David M. Consunji is the No. 8 richest man of the Philippines based on Forbes (July 2013) with a net worth of $2.7 billion. Consunji is heralded as the father of contemporary construction industry, who derives satisfaction not from making money out of his projects, but from putting up structures and real things that brought real benefits to other people. But what really tested his mettle and his dedication to be a builder happened when he was about to start his business: when he bought a one-bagger concrete mixer (sometime in 1949) for P500, as Consunji then believed that to be a builder, he must have a concrete mixer.
The story began when a young concrete inspector learned valuable insights of what construction is all about-the planning, preparation, implementation, and the systems involved and put up his own contracting company bearing his name, DAVID CONSUNJI Civil Engineers and Contractors. Equipped with a vision, dedication to profession and a degree in Civil Engineering from University of the Philippines, this young inspector in a small room in Pandacan, Manila, David Mendoza Consunji (DMC) founded D.M.Consunji, Incorporated (DMCI) on December 24, 1954.
During the early 1950s, Consunji finally made a life-changing decision: to “do construction work on my own.” The company, a sole proprietorship that started off as David M. Consunji Civil Engineer Contractor, has begun bidding and taking on contracts, the first of which was for a timekeeper’s booth of oil firm Stanvac (now known as ExxonMobil), to be followed with the construction of chicken houses for the Bureau of Animal Industry. It was only in 1954 that the company was incorporated to become DM Consunji Inc., and the rest, as they say, is history.
Consunji, who still goes to work every day, says it was his father’s farm in the town of Hermosa, Bataan where he developed discipline and appreciated the value of putting in an honest day’s work and getting his hands dirty. He recalls in his memoir entitled “A Passion to Build” that the life at the farm – of fetching water, taking care of carabaos and growing fruits and vegetables – created in him the character traits that became useful to him in his chosen profession as a builder.
Consunji actually wanted to take up agriculture but his father dissuaded him, instead, enrolled at the University of the Philippines in 1939 to take up civil engineering. He finally graduated in 1946 after World War II abruptly interrupted his studies. He passed the board exam that same year. Also passing the exams was his college sweetheart, Fredesvinda Almeda, who finished Pharmacy. They would eventually marry the next year on March 9, 1947.
After passing the board, he joined as an apprentice with his older cousin, Ricardo Consunji, also a UP-trained engineer. His cousin taught him how to make an estimate, how to make a summary of items of work for a project, how to prepare for a bid and how to manage construction projects. After several months working as an apprentice, Consunji was hired as a concrete inspector for the Kuenzle and Streiff building in Dasmarinas St. in Binondo, Manila. He earned P400 a month from his first real job, a big jump from the P100 a month he used to earn when he was a teacher in Bataan.
Consunji was hired for P500 a month in 1948 to design and build the four-story multipurpose building of Marcelo Rubber Co. in Malabon. In 10 months, he was done with the first building he could call his own, as he was involved from conception to the pouring of the very last pound of reinforced concrete.
After the Marcelo building was completed, projects came in steadily. To accommodate the increase in the projects, he put up D.M. Consunji Inc. in 1954 with mostly relatives as incorporators. The company that was established with P3 million in authorized capital built homes, buildings and manufacturing plants. But the single project that would catapult the name of DMCI into the building stratosphere was the Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice (UP Chapel). Fernando Zobel, a top executive of Ayala Corp., was so impressed by the team behind the UP Chapel project that he got him involved in the development projects in Makati.
The team fresh from the successful execution of thin-shell construction and the use of strong concrete, built in 1959 the first structure in the Makati business district, which was the seven-story Monterey Apartment on Ayala Avenue. Over the next 50 years, DMCI would put up almost half of the buildings in the Makati central business district.
DMCI is a pioneer in the application of advanced construction technologies in the Philippines. It is renowned for completing technologically complex projects on or ahead of schedule. It enjoys the patronage of both new and repeat institutional clients. DMCI has successfully completed close to 500 various projects to date. Throughout its corporate life, DMCI has demonstrated its capability to construct a wide variety of projects ranging from simple chapels and residences to a multi-storey hotels and condominiums, irrigation dams to kilometer-long concrete bridges, power plant and transmission lines to industrial plants, theaters to large commercial complexes.
Some of the Company’s more widely known projects are the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Rockwell Center, SM Megamall, G4 Mixed Development Project, Roxas Triangle, Stock Exchange Building (Ayala), Pacific Plaza, BPI Head Office, Equitable Bank Head Office, Petron Megaplaza, Manila Hotel, Hyatt Hotel, Oakwood, Mt. Samal Cross in Bataan, MRT-3, the Shangri-La Hotels (Makati, Edsa and Mactan), and Istana Palace in Brunei.
DMCI has earned a reputation for on schedule delivery and quality work. Since major projects such as the Tacloban Coca Cola Plant and Bacnotan Cement Plant were awarded. With more than five decades of solid track record in the construction business, DMCI enjoyed the continued patronage of institutional clients such as the Ayala Group, SM Group, Kuok Group, Robinson’s Group, San Miguel Corporation; banking institutions such as the Citibank, N.A., BPI, Equitable and Urban Bank; educational institutions such as the University of the Philippines, and De La Salle University; multinationals such as the John Laing, Obayashi, Mitsubishi Heavy, Oriken, Nippon Steel.
Also, industrial companies and some government agencies had sought the services of DMCI and still are using the company’s services. DMCI during the 70’s and 80’s was also actively engaged in overseas construction projects. Several of these projects were the New Istana (Royal Palace) of the Sultanate of Brunei, the Salim-Halban Highway, and several ARAMCO facilities in Saudi Arabia, bridges in Kuwait, irrigation projects in Iraq and many others.
In infrastructure, its portfolio includes fast-track projects such as the Carmen Bridge, the one-kilometer Magat Bridge, the Gibong Diversion Dam, the Narvacan Power Transmission Lines, the three interchanges on Manila’s main thoroughfare and recently, the Trackworks on LRT-2 and Chiquita Unifrutti Wharf and Cold Storage Plant.
As a result of its excellence in contracting, DMCI has received a number of awards. In 1992, DMCI was named “Outstanding Contractor in Building” at the inaugural Philippine Construction Industry Awards. In addition, DMCI has received a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Department of Navy and Safety Awards from Fluor Daniels Corporation for two million accident-free man-hours at the Shell Petroleum Corporation’s STAR project.
Chairman David M. Consunji, one-time Secretary of Public Works and Highways under the late Pres. Marcos, was cited as the one of the four awardees of The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) of 2002, Papal awardee of Knighthood of Saint Sylvester in 1988, Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa by the University of the Philippines in 1988, Meralco Awardee in Engineering and Applied Science in 1994, Management Man of the Year Awardee in 1996 and the UPAA Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Awardee for the 2005, for his invaluable contribution to the development and progress of the country. The hundreds of landmark infrastructure constructed by DMCI symbolize the expertise and professionalism of the Filipino engineer.
Now the Philippines-listed company, DMCI Holdings, Inc., gets most of its income from power generation, real estate and infrastructure. In December 2012, it snatched a $26 million contract to renovate Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. Consunji also controls Semirara Mining, the nation's largest coal producer. Last April 2013, he took a controlling stake in London-listed nickel mining outfit Toledo Mining and delisted it in December. Son Isidro runs both DMCI and Semirara.
Source: David M. Consunji, “A Passion to Build”
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