Spotlight

New Wings

Architect Edward Cabrera of Costruzione Drago
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From left to right 
Monir Momani Vice President and COO, Jiwon Yang Marketing Manager, Larry Diaz, Jr. Associate Architect, Edward Cabrera CEO and Principal Architect, Lawrenz Delen Junior Architect, Aris Guese Junior Architect, and Aira Marielle Rodriguez Human Resource Manager

If a bird’s forelimbs are its key to flight, what could make a mere man fly? Architect Edward Cabrera has found his “living wings” perfectly in shape which will determine his might to take off from his old grounds, swoop down on new opportunities, and eventually hover on greater success.

Architect Cabrera puts on a fresh wind in his sail as his design firm EAC Arkitektura takes on a new venture with Costruzione Drago, a general contractor company, which he now paddles with businessman and old-time friend, Monir Momani, and the young Korean marketing specialist, Jiwon “Jake” Yang. The three felt now is the prime moment they have been all waiting for to come out of their individual frames and blend their gifts. The vision to go against the common notions of design and provide unique and quality construction services led to them to close ranks and start the business. When asked what the philosophy and potential of the new team are, Cabrera speaks candidly, “No limits kami, and malaki ang potential namin. (We have no limits, and we have great potential).” 

Architect Cabrera puts on a fresh wind in his sail as his design firm EAC Arkitektura takes on a new venture with Costruzione Drago, a general contractor company, which he now paddles with businessman and old-time friend, Monir Momani, and the young Korean marketing specialist, Jiwon “Jake” Yang. The three felt now is the prime moment they have been all waiting for to come out of their individual frames and blend their gifts. The vision to go against the common notions of design and provide unique and quality construction services led to them to close ranks and start the business. When asked what the philosophy and potential of the new team are, Cabrera speaks candidly, “No limits kami, and malaki ang potential namin. (We have no limits, and we have great potential).”

Seek for a Dragon

Chasing his stars, Cabrera once stumbled upon his Chinese zodiac horoscope for the year which, quite oddly, told him to “seek for a dragon” which would bring him the luck and prosperity he was searching for. Fate came to play when he crossed paths with long-time friend Monir Momani who then had Jiwon Yang with him. 

Casual conversation was flowing when he took notice of Yong’s dragon tattoo on his forearm, his strange horoscope flashing before him. He shared the information with the duo and by pure coincidence; Momani too, had a dragon tattoo on his arm. Talk then shifted from pleasantries to business, a subject Momani is completely versed with. 

The presence of dragons did not end with their tattoos. Momani owned a commercial building located at Dragon Street in Marikina City which signified that their meeting was not by mere chance and quick to their feet, they pooled all their resources and Costruzione Drago was born. Costruzione Drago, an Italian phrase for “dragon building or construction”, was conceived in the last week of December 2016 and formally entered the business scene first week of January 2017. Relatively fresh in the competitive world of construction, they now carry the task of designing and building numerous and various projects, four of which they landed on the first week of operations. 

 

Interestingly, their new venture seems to live up to what a person born in the year of the Dragon is predicted to be—gifted with innate courage, enthusiastic, and not afraid of challenges. They take risks and open up themselves to the uncommon perspectives and are willing to challenge the traditional. Cabrera’s EAC Arkitektura supports Costruzione Drago and provides its clients with designs that his team walks through with heads held high. In every project, they assure their clients that they will create unique and unparalleled designs coming from their pool of young, imaginative, and brilliant architects. The inexperienced and unseasoned have room in the firm as Cabrera believes in the rawness and sparkle of their ideas, those that people would not normally see and buy from the markets.

From residential houses and housing projects in Quezon City to multi-split rest houses with overlooking purviews in Antipolo and medium-rise condominiums in Parañaque City, their clients come to them with great anticipation of being different from the rest. They welcome the unhinged, the deviant, and the unorthodox that seem to be the Achilles heel of most architects. “Kaya kami na-hire para solusyunan yung hindi pwede. Kung sasabihin namin na ‘hindi ito pwede,’ ano ang pinagkaiba namin sa iba? Pag-aaralan namin ang gusto ng client and we will find ways to make it possible (The reason we get hired is to make a solution for what seems to be impossible. If we say, “This couldn’t work,” what makes us different from others? We will study what the client wants and we will find ways to make it possible),” Cabrera says. 

At present, they are rendering the design of a privately owned house whose swimming pool they put inside. Cabrera explains, “Kapag sinabi ng client na, ‘ito ang gusto ko,’ maliban dun sa gusto nya, ibibigay ko pa yung hindi pa nya na-imagine o naisip. Hindi lang kami gumagawa dahil lang sa pera. Ginagawa namin ito with passion, kasi kung pera-pera lang, ibang negosyo na lang. Kapag nag-design kami, sinisimulan pa lang namin yung plano, iniisip namin, ‘Bahay namin ito.’ (When the client says, “This is what I want,” aside from what he wants, I will give him what he has not imagined or thought yet. We do not do something just because of money. We do it with passion. If it’s just because of money, we could have resorted to other businesses. But when we design, when we are just at the conceptualization stage, we always think, “This is our house.”).

Breathing wings Cabrera reunited with Momani at such a time when he needed to toss up the business. Monir Momani is a young businessman whose entrepreneurial blood has been running in veins since he was 13 years old. Being involved in various businesses such as real estate, build and sell, transportation, among others, Momani is close enough to making his version of a blue chip. He is interested in profiting metiers, but he believed in Cabrera beyond his skills that he placed his hands on Costruzione Drago. “When I thought of building a company, the first person who came to mind was Architect Cabrera. He is the best architect that I know and he is really close to me. And I wouldn’t go into a business without quality people (like him),” he says. While Cabrera’s eyes are on design, Momani focuses on what he does best: closing business deals.

He presents the technical proposal and review to prospective clients and works hard in being the mouthpiece of the business. Once a project is up for operations, Momani does not sit down and wait for the plant to grow. Instead, he finds more ways of sustaining the company with long term opportunities. Momani says, “We are not only in it for the construction. We also do “build and sell” that will involve other investors. Right now, we already have our real estate and technology departments. If (Cabrera) wants to build an architectural or construction company only, he can do it by himself. But I’m in the business seeing a long term view, and I incorporated all my businesses to Costruzione Drago so we can make it bigger.” Seeing a growing company makes Momani fervent in his plans to further the services they offer and expand their workforce in the coming years.

The overall architectural design of this 186-square meter modern tropic residence in Marikina City with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms creates a serene environment for a family of four. Clerestory windows are used to promote natural lighting and illuminate the great spots inside the house.

To make the equation complete, they tied up with Jiwon “Jake” Yang, the CEO of Hala Entertainment, a group of creators based in the Philippines that offers digital media services with different types of content. From Korea, Yang went to the Philippines to study English but he eventually found himself thriving for a bigger dream. For a year and a half, he weathered the long stays at home while thinking what he would do and who he would be in the future. He had no friends nearby until he met Momani. “Everything started with friendship. When they started their business (Costruzione Drago), I started mine,” Yang recalls. 

Yang, driven by his passion and skills, does all the marketing efforts to enable the company to reach out to as many locations, projects, and clients as it can through social media, its flagship medium. He is now contemplating the launch of the company’s website after creating a buzz on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. After Momani gets the deal and Cabrera starts to sketch from the client’s vision, Yang moves in to bring the project into life and closer to the market. “Actually, (Momani and Cabrera) are really great, but what I’m trying to do is to make them be known internationally (and) open to the whole world’s market. 

Filipinos are very kind and talented, and they can have clients in Korea and other countries. (Also), when I make a promotional video for the company, I use my personality. Not that we call famous actors or actresses, but we make our product famous using our creativity. And I hire the best photographers, videographers, and marketers in my team. We have our own rules in doing something, and others can’t copy us. We are very unique,” Yang exclaims. Yang’s team uses a different form of storytelling that overthrows the common marketing platforms yet turns up to the core thoughts and emotions of the viewers. His powerful tool helps the company to slowly flourish and eventually, go head to head with other construction firms in terms for market familiarity and reception in time. Finally, Cabrera found the right team to hit the ground running and start flying.

The game plan When you add the important elements together—Cabrera’s inimitable vision, Momani’s gutsy judgments and decisions, and Yang’s myriad inspirations—they make an exquisite alliance. In few months or years, they are in high hopes that their goals will be concretized, measured, and multiplied. By then, they will have expanded their departments and team members; built more high-rise structures and owned residential townhouses after Costruzione Drago Realty and Costruzione Drago Design have been established; and designed for international structures and been recognized in other countries. 

“Yes, we are young, but we are not really scared of the threats or anything. We have a solution for everything. We only know it is the best time for us right now,” Momani believes. Learning from the trails taken by the old architects, engineers, and businessmen they know who act as their mentors becomes the lamp that lights up their path. Cabrera also knows it is not only a pipe dream that one day, he will see his young architects set down and create their own firms, helping the coming generation of budding designers to become unplugged and unmarried from what is not aesthetically challenging and improving the human dreams and lives. Architect Larry Diaz Jr., Cabrera’s associate, affirms this kind of character, “Isa sa na-adapt ko sa kanya (Cabrera) is ‘yung maging competitive. In order for you to give your best kasi, may tatlong bagay kang dapat pagkatiwalaan: yung gawa mo, yung sarili mo, at ang Diyos (One thing I have adapted from him (Cabrera) is to become competitive. In order for you to give your best, there are three things you need to trust: your work, yourself, and God).” 

Deriving the inspiration from the current flow in a circuit board, this two-storey residence in Cainta, Rizal embraces a futuristic aesthetic while channelling a modern zen. Its wave-like edges become an accent breaking the monotony of just a box. Inside, it features a big garden with lanai adjacent to the kitchen and ample spaces at the basement suited for the storage requirements of its young couple-owner.

Costruzione Drago has started its race to success and the team anticipates the hurdles, messes, or delays ahead in their path. But Yang speaks with hope, “We see the end; we have our vision. We do not know when we can finish our race but the important thing is we are running. We are not scared of what the next course is, how it looks like, is it rocky or not; we’re not scared of that. The important thing is we are running now.” The three men seem to be seeking the dragon for now, but they know that time will come that they will stop from seeking, and start “becoming that formidable dragon” in their industry. D+C

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WORDS: Myla Sambas
IMAGES: Estan Cabigas + Costruzione Drago

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