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Cebu Landmasters’ Humble Beginnings and Soaring Success

The homegrown and family-run real estate business started by Jose Soberano III has turned into a thriving developer that’s expanded beyond Cebu to its neighboring regions, but remain at its heart all about the Filipino family.

All in the Family

At Cebu Landmasters Inc., family is more than just sharing a last name. The genuine concern and mastery at addressing their catered market’s needs has turned Jose Soberano III’s homegrown company into a real estate developer that is building communities throughout the Visayas and Mindanao region.

 

 

With its modern glass façade and a strategic location on one of Cebu IT Park’s main avenues, Park Centrale is a building that unsurprisingly merits a few second looks. The sleek structure is home to several businesses, including BPOs and homegrown companies—including that of Cebu Landmasters Inc.

As the company behind Park Centrale and many other developments in Cebu, Cebu Landmasters Inc. occupies what is arguably the building’s prime space—the topmost floor that include an outdoor deck, large windows throughout the offices, and access to the rooftop that enjoys views all the way down to the Mactan Channel on one side and the hills of Busay on the other.

The company’s location now seems to be a proper representation of the company’s growth—in the past 12 years, Cebu Landmasters has grown from its first office in Labangon with a team of two people, to its current roster of 170 full-time employees housed in one of the premiere office addresses in the city.

At the heart of it, though, is Jose Soberano III, who had started the company after working with the Ayala Group for 23 years and seeing an opportunity to create his own development in Cebu’s countryside. The President and CEO wanted to cater to the housing needs of the middle-income bracket, particularly in areas close to his hometown of Pinamungajan on the Western side of Cebu, which led to the company’s first development, the San Josemaria Village in Balamban. “There was an opportunity to provide affordable, quality homes to the very hardworking employees in the shipbuilding industry in Balamban,” he shares. “This was a niche market, as we were one of the first to bring gated subdivision living to this part of Cebu.”

The humble beginnings have led to considerable success with over 25 developments to date, and at the heart of it all remains Joe and the passion that drove him to the business when he started. These days, though, he shares it with his wife Marose, the company’s Executive Vice-President of Finance, and children Franco and Joanna, who have each contributed to what the company is today.

“We had to talk them into it. Thankfully we succeeded,” Joe says lightheartedly when asked how he had gotten Franco and Joanna to join the team. “My children were well-placed in their previous careers, and it was something they could have easily built themselves and be on their own. However as a dad and CEO, I did my share by giving them a good option and making it an interesting business for them to be part of.”

“Since we were young, we were always exposed to our family business, but not particularly groomed or required to work for the company. My parents would always say it should come from us, it was up to us when or if we wanted to, or were ready,” shares Joanna Soberano, the company’s Vice-President and Marketing Director. With that in mind, she took up a bachelor’s degree—and later graduate studies—in Marketing Communications at the University of Asia & the Pacific. She then pursued a corporate career, taking on marketing and brand management roles in Nestle for seven years. “I was part of a Nestle international program in marketing as the delegate of Nestle Philippines, where I had expatriations in the headquarters in Switzerland and Thailand.”

On his part, the oldest child Franco Soberano had originally wanted to be a lawyer after his studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he had taken up Management with a major in Legal Management and minor in Finance. “Eventually I became very fascinated with the world of business, so the new dream was to climb up the corporate ladder and become an executive of a multi-national corporation,” Franco recalls, sharing that at the time, Cebu Landmasters had still been a young venture.

Their parents’ drive and the company’s eventual growth, though, inspired Franco to eventually join their ranks. “As I saw how my parents worked hard to grow the business, how well they took care of the employees and professionalize the business, it became an easier decision to join the family business,” he says, now serving as Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer.

For Joe’s part, Franco and Joanna came onboard at an optimum time. “This is a critical stage of the company’s push for growth and expansion, and we need all the help we can get. My plans for them are clear—they are the next to lead this company, and I have no doubt they will be excellent leaders as they already are.”

“We listen very carefully to the beat of the market, and we always internalize what is valuable to our customers.”

-Joe Soberano

In fact, both Joanna and Franco plays vital roles in the company’s operations—for his part, Franco directs and manages day to day operations that include business development, project management, marketing and sales, documentation and property management. “Park Centrale will always be my ‘baby’ project,” Franco admits, although he has been involved in all of Cebu Landmasters’ projects since. “After my studies in New York,” where he’d studied Real Estate Development in Columbia University, “I was given this special project as I had recently learned about office design and development in Manhattan. Every little detail in the project, even the smallest piece of tile we ordered for the project, I can still remember—and in real estate, it helps a lot to be very meticulous and hands-on.”

Joanna had been in the company for less than a year, but she’s already spearheaded many improvements in the company’s marketing, establishing a competent team and developing strategies for branding and promotions. The company’s new slogan, “We Build With You in Mind,” is her brainchild. 

“The best part about working in the family business is first the industry we are in. We are in the business of building homes, uplifting lives and communities,” Joanna shares, revealing a little bit of the mindset behind the slogan. “Homes are people’s hopes and dreams, a major decision point and life milestone. To make it happen for them the way they envision it, to make their hard-earned money count, guiding them through every step, that is our job.”

It’s understandable then, that Joanna feels the project’s new brand Casa Mira best represents what Cebu Landmasters wants to do for the Filipino family.  “It’s a brand that we will be expanding this year as our economic flagship brand,” Joanna shares. “This is particularly meaningful to me because of how it delivers a Mira-cle to home-seekers, one that is in a beautiful community with amenities, well-located and priced only at P5000 a month. It gives opportunities for many people to have a home they have always wished for.”

As one of Cebu Landmasters’ highlight projects for 2017, Casa Mira features a development of townhouses, and has launched in Naga and Linao in Southern Cebu. The next year will see the brand expanding to Guadalupe in Cebu, and to the neighboring provinces of Iloilo, Bacolod and Dumaguete. “It’s about giving ‘more for the Filipino family,’” Joanna adds.

 

Casa Mira isn’t the only thing Cebu Landmasters has in store for the year—2017 is set to be the company’s biggest yet, with expansion in four new cities in the Visayas and Mindanao region (Davao, along with the locations for Casa Mira) and ten new projects on the way. This is already following an already major departure from their original purely residential projects, with Park Centrale being their first venture into commercial and office spaces. “It was part of our strategy to diversify our product lines, and support the growing demand for Grade A BPO and corporate offices,” says Joe. “When we completed the building in 2015, our spaces were all filled up in less than three months. This really is a testament to Cebu as being a favorite business or BPO destination for its world-class talent pool.”

Cebu Landmasters to continue on the thread of diverse products, their other projects of the year including the Baseline Center, a mixed-use lifestyle destination that brings together office spaces and residential condominium The Citadines by Ascott to a landmark Cebu destination; and the Latitude Corporate Center in Cebu Business Park, which is “Masterfully Crafted for Great Businesses.” Their newest projects pre-selling this month are the New York-inspired 38 Park Avenue in IT Park, which is set to open for pre-selling this month; and their very first venture in Davao City—the Mesa Tierra Garden Residences that will feature tranquil and green living spaces.

The experience in the real estate industry has brought about a development process that centers always on the customer—their projects’ future residents. “As a very first step, we pursue the best location. Whether it’s for a high-end project or an economic one, we will strive to offer a location that will give our buyers the best possible experience and value appreciation for the long-term,” Joe explains. “And we listen very carefully to the beat of the market, and we always internalize what is valuable to our customers.”

The forward-thinking approach means Cebu Landmasters is not just in the construction of residential or commercial structures. “Even after a project is completed, we are still very much part of the developments and see to it that projects are nurtured for the long-term,” Joe continues. “Our customer service will begin from the time you meet a CLI employee, and will continue well after you moved into your home.”

The company feels this is a strength that comes with being a homegrown company—one that is already the biggest local housing developer in Metro Cebu, with an 11% market share second only to real estate giant Ayala Land at 17%, and followed by Filinvest at 8%, based on the 2016 CBRE study. “Truly knowing the market—the needs, wants, real demand which comes with being closer to the people—we are able to render service that is hands-on and personalized, execute with speed, and deliver projects of good value,” Joe says.

“As a family business, we will always endeavor to grow across generations–the vision is always long-term.”

– Franco Soberano

That knowledge of the market comes in handy, especially in the face of a growing industry that now includes many developers coming in. “Competition is always welcome as all players will try to raise the bar, and our buyers will benefit from the improved standards,” Joe shares. “For homegrown real estate companies, it will always be a special responsibility to look after our fellow Cebuanos, so we will adapt to new competition, but at the same time we will drive new innovations as we will continue to know Cebu best.”

Cebu Landmasters’ success might be something attributed to this almost intimate association to their market, but it’s not all that surprising when you consider the group behind it shares a familial connection. “As a family business, we will always endeavor to grow across generations—the vision is always long-term,” Franco says. “The best part about it is that I’m able to journey with those dearest to me. We are also able to grow an extended family, as our executives and employees become very much part of the family.”

“We push and learn from each other everyday,” Joanna adds. “The challenge for a family business is to always strike a good balance between work and family. But I am lucky to have a family who puts us first, and one that keeps a professional, trusting and encouraging environment in the office.”

“The best part about working in the family business is, first, the industry we are in. We are in the business of building homes, uplifting lives and communities.” -Joanna Soberano

This environment is one that has carried Cebu Landmasters Inc. through its 12 years of success—the genuine concern and desire to improve their customer’s lives has become a backbone to a business that’s only going to reach new heights.

 

photography Dan Douglas Ong stylist Blaq Mafia makeup Arnauld hair Jesse Egos

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Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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