Embracing the culture of giving and sharing

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For 20 years now, Suntrust Properties, Inc. has led the way in providing affordable homes and master-planned communities to Filipino families. It has created various self-sustaining condominiums and residential developments tailored to the needs of low- to middle-income Filipino families. By adhering to its mission of building what buyers need, Suntrust lives by its name not just as a trusted home developer, but also as a sun that serves as a source of hope for the less privileged.

While other companies consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an opportunity to strengthen their businesses, Suntrust’s ardency to help others comes out naturally. In an interview with BusinessWorld, Suntrust President Atty. Harrison M. Paltongan shared that CSR is actually a part of their culture; it is something that became a habit for people in the company.

For instance, as Suntrust marks its 20th year, the company is giving back to the people behind its success. Through its campaign program, “Bentengkyu: Benteng Taon, Benteng Saya,” the company has been conducting a series of activities to recognize and give thanks to project site workers, contractors and “Suntrustees” who have worked hard for the company.

Among the activities under the campaign is “Benteng Saya Caravan” where Suntrust employees visit workers at construction sites to spread happiness and recognize their contributions to the company, making them realize that they are also part of the Suntrust family. Armed with banners and other paraphernalia, employees distribute snacks, shirts and grocery packages to the workers, and conduct games to light up their days.

The caravan officially started in August as they visited the project sites in Quezon City, including Suntrust Shanata, Amadea, Asmara and Capitol Plaza. The journey continued in Suntrust’s project sites in Cavite, Batangas, Laguna and Manila in September.

The “Benteng Saya Caravan” also brought smiles and cheers to the students of Union Elementary School in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last August. Over 300 pupils enjoyed a snack during the program and received notebooks and school supplies from Suntrust.

For Atty. Paltongan, the Bentengkyu campaign is the most notable CSR program that Suntrust has conducted because of the employee-initiated project to grant the wishes of site workers under the Benteng Hiling project. Simple wishes such as eyeglasses, bike, safety shoes, refrigerator and travel expenses to provinces were granted by Suntrust’ employees and sales force by single-handedly giving and contributing from their personal pockets. As noted by Atty. Paltongan, “Giving is something that is normal to the company.” Workers are then surprised by the initiatives and concerns shown by the employees.

This benevolent movement from Suntrust employees only shows that helping does not require big sacrifices; it’s about giving things, even small ones, from the heart. The act also shows that charity begins at home, and for Suntrust, it doesn’t stop there as it is also committed to conducting social initiatives concerning education and environment.

Last June, Suntrust, headed by Atty. Paltongan, visited the Gibraltar Elementary School in Baguio City for a gift-giving activity. Over 400 pupils from various parts of Mt. Province received notebooks and school supplies and enjoyed a hearty snack.

Also last April, Suntrust officers and contractors once again shared their resources to answer the needs of students from Manga Elementary School in Oas, Albay, Bicol who have been affected by an earthquake. Hundreds of bags, notebooks, and other school supplies were shipped to the province as assistance.

Atty. Paltongan said that during calamities, it is normal for Suntrust employees to waive their budget for celebrations like Christmas party. “They are willing to cancel the party and give everything to the victims of the calamities. Even their little bonuses they donate them.”

Suntrust also tries to integrate its initiatives into its projects by developing environmentally friendly communities. Aside from developing alive-work-play residential development concept, Suntrust also puts green elements in its townships. In addition, they conduct tree-planting activities in its project sites, which are participated by its employees.

“In my personal belief, real happiness is when it is shared with other people, when it is felt by other people especially those who are less privileged. You can have the money, you can have the properties, but you cannot celebrate on your own, you cannot just brag, but rather make them feel that you’re so blessed. And the smiles you see in these people, these are the things that will make you work harder because these people, who you are able to serve, are wishing you very well and good health,” Atty. Paltongan said.

He shared that the sense of giving and the spirit of malasakit (concern) make people in the company realize that they are blessed enough. Because if these things are not developed, then people in the company might commit acts for their personal benefits, he said.

Using the half-full, half-empty glass concept as a metaphor, Atty. Paltongan explained that Suntrust develops and embraces a culture in which every employee sees the glass as half-filled, which means there is something that you can share. It was through this kind of culture that when people help each other, everything that happens after is for the benefit of everyone, especially the company as a whole.

When asked about their future plans related to its CSR programs, Atty. Paltongan said: “We are very satisfied with what we are doing now, we just have to expand it so we can reach out to more beneficiaries.”