converting 200 hectares of farm land in Lipa into a 27-hole golf course and residential estate, despite the economic crisis that he had to weather for five years. He was barely in his 50s when he resolved to take up the challenge of a P3 billion venture. It spoke substantially of the kind of man who strode with confidence into the realm of unparalleled vision.

Over a year ago, I got an invite via consigliere Harry Mosquera to have lunch with Tony at Malarayat. This led to successive meetings after I said that much as I was weighed down with other writing projects at the time, I couldn’t turn down an old UP buddy’s request to come up with his biography. Long sessions of interviews followed, with Tony and his growing family, former and present colleagues, Tau Alphans, and board directors and residents of Malarayat,

With Harry’s and Lala Montemayor’s help, we structured the book and kept revising its elements until we gained final approval for printing once the design was finalized by Singapore-based book designer Orland Punzalan.

Here are some excerpts, starting from the first chapter where Tony’s bond with his father, an Ilocano, proved essential in his upbringing:

“Whenever they would deal with a farmer who had presented his bundles of tobacco leaves for selling, based on quality and price, Tony’s father would turn to him and say, ‘Tony, how much do I pay them?’

“And when Tony replied with the cost price, his dad would just go ahead and pay, not even bothering to review the sum.

“The young boy was good at math. And the training provided by his father enhanced his  growing confidence. His father’s trust was crucial in giving him all that opportunity and experience having to do with numbers.

“At 12 years old, when he was already on his first year in high school, Tony told himself that he was practically ready to go on his own.

“‘Although my Dad was still there, I was supremely confident that I could handle the negotiations by myself. He had already trained me by asking me to compute his purchases mathematically.’

“…Tony still harks back to that bonding experience with his father as the touchstone of his unparalleled success.

“‘Much earlier, even before I reached my teens, what went on in my mind was that when I finally got on my own, if you work hard and persevere, you can do a lot. You can have your own life career the way you planned it. You can acquire whatever you like, all the things you like, from your own sweat and tears.

“’I became a self-made man. I did not inherit as part of a second generation or third generation. I built up everything from scratch. The triumph is sweeter. Cristina and I, we did it from scratch.”

Billed as a “majestic masterpiece,” Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club and Residential Estates have undoubtedly become Tony’s crowning achievement.

“It took him over a decade of unrelenting effort to get the job done, initially as a working golf course that presented a viable alternative to several others south of the metropolis. But it became so much more than that, and has in fact logged another decade of advancement as a full-fledged leisure resort complex that continues to attract adherents and appreciative residents.

“Of late, owing to the pandemic, Tony and Tina have taken up regular residence within the crown jewel of the Active Group which has grown from strength to strength over five decades.”

A couple of weekends ago, over 200 guests gathered at several venues of the clubhouse to hear Mass, have cocktails while the book was officially launched, then partake of dinner cum entertainment. Kate Castillo served as host and principal singer, with pianist Mike Morales, saxophonist Vince Lahorra and the Jazz Quartet.

VIP guest Robert Coyiuto Jr. came in a chopper. The Tau Alphans led by oldtimers Glicerio Sicat and Jessie Ejercito were happy to note that a full chapter was devoted to Tony’s involvement in the fraternity. His latest initiative, originally called the Tau Alpha Infinity Walk, has just started construction, at a cost of about P90 million.

The area involved was supposed to start from the back of the UP Administration building, all the way to the library — connecting them with a central walkway that would even feature a tunnel. But pandemic delays and constant reviews altered the plan.

“The Tau Alpha Legacy Project has evolved into what will now be called the Tau Alpha Fraternity Legacy Boardwalk that will develop Roces St. — to include the Engineering Building in the north, the Library in the east, the Administration Building in the west, and the Arts & Sciences Building in the south. This has been envisioned to be a grand legacy project that will be an everlasting gift of Tau Alpha to the UP Diliman campus.”

Copies of the book are available at the clubhouse, where buyers are informed that book sales will go to the Turalba Foundation scholarship for students of both De La Salle College Lipa and U.P. Los Baños.

Now, there’s the philanthropy I envisioned being part of as a freshman in UP Diliman in the memorable Sixties.

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