Giving back, the Suntrust way: Suntrust Properties, Inc. celebrates 20th year

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The success of Suntrust Properties, Inc. (SPI) as developer of reasonably priced and meticulously built dwellings would have not been possible without the very people who do the arduous labor of building these places from the ground up and persuading people to buy them. They are the unsung heroes of the company’s remarkable evolution from a struggling start-up to a flourishing firm.

On its 20th anniversary season, Suntrust is giving construction workers, property management personnel and less-recognized sales agents their rightful place in the sun. “We’re doing this because they’re a part of the Suntrust family,” said SPI President Atty. Harrison M. Paltongan. “We rely on them to deliver what we promise to our buyers.”

One of the company’s activities for these workers is “Benteng Hiling,” which originally sought to grant, as its name suggests, 20 individual wishes of the construction site workers who are not organic members of the company. But according to Atty. Paltongan, because of the willingness of the main office employees to donate — as though they felt they were Santa Clauses or fairy godparents — instead of granting just 20 wishes, they decided to make 20 dreams, starting in July, come true, every month. “They love doing it because giving is already a habit for the Suntrust Family,” Atty. Paltongan said of Suntrust officers and employees.

The heart’s desires of the construction workers may be plain — a pair of glasses, bike, refrigerator, a ticket back home — but they mean the world to them. And it is evident in the reaction of one of the beneficiaries, Dinah Erbina, a housekeeper in a Cavite property of Suntrust. In a video documenting the handing over of the wished-for items, Ms. Erbina is seen turning briefly away from the camera, shedding some tears, while being presented with a plane ticket to her hometown in General Santos City, where she has not visited her family for over three years.

And last Thursday, Nov. 23, Suntrust did something it had never done before: bring thousands of workers of its partner contractors from the different project sites together in the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City to entertain and serve all of them. The Suntrust employees were there, not as wish-granting figures, but as the workers’ attendants for the day. Atty. Paltongan noted that this big gathering was a decision that employees had readily chosen.

Around 2,000 people trooped into the arena. Everyone — including the top management — wore a bright yellow collared shirt emblazoned with the logo of “Bentengkyu: Benteng Taon, Benteng Saya,” — the company’s overarching anniversary program. This includes the “Benteng Hiling” and another series of activities called “Benteng Saya Caravan,” whose goals are to visit the onsite workers and distribute simple goodie bags to them and to donate school supplies to public schools in the provincial areas. In his introductory speech, Atty. Basil C. Almazan, Jr., first vice president of legal and general manager of Suntrust Ecotown, told the beneficiaries emphatically, “This day is for you, only for you!” and asked everyone else in the audience to clap for them.

The arena bustled with so much activity. There was a singing competition à la The Voice where five workers showcased their amazing pipes. There was a game called Pera o Bayong, where a participant had to choose between a known cash prize and a sack containing a bigger reward or something not worth giving up the money for. There were also special numbers from the employees and site workers

Throughout the day, the workers also availed themselves of medical services — free of charge. They got the chance to have their blood pressure, eyes and teeth checked, consult a physician regarding whatever was ailing them, and pick up free medicines. Some were also treated to a relaxing upper-body massage and a free haircut. “They are our VIPs right now,” Atty. Paltongan said during the event. “We want them to feel that way, that they’re important.”

He pointed out that making them feel important and recognize the value of their work in an event like this ultimately benefits everyone in the company. “Once you tell them that they’re a part of our vision to deliver quality houses, then that will also be their mission,” he said.

Another goal of the act of giving back to the workers is to further instill a principle that Suntrust espouses, selflessness or “malasakit,” since its opposite can have dire consequences. “You will lose the value of teamwork, lose the spirit of thinking what is beneficial to everyone,” Atty. Paltongan said. “At Suntrust, we teach them to be selfless… Think first what is good for the rest before yourself.” It is also hoped that the employees who have participated in the activities would realize that they are blessed, Atty. Paltongan said, and that life is also about sharing one’s blessings.

He noted that Suntrust would be holding events in the future similar to the #Bentengkyu merrymaking last Thursday to make their employees feel that they are important to the organization. “We can see in their faces that this is what they want,” Atty. Paltongan said. Those faces — smiling and bright — were to be found everywhere in the arena that one sunny Thursday.

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