Car man, Kandi man

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

“I fell in love with this country when I first came to visit, about 17, 18 years ago. I enjoy everything about the country. I love the weather, the hospitality, the culture. I’m half Italian, so the Catholic values here are similar.”

This was the beginning of Mark Savino’s love affair with his new home in Angeles, Pampanga. After he sold his business and properties in the UK, he moved there planning to stay for an extended period. Clark is also a convenient gateway to visit other countries. After a year, he searched for a more permanent, hassle-free domicile, not a hotel. He wanted a place where someone would just hand him the keys and he could literally move in with his toothbrush. But a decade and a half ago, before Airbnb, there was nothing. So almost on a whim, Mark developed Kandi Realty (a play on the English record label Hedkandi which he loves), and built a compound of serviced houses, moved into one of them, and rented the rest long-term to like-minded individuals.

In the last 15 years, that fun project snowballed into the three Kandi Towers, Kandi Suites, other construction, and Mark’s own plush, self-styled four-story home with a basement for his four- and two-wheeled toys. Most of his projects (and his house) are conveniently located along Savino Drive, which sounds more like an exhortation than a street name. He enjoys the creative process, designing the interiors, and being around people.

“Some days it’s not like work, ‘cause I enjoy it so much,” Savino explains. “But I wanted something more for my downtime. I’ve always had a passion for cars. I was a car guy in the UK, you know, exotic cars: Ferraris, Lambos, Porsches and all that.”

Mark looked at all the high-end, high-performance models at PGA Cars, and decided to join one of their track races at Clark International Speedway.

“It blew my mind, I couldn’t believe how good it was,” Mark remembers. “I thought, this would be a great hobby for me.”

Savino threw himself into it, got regular instruction from veteran internationalist Stefan Ramirez, customized his Ford Mustang, and raced regularly, winning trophies now and then. He loves being able to switch off his business and focus hard on driving. He loves the casual camaraderie. When you first meet him, you’d think he was a California surfer, not a prosperous British businessman into fast cars. Tall, tan and blonde, he prefers sleeveless shirts and jean shorts – or ripped jeans and cowboy boots – to staid business attire. But Mark immediately relaxes and disarms everyone he meets.

And it’s not all construction and car racing. Acknowledging his good fortune, Savino insists on paying it forward. During the pandemic, Mark put together a group that provided food and supplies to the most remote communities in the area three days a week. He built a steel footbridge in front of a school so students could attend even when it flooded. He has reached out to the local government, becoming a partner in the city’s development. And when invited to appear in local movies, he donates his talent fees to charity. He attributes this to his parents’ strong belief in putting family first and serving the community. That’s Angeles City’s friendly neighborhood Kandi man.


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