Cirilo “Dodong” Congson is one busy man. Squeezing in some time to chat for this interview proved challenging, as he had to go on-site to broker a property in Argao for a developer, then attend a last-minute meeting at Capitol for the Cebu Provincial Board. This has resulted to several postponements and rescheduling. Finally getting a hold of him today, one sees a humble businessman who hustled hard to get to where he is today. But then, every once in a while, he sheds the businessman exterior and shows his tender side of being a family man. This afternoon, while in a mall, his granddaughters come up to him and ask him to buy anything to satisfy their late-afternoon cravings—be it milk tea, steamed fried rice, or chicken mami. And like any doting grandfather, he obliges their whims.
Cirilo originally had a degree in Associate in Marine Engineering. In the 1980s, he was employed at San Miguel Foods, Inc. as a production worker and recalls how had to lift sacks. Realizing his course was not suitable for office work, he went back to school. This time, he took up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, though he was one semester shy of graduating from the course. Despite this, he went on to become a personnel services supervisor for San Miguel in 1985, handling the company’s payroll account.
He briefly worked at GP Construction and at Land Asia Realty. When he realized how competitive the real estate business became, coupled with the influx of developers entering the scene, he formed his own real estate company Polaris Realty & Development in 2004. He currently is the managing partner of the firm. They provide brokerage services for condominiums, offices, house and lot, lot only, beach properties, and memorial parks.
Cirilo observes how when he started out with his company, there were only around 20 real estate offices, but now this number has skyrocketed. To cope up with this, Polaris equips their salespersons with training like product knowledge seminars to help them close sales better.
“They are like soldiers, they need to be acquainted with the project before they can sell. There are different types of buyers: high end, middle end, or low end. You have to match it with your products based on their needs. If you’re broker, you need to assess the client’s capacity to pay,” Cirilo says, interlocking his fingers to symbolize the client’s need and the project specifications going hand in hand.
At Polaris, agents go through the sales process, first of which involves client identification through interview. Next comes the presentation stage where the agent determines the right project based on his assessment of the client’s needs. They then go on a site tour and if everything goes the right, the agent will be able to close the sale.
Cirilo admits that real estate is not like other businesses. Typically, income from a business is computed by adding sales and subtracting your expenses. Cirilo says that this is not so in real estate. “The prime mover of business is sales. In real estate, sales is income. No sales, no income,” he says.
This is why Cirilo advises would-be realtors about the importance of studying real estate first before going into the business. Prospective realty businesses should consider the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. If he were to add more factors not taught in school, Cirilo says that the person and his personality also come into play. With this, he came up with the AWIT mnemonic which enumerates what it takes to be a successful realtor: Availability, Willingness, Interest, and Time.
In the next five or ten years, Cirilo predicts that the rise of many condominium developments will continue. “Talking of the market, dili pa jud mu-glut ang real estate (real estate will not undergo a glut,” he predicts. Driven by the income level of the common tao (man) which makes up 70% of the Philippine population, Cirilo says that there will be increased demand for economic housing. This has been defined by the Housing and Urban Development Council as a type of housing project provided to average income families with an adjusted loan ceiling of PhP1.7 million.
Aside from real estate, public service also keeps him active well beyond his retirement years. “Murag nabali akong kinabuhi (It is like my life has gone backwards),” he says in jest. When the usual route is to retire then go into politics, he did the opposite and started young. He became a barangay secretary then barangay councilor in the early 80s to the mid-90s. He then became barangay councilor for three consecutive terms from 1994 to 2007.
He is proud to have initiated the construction of a barangay hall and a four-story, 16-classroom high school building in Barangay Pagsabungan, Mandaue. Because of his track record in politics, he is now serving as a consultant for the Provincial Board of Cebu.
Public service and the real estate industry might be two fields that are worlds apart. But a man like Cirilo Cognson is living proof that one can run a realty firm and have a heart for public service, all while having time for family.