Sta. Lucia continues to build not only to help uplift the lives of many Filipinos, but to also preserve the legacy, create stronger ties, and inculcate values among families.
His integrity, passion, and discipline could have been his passes to becoming one of the country’s most bemedalled soldiers.
But fate seemed to have a different plan for Exequiel D. Robles, president of Sta. Lucia Land Inc., as he has been handed another role that is just as equally important—creating quality homes for the Filipino people.
In an interview with Inquirer Property, Robles recalled that at an early age of 15, he had already started helping in the family business then known as Buen-Mar Realty—a small scale property developer founded in 1972 by Robles’ father and aunt, Buenaventura Robles and Marcela Robles-Santos, together with their respective spouses Dominga Dumandan-Robles and Felipe G. Santos.
“I was around 15 years old when I started helping and assisting in the family business. Being the eldest among the brood I was somehow tasked to study and understand the ropes of the real estate industry. My first task was to take charge and assist in the filling of papers in the register of deeds,” Robles said in Filipino.
Sta. Lucia is now regarded as one of the country’s leading developers with a growing number of projects in its portfolio.
At that time, Buen-Mar was primarily engaged in building residential subdivisions in Pasig as well in Taytay and Morong in Rizal.
Encouraged by the positive reception from their first homebuyers, the siblings—the older Robles and Santos—then saw a great opportunity and thus planned on further expanding the business. Two years after its inception, Buen-Mar was then renamed in 1974 as Sta. Lucia Realty and Development Inc.
Keeping the vision
But just before their plans could finally take off, the older Robles passed away, to be followed not long after by his sister, Santos. This left the younger Robles with no choice but to study and thoroughly understand the ins and outs of the real estate business to keep things together and prevent Sta. Lucia Realty from falling apart.
“I really wanted to become a soldier, that was really my dream. But when my father passed away, I had no choice but to help run the business which he started with my aunt, Marcela Robles-Santos,” Robles recalled.
“I was only 19 years old when my father passed away and being the eldest in the brood of eight, I felt that I had the responsibility to take over the business if only to ensure the future of my siblings and keep my father’s vision and dream alive. It was not something that was forced upon me, but I just felt the need and the desire to do it and carry on with the task,” he added.
Robles noted that while the real estate business was not entirely new to him then, being handed such a huge responsibility at a young age and knowing that the future of the family was at stake had changed everything.
One of Robles’ first major decisions then saw him trying his hand at buying and selling property with an initial capital of P300,000—an amount that was already considered a huge capital at that time. The first venture proved to be a success, encouraging him to continue and explore other opportunities that eventually led him to build his first subdivision project, the Pasig Greenland in Rosario, Pasig.
Love, willingness to sacrifice, and the burning desire to keep the family legacy alive allowed Robles and the whole family to successfully face the challenges that came their way.
“When we started, there were only a few players in the industry and one who truly made a mark on me was Mr. Victorio Soliven. He started a marketing enterprise that sold the subdivisions of the other bigger developers and which eventually Mr. Soliven expanded into a realty corporation that develops, constructs, and manages housing developments in various areas in the metropolis,” Robles explained.
“Real estate was not the most ideal business to go into during that time, but I pursued the real estate business maybe because I was very young and I was somewhat fearless and I had a very positive outlook,” he added.
Inspired by the success of Soliven, Robles did not have any second thoughts about expanding the business further, which fortunately allowed the company to grow and become what it is today—one of the country’s biggest real estate developers.
“I didn’t feel any fear then that the business would crumble if I try and expand our reach and portfolio of products a little bit more. With only a few players in the industry then, I strongly felt that we really have a chance of breaking into the market and making it big for as long as we deliver and bring to the table products that are truly new and unique to the market,” Robles said.
But just like any business, Sta. Lucia Realty had faced its fair share of challenges, having gone through different boom and bust economic cycles that have had a huge impact on the local real estate industry.
Although the company has managed to pull through after more than four decades, there were a few times when Robles thought they won’t be able to make it. For instance, there was a period then that there was only a small market to serve and bank financing was quite unheard of. As such, it was difficult to take out a loan then.
Robles recalled that there were particularly trying times, especially in the ’80s when the economy was in a bad state and was highly unstable due to the political developments then.
Add to that the Asian financial crisis in the late’90s, which had caused many companies, including real estate firms, to fold up and close shop.
But love for family, the willingness to sacrifice, and the burning desire to keep the family legacy alive proved to be the perfect formula, as this has allowed Robles and the whole family to successfully face the challenges that came their way.
“I don’t sleep on problems. I face it head on and address it in the best possible way that I know. Sta. Lucia’s success is anchored on our desire to provide Filipino families a decent shelter, similar to how much we have wanted our own families to experience the good life,” Robles shared.
And now, after over 40 years of building communities and different developments catering to a wide range of markets, Robles, along with the Sta.Lucia board members and the company’s employees, had managed to catapult the brand to great heights that must have made his father and aunt extremely proud.
From what was initially intended as an experimental venture, Sta. Lucia is now regarded as the one of the country’s leading developers with a growing number of projects in its portfolio, ranging from golf courses, subdivisions, condominiums to “condotels,” among others.
Indeed, it has become a preferred choice of many homebuyers, both from here and abroad, who put great importance on their families’ welfare.
And Sta. Lucia continues to build not only to help uplift the lives of many Filipinos, but to also preserve the legacy, create stronger ties, and inculcate the tradition and values among family members.
“Just like what I learned from my father, building a home does not end with the delivery of a structure. It is also about ensuring that you are able to help raise the standard of living of your clients,” Robles said.
“In developing subdivisions, we make sure that we are able to put in all the necessary elements and facilities needed for a family to have a comfortable and convenient life,” he added,
Today, Robles finds fulfillment in looking at all the developments that Sta. Lucia has put up over the years, knowing that these have somehow contributed to helping enhance the way Filipino families live.
“If there’s anything more that I want to do now, that would be to expand our reach to ensure that every Filipino will have access to developments that are of quality. I’m happy and somewhat proud of what I have accomplished and how much Sta. Lucia has contributed to improving the lives of our countrymen. And while there may be trying times, you just have to face it head on, pray, ask for guidance, and immediately address the issue,” Robles explained.
“Overall, I’m just proud and really happy to say that the greatest reward would be that satisfaction of seeing our projects slowly transforming the landscape of housing and truly improving the lives of each project’s residents,” Robles concluded.