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Built on trust

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 has concluded its search for the country’s most undaunted and unstoppable entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters the Asian Institute of Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022.

Ibrahim “Bong” Nuño
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Metro Stonerich Corp.

WHEN CIVIL ENGINEER Ibrahim “Bong” Nuño started Metro Stonerich Corp. (MSC) in November 1999, his first tool was a P2,500 drill from a hardware store. Today, MSC has grown from a P500,000 company to a multibillion-peso business and one of the country’s major construction players.

But for Mr. Nuño, what’s important is not just financial success — it’s the difference he can make through MSC’s integrity, reliability, and quality.

The MSC founder and chief executive officer (CEO) originally dreamed of being a pilot while growing up in Taluksangay, Zamboanga City. As the eldest grandson of the fourth generation of the Nuño clan, he grew up watching how his grandfather Jainuddin Nuño, an engineer at heart and a self-taught architect, would supervise some of the community’s construction activities.

However, Mr. Nuño could not enroll in a flying school due to its expensive tuition. Instead, he took up civil engineering at Adamson University — a decision he admits may have been influenced by his Papa Jainuddin.

After graduation, he worked in Saudi Arabia as a project manager for a US firm for a few years. After he got married, he and his wife, Yasmin S. Nuño, decided to stay in the Philippines and open a small business, buying and selling retail fashion and novelty items.

But he still wanted to practice his profession, so he applied at a construction management company. After handling a major building project, he was endorsed by a contractor to Philippine Commercial International Bank (PCIBank). He became the head of PCIBank’s in-house construction group, handling the renovation and construction of almost 300 branches and bank facilities. Over seven years, his personal network of contacts grew into a strength he would rely on in the future.

When the bank’s owners decided to sell PCIBank to Equitable Bank which resulted in a merger in 1999, Mr. Nuño and Maximillian “Jojo” Quintos, another mainstay of PCIBank’s construction unit, used their retirement pay to start MSC.

They initially chose renovation projects because these didn’t require large investments in equipment. Their first rehabilitation client was the Manila Waldorf School, where his son studied.

Most contractors at the time prioritized big projects, avoiding smaller jobs like renovation. For Mr. Nuño, no job was too small for MSC. The company began building a name for itself with the help of Mr. Nuño’s network who trusted his integrity and commitment to quality.

MSC’s early years were hard. Mr. Nuño and the other incorporators only took allowances because their income was cycled back into MSC as capital. This helped to show banks how serious they were in their financial objectives.

“Our own clients later urged us to go into general construction,” he said. After a year, the company landed its first major project as a general contractor — a bank branch in Greenhills, San Juan. In seven years, MSC was able to secure its ISO Certification and Triple A license. With support from various banks, MSC established enough credit facilities without collateral to support new endeavors: non-general construction projects with retail malls.

In time, MSC established its reputation for quality and affordable end-to-end construction solutions, which have become a sought-after service in the market.

Despite this, the company faced financing issues. Some developers failed to meet the conditions of their contract, delaying payments. MSC managed this through bank financing, allowing it to lock in prices and maintain reasonable costing. This cash flow management became a constant struggle that Mr. Nuño oversaw himself, staying on top of costs and receivables every week.

As MSC’s scope and reach grew, so did his desire to make a difference in the lives of others. He remains deeply passionate about supporting his and other communities, saying that he expects to follow in his father’s footsteps as datu of his community in Mindanao. His social responsibility commitments started with providing scholarships to underprivileged students and mentoring engineering students. He and his wife Yasmin also provide stipends to schoolchildren from Payatas and assistance during disaster relief operations.

The MSC Foundation also handles pro bono work for in-need communities such as the Payatas Parish Church in Quezon City and the Carmelite Monastery Retreat House in Zamboanga City. These projects undertaken by Mr. Nuño and his wife, both practicing Muslims, speak of their inclusive character.

“Whether Christian or Muslim, we are all children of God,” he said, who is also on the board of trustees of the Ateneo de Zamboanga and the only Muslim on the board of trustees of Adamson University.

Today, MSC is also one of the few contractors handling projects for most of the country’s major retail chains and numerous land development companies. Mr. Nuño calls himself fortunate for his exposure to management, his succeeding progression into construction management and eventually, his current business as a contractor, leading him to complete what he called “the cycle of construction.”

For Mr. Nuño, he measures success by the trust of his clients and the difference he can make in various communities.

For those looking to become entrepreneurs, he offered this advice: “Follow your dream and make it happen. Stay focused on your vision and be clear with your intentions to reach your goals. You can become successful while being fair and square. Be ready to work late nights and don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Do not be afraid to ask guidance from those ahead of you. Always put yourselves in the shoes of your clients or customers, and do not forget to give back some of what you’re blessed with.”

The media sponsors of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Gold Sponsors are SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., Uratex, and Navegar. Silver Sponsors are Intellicare, OneWorld Alliance Logistics Corp., and Regan Industrial Sales, Inc. Banquet Sponsors are Uratex and MerryMart Consumer Corp.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 will be announced on Nov. 21 in an awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).