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Alice Eduardo: A power builder who also builds lives

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 10, 2022 8:56 am

Alice Eduardo is one of the most beautiful persons I know. We’re not talking social beauties here, though she looks chic in her wardrobe that reflects taste and a fashion sense. We’re talking builders — building physical structures and building values. 

Alice is a poster girl for what a woman can do in what is perceived as masculine territory. Getting really down to earth as she lays down the foundation for many a retail mega building. Literally getting her feet wet as she builds bridges, and amassing energy as she constructs power plants. In other words, she mans, or rather, she “womans” — I prefer that term — a man’s world.

When asked what she finds most fulfilling among the projects she has done over the past decades, she answers: “This is nearly an impossible response; it’s like being asked about a favorite child. Santa Elena has had the privilege of playing its part in roads, bridges, ports and harbors, an integrated entertainment city, large retail and residential projects and power plants."

What makes you laugh? ‘’My sister Small Laude’s vlog.”

“For a developing country on a growth trajectory such as the Philippines, a continuous, reliable supply of energy is a must. Santa Elena has been entrusted with the construction of at least three natural gas-fired power plants of the Lopez Group’s First Gas," she continued.

"For these projects, Santa Elena has worked closely with leading worldwide engineering firms: German Siemens, British Balfour Beatty and Dutch Ballast Nedam. Santa Elena performed the design and building of the world’s second-largest installation of GRP pipes spanning 1.1 kilometers under the sea and 1.4 kilometers buried in the ground, as well as the second-largest offshore pipe for power plant cooling water system in the world."

"I am proud to say that our company achieved these in record fashion, including attaining six million safe man-hours peaking at 6,000 workers,” she added.

But one of her favorite projects is not just about business. It’s one coming from the heart. I asked her about the backstory of her Philippine General Hospital project, which I learned about from a PGH doctor.

Alice explains: “I found myself on a visit to the PGH several years ago and saw the cancer-stricken children. The urgent need was to build a pediatric isolation ward to keep their young immune systems away from communicable diseases. We have since delivered on that promise to build a Hematology-Oncology Isolation Ward.

Alice has a keen eye for art. “I also love being around trees and plants. This has encouraged me to take more road trips to my hometown with my family.”

“I also learned that the patients’ relatives had no place to stay while watching their loved ones who were confined, so it made sense to build a facility that could house them comfortably. Today, Bahay Silungan stands as a welcoming refuge for nurses, frontliners, and patients’ families and companions.”

Here are excerpts from our interview with this construction dynamo. I would rather call her a beautiful builder. Because she also builds lives.

PHILIPPINE STAR: You once narrated how you played bahay-bahayan in your family’s bowling alley. Was that when you probably first felt a builder’s instinct, that early?

ALICE EDUARDO: When I was six years old, I would make structures using the two bowling scorers’ tables. Then the blackboard served as my roof, and the empty soft-drink cases as my walls. Unconsciously, I realized that foundations and such structures were the most important parts of a house.

Your childhood dreams were all about being an engineer or architect. Growing up, didn’t you have normal playthings?

What I know is that in high school and college, the Philippine map became my favorite reading material. I would fantasize about visiting most places in the country with interesting infrastructures. 

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? “Treat people fairly. Choose kindness.”

You grew up in an entrepreneurial environment, as your parents were businesspeople. What was the very first profit you earned, maybe as a student?

I was an early starter at the age of seven. I would step on a stool to hand out score sheets and suggest additions at the bowling alley. “Mommy, let’s add an ice cream kiosk.”

At first, I tried my hand at garments, exporting babies’ clothes. After college, I would volunteer to take the wheel of a truck in our family’s rice mill trading business. In my early working years, while delivering rice to Concrete Aggregates, they asked me if I could deliver steel as well. Of course I said yes! That was a milestone for me on my road to entrepreneurship. 

You also fondly spoke of the church in your hometown, where you’ve been visiting regularly. Why is this church close to your heart?

The church is really like an extension of my hometown, which is always in my heart. My mother is deeply religious and I value anything that makes her happy. The new San Agustin Parish Church is now four times bigger than the old church. It provides spiritual shelter to about 60,000 parishioners.

The old main structure is now the Immaculate Conception Parish Shrine that can seat 1,000. It faces the National Road, very visible to those who visit the town proper of Jaen, Nueva Ecija. The church also represents the journey of my inner growth. It stands as a monument of thanksgiving.

Now you are referred to as a philanthropist. What does that mean for you?

It reassures me that I am living for people and things other than myself. That I have the privilege of being an instrument for good and creating a better world.

What is the satisfaction about helping those in need? People you have met and not met?

I feel complete knowing I may have helped change the course, even for people I have not met. I feel meaning in my work.

When did you first feel the need to help other people?

Growing up in the countryside and being a frontline staffer in my parents’ bowling alley gave me an early sense of customer service and the chance to observe human behavior. Understanding the difference between privileged and underprivileged without really using those terms. I would also observe how my parents extended a helping hand to others, and it became natural for me to want to do the same.

What are the best lessons you have learned in business? And who taught you these lessons?

It all begins with a curious mind. Know how to spot opportunities. Take care of relationships, not only with your clients but also with your team. Keep them constantly motivated. Be uncompromising and passionate about doing the job right. Stay ahead, not only of the competition but also of the technology curve. Have a constant drive for excellence. These were early lessons from my parents. I have found great pleasure in learning from some of the best.

Let’s not talk business now. What’s the first thing you do upon waking up?

I pray and meditate. I check all messages and emails.

The last thing you do before sleeping?

I check on my children and make sure they had a good day and never forget to pray.

What makes you laugh?

Funny conversations and watching my sister Small Laude’s vlog.

What makes you cry?

Tears of joy when I see my children coming into their own.

How do you relax from work?

Listening to music, mostly tunes from the ’70s, ’80s and today’s “chill-out” sounds. Closing my eyes in prayer. Spending quiet and active time with my family at home and while traveling is my happy pill.

What dreams are left for you to fulfill? What future projects excite you?

My passion now is masterplanning what I hope to be a world-class township. A mixed-use sustainable community with superior healthcare facilities. I yearn for this to provide jobs, and great quality of life for residents, workers, visitors.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

It’s about looking for an opportunity and doing a better job at it than others. Faster delivery, better quality and reasonable prices. Maintain gratefulness to your clients, never forget them. It is important you build trust, so that you develop lifelong partnerships. Dream big, be brave. Be a part of the solution. Put things in perspective. Treat people fairly. Give more than the usual. Choose kindness.