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Fire in One’s Belly

I received a very uplifting message from my Facebook page last week. It was from Rudy Alquero who recalled that I was the contractor of his family’s house at BF Resort Village in 1977-78. He recalled: “Manny Villar, I could not forget your generosity…You noticed that the house has no maid’s room. I replied that it’s not in my budget. You responded, ‘Did you hear me say that I am gonna charge you for it?’ Yes, you built it for free.” In the same thread, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Yosuico responded to the post by writing that he was the one who audited my first loan from the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Las Pinas Branch.


Reading the message brought back fond memories of the times I was just starting out as an entrepreneur. My first reaction was, “Wow, that was a long time ago!” Forty-three years since I built Mr. Alquero’s house and 45 years when I decided to leave the corporate world and plunged into the uncertain but exciting world of entrepreneurship.


After graduating from the University of the Philippines, I tried my hands in the corporate world. First with the country’s biggest accounting firm, Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. (SGV & Co) where I met Washington Sycip who, God bless his soul, years after I left would continue to guide me by writing me small notes.


My first plunge into the business world was actually a bust. I started a seafood delivery business in Makati after my stint at SGV. I remember delivering the seafood myself so I would stand in front of the elevator of the office building in Makati sometimes smelling like the sea on a warm, balmy day. When my client failed to pay up, I convinced the owner of the restaurant to honor the meal tickets that I would print and sell at a discounted price to office workers. It took me one year to liquidate my receivables.


But I never considered that experience as a failure rather than an opportunity to learn and be better. Looking back, that setback strengthened my resolve to achieve success. And so with an initial capital of P10,000, I purchased two reconditioned trucks and began my journey in real estate. I started a sand-and-gravel business in Las Piñas in 1975 and it was through delivering construction materials when I had my entrepreneurial epiphany—why not sell house and lot packages instead of selling lots and having the buyers build on them?


That question and the answer to that question which I pursued relentlessly was the starting point of my venture in the real estate business. From the very start, I never looked at the business as a money-making venture. I knew, of course, that I needed to get back my capitalization and a certain profit for my endeavor. But that was never the driving force behind my being in business, particularly in real estate.


And for young entrepreneurs, never go into business with the sole desire to make money. That is a surefire formula for losing money and your soul. Find what you love, discover that fire in your belly and do it. Do it with hard work, perseverance and passion.

I wanted to build houses for people which was my way of helping them build their dreams with their family. One of my first clients was an OFW family who essentially entrusted me with their hard-earned money to build the house of their dreams. I cannot describe to you, my dear readers, how I felt standing in front of a newly built house. I do not see the construction materials or the paint job. I see a happy family about to create lasting memories inside a house I just built.


That is the reason why I was so happy to read the message of Rudy. It brought back good memories of my beginnings and made me realize — and I am proud of this — that more than 45 years since I started out, I still have that fire in my belly.



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar