This article originally appeared in BusinessWeek Mindanao February 4 issue in the column Out of the Biz Box.
I was first introduced to CdO in October 2011 when I was invited by a delegation of foreign entrepreneurs and Filipino business owners. I flew to the “Garden of the Philippines” without any expectations and as open minded as possible. Family, friends and neighbours were very dubious about me flying to Mindanao with all the stories we get to hear in national and international media but such things never had too much effect on me. After 5 years spent living in the Middle East I could tell the difference between common belief and reality. The fact that there was a renowned Italian Architect building a classy condominium was reason enough for me to be confident and start my travel with a healthy enthusiasm.
My travel companion was an American seasoned real estate professional with years of rewarding experience in California for one of the biggest international agencies like CBRE. He knew the ins- and outs of land and community development thanks to his 25 years of experience in real estate. Both actually had lots in common and shared our near to similar horror stories with our respective ex-wives so we got on very well and could relate to each other.
After landing at the old Lumbia airport we visited the city in downtown, the port facilities and then got back to Pueblo de Oro Business Park in Uptown, saw the golf course, SM and the then lonesome showroom of Primavera Residences which had just started construction back then. After driving around Uptown all afternoon I noticed a strange sparkle in my American companion’s eyes. He knew that this was the place to be, the place to invest and the place to focus on in town.
After 4 years and extensive travel in the region I realise that my American companion was absolutely right. Uptown is indeed the Makati of Northern Mindanao, still underrated though but well recognized by those who count and can afford to live in upper class communities like Xavier Estates. Be it the Filipino family or the retired foreigner, if lifestyle is to be identified with good air, flood-free, spacious communities, accessible shopping facilities, little or no traffic and lots of nature then Uptown is the place to be. I also realised that CdO enjoys the best weather of the Philippines and is at the same time served by the freshest fruits and vegetables from Bukidnon. Hospitals are equipped and competent so there is nothing missing in town. No wonder there are plenty of elderly foreigners populating the subdivisions there with their families and/or Filipino wives/husbands. Americans, Germans, Swiss, British, Italians, Koreans, Japanese and even Indians are clear proof of where the Western standard has set itself to be.
There are rumours that several lots in Uptown’s Pueblo de Oro are going to be developed with new office and residential buildings which will bring even more life into the already thriving community. Every morning and evening people are flocking to Pueblo near SM to run, cycle, play volleyball and gather among friends as it is literally the only place that offers ample spaces. On weekends there are even families gathering for picnics among other physical exercise and it’s all good signs of a breeding community. Events, shows and exhibitions are also being held at SM.
Beyond barangay rivalries you can now hear young people saying: “I am from Uptown” giving it a new sense of identity for the Uptown citizen. I would not be surprised to see an Uptown basketball or soccer team rising soon. This should bring new wind to the sails of the Uptown stakeholders and all those entrepreneurs thinking of setting up businesses in the area. With BPO’s thriving all over the Philippines and Savills even thinking of opening a CdO office, the time is right to take Uptown to the next level. The successful example of Primavera Residences bringing new condo lifestyle to the city and representing the very first condominium in town will drag more investors to the community. There is nowhere else to be identified as the place where superior lifestyle marries with modern design and accessible shopping facilities. I am aware that there is still some people who prefer the chaotic, polluted and flood prone downtown but for me Uptown is the place to be.