Latino builders transform La Union

Three Spanish-speaking gentlemen met in a salsa club in Makati City four years ago and discovered that apart from Latin music, they shared a common interest in real estate. Together, they traveled to La Union, the country’s surfing capital, and within four years, changed the architectural landscape of the province.

“Basically, we saw the potential of La Union.  We established a corporation. We are right now involved in a lot of exciting developments in La Union,” Fausto Liriano, chairman and chief executive of RCL Realty & Consulting Services, says in an interview in Makati City.

RCL stands for Rojas, Chong and Liriano—the names of the three partners.  Aside from Liriano, the other partners are Francisco Custodio Rojas, who serves as the vice president for investor relation and David Chong, the vice president for marketing.  They are backed by foreign and local investors.

RCL Realty & Consulting Services chairman and chief executive Fausto Liriano (right) and vice president for investor relations Francisco Custodio Rojas
Liriano, a 37-year-old civil engineer, is from the Dominican Republic while Rojas and Chong are from Spain and Panama, respectively.  One of their favorite hangouts in Makati City was Chihuahua Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar along Makati Ave., before it was transferred to Fort Bonifacio.

Liriano says he usually goes to Latin clubs in Makati to dance with his wife, who is also a director of the company.  “I am a family man.  I love to spend time with my family. Every once a month, they come here with me in Manila,” says Liriano, who has three children studying in La Union.

“I love to read, to dance, to play golf.  In our culture, dancing is in our blood.  We listen to music. We go to several places here.  One place is Chihuahua.  Others are Alchemy Bistro Bar and Brasas at SM Jazz.  Aside from that, you can come every night to Cafe Havana,” he says, referring to bars and restaurants that play Latin music.

Liriano, who has a 17-year experience in real estate, describes RCL as a realty consulting services company.  Before he came to the Philippines, he had worked in nine countries where he provided construction and design services.  He first arrived in the Philippines in 2006 to help develop Thunderbird Resorts’ properties in Rizal and La Union.  

Liriano became the operation director for project management and design team of Thunderbird Resorts from 2009 to 2012, before he was appointed the chief operating officer of Cova Construction and Consulting Services, the exclusive contractor of Thunderbird Resorts.

Together with Rojas and Chong, Liriano formed RCL Realty on April 19, 2012, with an office in Makati and another in San Fernando, La Union. 

RCL is the exclusive sales and marketing arm of major real estate projects mostly built by Cova Construction such as Waves Beach Club and Residences, a Malibu-style community in San Juan, La Union; Tuscany Estates, an Italian-inspired residential complex in San Fernando; Julianville Homes also in San Fernando; a BPO building inside Poro Point Freeport Zone; The View Residences in Binangonan, Rizal; and Bonbel Condominium and MegaTower Residences in Baguio City.

Liriano says RCL, which is now manned by 20 professionals, aims to be the leading real estate and property development consultancy firm in Region 1, with a long-term goal of becoming the top five real estate company in the Philippines.

On why he decided to live in the Philippines, Liriano says he saw the potential of the country.  “I came here, supposedly for six months. Then after I came, because I have a family, I told my boss I am already tired of traveling.  My kids started growing and I saw the potential of the Philippines, even for the company at that time. So I decided to stay and be with my family,” he says.

“The Philippines is very similar to our country. That is why we feel at home. Filipinos are a very happy people, very friendly. Professionally speaking, they are very good. I don’t know how many countries I have worked in that have the kind of accommodation skills the Filipinos have. I also feel at home because of the weather. Our country is also tropical,” says Liriano, referring to the Dominican Republic.

“I have worked for Thunderbird Resorts since 2003 in different countries. I resigned from Thunderbird Resorts last 2013. Then my partners and I started this corporation, RCL. We have been in the market for four years. In those four years, we have achieved a lot of goals, maybe more than what we were expecting,” he says.

Liriano says he saw the potential of the real estate market in La Union when Cova Design and Construction, which he headed as COO, built the residential component of Thunderbird Resorts in Poro Point.  The Santorini-inspired project called The Point Residences was successfully launched.

RCL’s biggest project at present is the multi-billion-peso Waves Beach Club and Residences, which sprawls over 7.5 hectares of beachfront property.  It consists of residential villas, condotel and beachfront apartment.

“This is the first of its kind in the Philippines. Everything will be automatic, meaning to say you will control your CCTV, you door, your washing machine, everything with your device,” he says.

Waves Beach Club targets the high-end market, with a villa costing P9 million and above while a condotel unit costs an average of P6 million. 

“Aside from Waves, we are also working on an Italian concept­—a new development called Tuscany Estates, inspired by a province in Italy that is well known because of the landscape. It is a one-hectare project in San Fernando.  The products that we are selling are single detached, duplex and quadruplex homes,” he says.

Liriano says more than real estate projects, “what we are selling is a lifestyle.”

“Any project that we will be involved in, we want to make sure that consistency, luxury will be met and the people will feel very safe and comfortable,” he says, adding that all projects of RCL include amenities such as swimming pool, basketball court, playground and function rooms.

“In multi-developments that we work in, we make sure that it has a theme. In Poro Point, there is Santorini. If you go there, it is white and blue, there is consistency. In Tuscany Estates, everything is Italy. In Waves, it is Malibu style, California. Because of the consistency and lifestyle that you are bringing to the people in terms of amenities, it makes the difference among other developments,” he says.

“Another exciting thing we are involved in in La Union is a BPO building. There is no BPO building yet in La Union, so we are working very closely with some BPO companies that are interested to open a call center in La Union.  Maybe within the next six months, we can accomplish a new building for BPOs inside Poro Point. It will be five stories high with 3,000 square meters of floor area,” he says.

Liriano says RCL is also working on a lot of pipeline projects, including those in Tagaytay, Manila, La Union, Baguio and Ilocos.

“We have local and foreign investors working with us. Our goal is to be the number one real estate consulting services in Region 1, with major presence and focus right now on Baguio, San Fernando and San Juan. Eventually, we are targeting to be the top five real estate company in the whole Philippines,” says Liriano.

Liriano remembers that before Thunderbird Resorts was completed in La Union, there were few real estate projects in the province.  “When I arrived in La Union, there was basically nothing there.  When we went to that property in Poro, I was wondering, will people ever come here? There was no SCTEx then.  You have to go all the way to Tarlac, maybe seven hours from Manila.  I was really wondering if people would go there.  But we made it successful anyway,” he says.

“Now, you can  see malls, banks.  They are all in La Union.  Franchises are going there. We have Figaro, Tapa King, Yellow Cab, Shakeys, Max’s.  Toyota and Hyundai are there.  Definitely, La Union is booming.   Now, you could be there in three hours and a half from Edsa,” he says.

He says RCL works very closely with the Real Estate Brokers Association of the Philippines - La Union Chapter, the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc. and the Rotary Club to push for the development of the province and support community projects.

“What we are bringing to La Union is a difference. Other developments started maybe 10 years ago in La Union. There was no consistency in the design and there were no amenities. With all our projects,  we are giving a good environment to La Union,” he says.

Liriano says RCL makes sure that all its projects are spared from flood caused by storms.  ­­“The first thing we make sure is that it is free of flood. We always elevate the road. We make sure the drainage connection has the capacity to carry the load of the water intensity during rainy days,” he says.

Liriano does not want to mention specific numbers, but he says the company is making substantial investments in its major projects.  Aside from the impact on the lifestyle of the people, they are creating more employment in the province, he says.

He remains bullish on the potential of La Union as a real estate market.  “We will keep working in La Union because La Union is booming. Somebody needs to help in the development and we want to be a part of that. The government is very accommodating. The people there are building the trust in us,” he says.

“We will definitely keep on working in La Union, maybe in the next 10 years. Our main target is to be the top five real estate companies overall in the Philippines. That is our target,” says Liriano.

“In the coming years, I will be happy to see in La Union more commercial and more people living in an environment where they have a peace of mind,” he says.

“We will be focusing more on La Union until we become bigger, then we can come to Manila for the big game with big players like Ayala, DMCI. Eventually, we will go there. Right now, we can give more to La Union and provide what we are capable to do and then move on to other places,” he says.

Liriano says aside from real estate projects, he personally wants to invest in a restaurant in La Union that will serve Latin food and music where Filipinos can dance salsa.

“It is nice to see a lot of Filipinos dancing to Latin music.  In La Union, there is no [Latin] restaurant yet, although we are trying to organize something...I am entering into a small partnership in food and definitely, we are talking about putting up a restaurant in La Union, specifically in San Juan.  We want to be part of the difference,” he says.

Topics: Latino builders , La Union , RCL Realty & Consulting Services
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