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God’s house

By: Senator Manny Villar

As a young entrepreneur, my ambition was straightforward – to build the most houses in the Philippines. After my first real estate venture – which began in 1975 after I resigned from my job and armed with a capital of P10,000 – yielded success, I told myself, “God probably meant me to build houses for others.”

That’s what I did. Over the years, I have nurtured that dream. Today, the company I built from the ground is not only the country’s largest homebuilder, but, as of 2016, was a dynamic P31.0-billion-revenue company whose portfolio spans 125 cities and municipalities in 45 provinces.

But I am not someone who rests on his laurels. If people should remember just one thing about me it is that I am persistent. I never stop dreaming. So, after building the most houses for our people I decided to expand that dream building what I call communicities.

Communicities are not just rows of houses but “integrated urban developments that combine lifestyle retail, prime office space, university town, healthcare, themed residential developments, and leisure components.” I realized that our people do not just need a house for shelter but a home to enjoy life.

An important part of my vision to develop communicities has been the building of churches around the nation. Since 2010, we have built churches on company properties, with four completed so far – in Antipolo City, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Las Piñas City.

The Philippines is not just a predominantly Catholic nation, we are also a community immersed in faith and prayers, whatever the religion. I have been building houses for people for a long time and I thought maybe it is time to build the house of the Lord.

A house dedicated to the Lord serves as a special place where people can find refuge, healing, and receive the kind of comfort even the most elegant mansions cannot provide. We believe that one of the more fulfilling aspects of building our communicities is providing a place of worship for people.

For instance, we built the 726-seater Santuario de San Ezekiel Moreno Las Piñas City, in honor of the Spanish Agustinian priest who served as parish priest of Las Piñas from 1876 to 1879. I am proud of this church because aside from its beautiful Spanish Baroque-inspired design by architect Claude Edwin Andrews, I believe it is the biggest and by far the most beautiful church we’ve built.

It is a beautiful church. It does not have any columns so worshippers will get an unimpeded view of the altar from anywhere in the church. Its interiors were perfectly done by architect Joey Amistoso who built an intricate altar tableau featuring niches with images of San Ezekiel and St. Joseph.

We also built the Saint Pio Church located in the heart of Savannah City in Iloilo. Savannah City, which is our flagship project in the Visayas, has as its patron saint St. Pio of Pietrelcina who became the most charismatic holy man in the modern history of the Catholic Church and was widely hailed as a saint during his lifetime and credited with at least 1,000 miracle cures.

The churches we have built and those we intend to build in the future are among the corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts of Villar Family. We believe that building communities and providing a place of worship for people is the best start to this endeavor.

This is the same guiding principle of the two other churches we have built: The 250-seat San Vicente Ferrer Church, which is the centerpiece of our 8-hectare community Gran Europa in Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel in Maia Alta in Antipolo, Rizal.

And I will tell everyone this: I have built houses for the living and the dead (our memorial parks) but the feeling is different when you finish building a house of God. I guess that on a personal note, it is my way of thanking God for all the blessings he has showered on me. It is also my way of thanking our people for giving me their trust and confidence all these years.

(For comments/feedback email to mbv.secretariat@gmaill or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.)