‘I did not cheat my way to where I am now’
For the first time in over eight years, television host/actor/singer Willie Revillame is savoring some serious downtime.
Revillame says that hosting a popular television show every day has taken its toll on him mentally and physically, thus he is enjoying doing next to nothing following the end of his contract with TV5, where his “Wowowillie” show was aired for about two years.
Revillame says he had a pleasant dinner with TV5 top executive Manuel V. Pangilinan to mark the end of his engagement in October with the upstart television station, and he woke up the next day eager to grab at the opportunity to concentrate on his other pursuits, including developing the Wil Towers, and the Wil Tower Mall on Mother Ignacia Street near ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., which gave him his big break into hosting in 2005 through “Wowowee.”
Revillame, who is never too far from controversy in his personal and public life, is personally involved in Wil Tower Mall’s development, spending almost every day checking to see how the construction of the different establishments is progressing.
He is obsessed with every detail and even calls the janitors’ attention to any speck of dust and litter that he sees in the mall, which is about 3/4 fully leased out to such establishments as IHOP and Starbucks.
He also chose the furnishings himself, tapping renowned furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue to provide the custom built chandelier, which features birds in flight inspired by the letter W. He even designed the mall sign, which was based on the logo of property mogul Steve Wynn, who is most famous for building the Mirage and Bellagio hotels in Las Vegas.
His Rolls Royce Phantom as well as designer Louis Vuitton trunks and Hermes bags, are also on prominent display to complement the mall design. He stresses that every peso spent on the mall came from his earnings from television hosting.
“I bought the pieces of property here one by one, from the time that I was still with Wowowee. I bought the first parcel in 2008. These are three lots from different owners and I bought them using my own hard-earned money,” Revillame tells Inquirer in an interview at the lobby of Wil Tower Mall.
He then turned to former Senator Manuel Villar to help him in the actual development of the real estate property. Revillame supported Villar’s presidential campaign and the Wil Towers was one of the projects that they worked on together.
Wil Tower Mall sits on a 3,000 square-meter lot across from ABS-CBN on Eugenio Lopez Drive. The mall has four levels of commercial spaces and four levels of basement parking. Already operating are Apple premium reseller Beyond The Box, Bench Fix Salon and WBR Cafe and Restaurant. The rest of the tenants are opening on or before April 2014.
Flanking the mall are the 42-story residential twin towers being built via the joint venture with Vista Land. The establishment is so far the tallest in Quezon City. Turnover for Tower 1 is set for the middle to latter part of 2014 to be followed immediately by the construction for the second tower.
Revillame, who started his solo hosting of the blockbuster Wowowee show on Feb. 5, 2005, says that in the beginning, he thought about developing the property into a giant Wil theater—like a small Araneta Coliseum—so that the fans who flocked every day to his show would be able to watch his shows in comfort.
He changed his mind after talking to Villar.
“I told him about the property that I bought in front of ABS-CBN that I initially wanted to develop into a theater. After talking to him, the development idea changed, and became a mixed use development with a mall. He has been very supportive,” the 52-year-old Revillame says in Filipino.
Revillame, who was a drummer for Gary Valenciano and Randy Santiago, and member of the house band of the Birds of the Same Feather/Birdland jazz club in Quezon City, says he spent hours reading architectural magazines and interior design books to have a better idea of how to develop the property, and whatever knowledge he gained on his own he was able to translate through the experts of Vista Land.
“This is the result,” says Revillame, pointing to the different shops that are opening one after the other, in time for the Christmas rush.
“I want to concentrate on this for a while,” adds Revillame, who is also building a boutique hotel in Tagaytay City, where he also has a home.
The proposed resort development near the Palace in the Sky will sit on a one-hectare property on the coveted ridge side of Tagaytay City. There will be villas ideal for friends and family out for some bonding moments. Already he is looking for other properties that can be developed into leisure destinations.
Revillame adds that his 30-seater Dornier is also now being used for chartered flights, also part of his vision to be a player in the country’s growing hospitality industry.
“I guess I am really a host, not just a TV host but also a host in places like Wil Tower Mall. I look forward to doing more of this,” says Revillame.
Revillame says that he plunged headlong into the corporate world because he does not want to become another one of those celebrities who earned a lot of money at the peak of their career only to see it all go away just a few years after.
Revillame, the second highest individual taxpayer in 2012 after Vivian Que-Azcona of Mercury Drug, says he looks up to other self-made people who did well, such as Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, the Lopezes, Lucio Tan and Pangilinan, and he wants to pattern his life after them.
“Donald Trump is also an inspiration because he made his fortune in real estate. They are all my inspirations. Even I just manage to do one percent of what they did, I will be okay,” says Revillame, who paid close to P64 million in income taxes in 2012, “I believe that to be successful, you have to follow in somebody’s footsteps first then strike out on your own.”
Chances are great that Revillame will eventually go back to hosting a daily television show —his legions of fans are demanding it—but Revillame says that his corporate pursuits will not be sacrificed.
And of all that he has accomplished, he says that being named the second highest taxpayer in the country is one that he is particularly proud of.
“When I became successful, I already had it in my mind that I wanted to be clean about it. I did not want to cheat. There is nothing like that feeling of doing things the right way and that everything is above board. That way, I am not afraid to show what I have because I paid the right taxes. Success should come with honesty,” says Revillame.
“For me, the most important thing in life is to be able to sleep peacefully every night because of the knowledge that I did not cheat my way to where I am now,” says Revillame.
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