DAMOSA LAND’S CARY LAGDAMEO: A heart for Mindanao and its people
Photographs courtesy of Ricardo F. Lagdameo
Having grown up aware of the family’s active presence in the Mindanao business and economic sector, Ricardo “Cary” F. Lagdameo did not think twice about moving to the south to do his part for ANFLO, the umbrella company founded by his grandfather, Don Antonio Floirendo.
From day one, though, he saw that his mission was not just to contribute to the company’s profits. He realized that there was a bigger purpose he should serve: To make life better for the people in this part of the country. To back up this affinity for the south, Cary came qualified and prepared because of his world-class academic credentials.
Thus, from helping the communities where Damosa Land and ANFLO have a presence, participating in government efforts to better the lives of residents, and extending help to the people during times of crisis, especially the recent pandemic, Cary has made sure to look beyond the confines of his office and his company’s projects.
The results of his commitment are apparent in the gains of ANFLO and Damosa Land, but to him, what matters most is “how we’ve been able to touch and make a positive difference in the lives of men and women, youth and adults and elderly, businessmen and workers, farmers and professionals, and everyone proud of their identity as Davaoenos and Mindanaoans.”
The following are excerpts from his conversation with the Daily Tribune in his modern, cozy, elegant San Lorenzo Village home.
Daily Tribune (DT): You saw a lot of Don Antonio, your Lolo Tony, of course. What did you learn from him?
Ricardo F. Lagdameo (RFL): Oh, too many to mention, to be honest. One thing that always struck me was the exterior. He was always such a stern person, a serious person. But when you look through all that, there was so much learning, and you learned the value of hard work.
DT: Other than hard work, what other values did he espouse?
RFL: One word that was also very much embedded in our company and our family was “malasakit” (concern for others), which he believed in, practiced and made sure to instill in us.
DT: So, malasakit is part of your corporate culture.
RFL: Absolutely. And even in our vision and our mission, we always mention malasakit. And you see it in how the company and, of course, my lolo would treat his employees, their families, and the whole community. It went beyond business. That made good business sense, also. Because now, we have several generations of workers that have worked and stayed with us because we care for one another.
DT: How did your lolo start in Mindanao?
RFL: When he came in, his first business was the Ford dealership, and interestingly enough, the company’s name was Damosa or Davao Motor Sales.
DT: Oh, and that name has continued.
RFL: Yes, it goes on to this day. Because that company, Damosa Land, is the same company where I now work. So, over the years, it was transitioned from being a dealer of motor vehicles to a real estate company, but it’s the same company. That company has so much heritage, so we kept the name. So, that’s what it is now, a real estate company.
DT: How is Davao? You’ve done well there. Was it something easy, or was it very challenging?
RFL: It wasn’t effortless. But it wasn’t challenging to assimilate because when I got there, it hit me why my grandfather chose to be there and why we were doing business there. I automatically or eventually saw that our company’s vision has always been to uplift the lives of those in Mindanao.
Whatever business it was, whether agriculture, manufacturing, or tourism. So, keeping that in mind, I told myself, hey, let’s do something good for Mindanao. Let’s not just see it from the business point of view but let’s see it from a community-building point of view. From trying to do something new, bringing new things to Mindanao, and trying to raise the profile of Mindanao, especially Davao.
DT: You became president two years ago. But it was at the height of Covid. How did you adjust to that situation?
RFL: It was two years of constant pivoting, adjusting, learning and trying.
DT: But you kept going?
RFL: We kept going. That was something from day one that we told ourselves and that I told my team. “Guys, we have to keep this going. We have to figure out a way to get things done.” Because, if not, we can only turn off and turn on the switch. What happens to people’s jobs, what happens to their families, what happens to what we were trying to do? Parang, we stopped and tried to start again. We were so clueless, eh? So, of course, Zoom helped. But we were already using Zoom even before Covid. So, adjusting to that was relatively easy. But for us, we were constantly trying to think in numbers again. I always asked, “Okay, what’s the percentage of cases in this place?” We can decide if we can work here, or maybe we can work there.
DT: How did you protect your staff?
RFL: I was one of the staunch advocates of continuous testing of our people. Because when you do that, you can bring down the percentage or the possibility that something will happen. So, when testing became available, we did that. When vaccines became available, we fought to get vaccines very early. And then, we educated our people constantly.
DT: How did you help the people in the communities around you?
RFL: We were very proud that aside from helping our employees and their families, we went to the neighboring farming communities. We started this farm-to-table program. And that meant that we were helping or buying produce from the farmers without access to the market anymore. So, we would go out to the farmers in the far-flung areas, buy their products and sell them in the city, our projects and our residential developments.
That wasn’t for pogi points; it was out of love or wanting to help the people. Because we always kept in mind that even if we were fine as a company, what if everyone else was suffering? What would happen to Mindanao? What would happen to Davao?
DT: Are you involved in governance?
RFL: Recently, I joined the Regional Development Council of Region XI. I am one of the PSR or the private sector representatives and chair the Infrastructure Development Committee. And for me, that is important because infrastructure and real estate go hand in hand. But it also goes with our whole vision of trying to uplift Mindanao. One thing that it needs, just like any other province, is infrastructure.
DT: How do you update your knowledge? Because you have to deal with the infrastructure that was different from your background in college. So, how do you learn these things?
RFL: I read a lot and always try to learn, whether you’re reading things in books or watching the news. Or even going out and seeing other developers’ projects and learning about their work. You know, in our industry, we all share knowledge.
DT: Do you have mentors? Do you look up to someone or seek advice from someone you believe in, whom you admire?
RFL: Not regularly, to be honest, but there are people I look up to, and I try to understand what they did. My grandfather is one — of also industry leaders who came before us. I always look up to companies like Ayala Land and Rockwell. Companies that have done so many good things, and I know it wasn’t all about profit.
You know, they were doing something different, something new, something that was for the community. So, that’s how we wanted to see our business. We weren’t just building a subdivision, selling it, and making money, building a condo, selling it, and making money. Where’s the community building in that? So, we wanted to do something different and fresher in approach and outlook, a bit bigger, bolder and nobler.
DT: My final question is, are you happy in Mindanao?
RFL: Definitely, I am. This is the longest job that I’ve had. I could have left many years ago when the stresses on the family were getting a bit more because we were away from each other. You know, I took a pay cut when I went to Mindanao. But when the whole notion of purpose became first and foremost for me, I knew this was already what I was supposed to do. I am glad to be here, and I am happy to do my part in making it a better place where people live and work with dignity and self-respect.
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