Uy! This Jack-of-all-trades plays the long game | Inquirer Business

Uy! This Jack-of-all-trades plays the long game

By: - Business Features Editor / @philbizwatcher
/ 02:14 AM April 16, 2023

Savers Group chair Jaime Uy (left) and wife Shirley; Angeles City Vice Mayor Vicky Cabigting; Clark Development Corp. Chair Edgardo Pamintuan; Tourism Undersecretary Shereen Gail Pamintuan; Converge ICT founders Dennis Anthony and Maria Grace Uy; Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin at the inauguration of Best Western Plus Metro Clark on March 24.

BIGGER AND BETTER Savers Group chair Jaime Uy (left) and wife Shirley; Angeles City Vice Mayor Vicky Cabigting; Clark Development Corp. Chair Edgardo Pamintuan; Tourism Undersecretary Shereen Gail Pamintuan; Converge ICT founders Dennis Anthony and Maria Grace Uy; Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin at the inauguration of Best Western Plus Metro Clark on March 24.  —Contributed photo

In the early 1990s when Pampanga was reeling from the double whammy of the Mount Pinatubo explosion and the shutdown of US military bases, Jaime “Jack” Uy, together with younger brother Dennis, started putting up a cable TV network and picking up sharply depreciated real estate.

He was crazy, people thought, amid the business exodus then.


“Everyone was leaving and selling properties at that time because they thought it was hopeless,” says Uy, the first among his siblings to migrate to the Philippines from mainland China as a child.


As landlords of Clark Air Base expats suddenly found their properties empty and at risk of rampant looting when the Americans left—and as lahar engulfed the province—many rushed to liquidate assets. One could then buy five-bedroom 600-square meter houses in gated subdivisions for just P150,000 at five years to pay, Uy recalls. The same residences are now worth around P30 million to P40 million.

“Angeles was like a ghost town at that time, full of debris and lahar,” he says. At their old family house, eight truckloads of mudflow had to be hauled off.

It was during this tumultuous period that the Uys managed to acquire a two-hectare commercial property along MacArthur Highway in Balibago, Angeles City, that they later developed into a mixed-use complex. The first three floors were for commercial use, the fourth and fifth levels for their own residence and the sixth, for storage. His brother Dennis, founder of leading fiber internet provider Converge ICT, used to occupy the fifth floor with his family. Their kids grew up all together.

But Uy’s family eventually moved into a village while Dennis relocated to Manila as his broadband business expanded and eventually went public. Not wishing to keep a white elephant, Uy decided to transform the building into a mid-market hotel under the Best Western brand that opened in March 2019, initially with 85 rooms. Before the pandemic, it performed very well, with occupancy rates hitting 80 to 95 percent. With a function hall that trumped other available options in the area, the hotel captured the local meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) market.

Justine Uy

Justine Uy — Doris Dumlao-Abadilla


Pandemic blues

“Prepandemic, tourists who stayed here accounted for about 30 percent while the rest was local Mice market. We’re strong in business [segment]; that’s why unlike other hotels, we’re strong on weekdays instead of weekends,” he says.


But when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and triggered stringent and recurring lockdowns, occupancy rate slid to 10 percent. At any given time, there were four or five hotels in Angeles being auctioned off, recalls Justine Uy, Best Western Plus Metro Clark general manager and also Uy’s son.

Like how he opted to be a contrarian during the chaos in the 1990s, not even the global health crisis could deter Uy’s expansion plan. A new hotel wing was built, increasing room count to 186 and the amenities were improved to quality for four-star [from three-star] rating. It is currently the highest rated hotel property in Angeles.

“What sets us apart from the rest is the vision of our CEO, Mr. Jack Uy. While other businesses were shutting down, we continued to expand and grow our business, looking forward five or 10 years ahead instead of staying stagnant,” the younger Uy says at the launch of the hotel.

“In terms of moral standpoint, even when the business was losing money, not a single employee was laid off during the lockdown,” he adds.

Uy didn’t want to waste the training already given to the employees. With a bigger and better property (hence the “Plus” in the name), their headcount grew to 125 from 40.

Justine says they also heeded demand from corporate and government offices in the area that needed additional Mice space. The banquet hall where the hotel was inaugurated on March 24 can host as many as 500 people.

Among the culinary offerings of the hotel are: Cactus Jack Smokehouse, for those craving for steak and seafoods; Namari Japanese Bistro; and Legend Cantonese restaurant.

As lockdown protocols have been eased, the Uys have seen a recovery in the business. They want to do their share in revitalizing tourism.

For those looking for recreation, the hotel is 18 kilometers away from SandBox at Alviera and 12 km away from water park Aqua Planet. Angeles is about 25 km away from Mt. Pinatubo, the same volcano that devastated it decades ago but is now itself a tourist attraction, with its stunning rock formations and luminous turquoise crater lake.

 Jaime Uy at the lobby of Best Western Plus Metro Clark.

VERSATILE Jaime Uy at the lobby of Best Western Plus Metro Clark. —Doris Dumlao-Abadilla


Diversified house

Hospitality is just one of the businesses of Uy. Within the Angeles complex is a big appliance showroom — a haven for architects, interior designers, property developers or anyone who has a passion for the latest in consumer and industrial electronics. Savers Mall houses a wide assortment of residential, commercial and industrial appliances and equipment. Savers Group is more of a wholesaler although it also sells to the retail market. Beyond wholesaling, it is an integrator of all these equipment.

There are now 36 of such Savers Appliance stores across the country, although the largest one is still in the Uys’ Angeles hometown. This is the only one that sells the most expensive TV in the Philippines, a 120-inch Sharp unit that features the latest 8K Android technology. Currently the world’s largest LCD TV, the suggested retail price is about P3.39 million ( promo price is P2.88 million).

The group’s industrial business is also robust, Uy says. This segment includes engineering services and supply of large equipment like industrial chillers. Most recently, the group served the likes of Ospital ng Makati and pharmaceutical giant Unilab.

Best Western Plus Metro Clark is itself a showcase of a smart hotel. Touchpad devices control the temperature and lighting of every room.

In the future, Uy also plans to expand his property business. Adjacent to this complex is a four-hectare property owned by a friend. A deal has been signed to combine their landholdings to create a premium three-tower residential complex — like a “mini-Rockwell”, he says. Uy is looking to pre-sell units at P170,000. His plan is to bring to the market around 1,600 units.

Uy wants to keep the development wholesome — no casinos or girly bars. Instead, plans are underway to build a driving range. Currently, there are about 10 golf clubs in the locality, but he sees a market for amateurs to practice their golf swings.

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Is he contemplating a stock market debut in the foreseeable future? Perhaps as one group with a diversified portfolio, Uy says. But he says, it will be a project for the next generation.

TAGS: cable TV, Pampanga, property, success story

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