BY JING LEJANO
The vivid world, as viewed through the lens of Century Properties Group Chairman Jose E.B. Antonio
Success often begins by eyeing and seizing an opportunity. This impulse makes real-estate magnate Jose E.B. Antonio, quite unlike other septuagenarians, turn to digital photography.
“Purists like film,” he concedes, “but I was impatient with it, because I would shoot pictures but I was never sure if the shot was any good.” He finds it extra frustrating when he takes pictures well away from city centers.
“When you travel far into the boondocks, film photography forces you to wait until you’re back in civilization, to know whether or not the pictures you took were good,” he muses. “Digital cameras are more efficient and effective; you can check the settings, and you can improve the shot.”
Antonio is no stranger to taking full advantage of the next big thing, just like with digital photography. The chairman of Century Properties Group Inc. founded his real-estate company in 1986 six days before the Edsa People Power Revolution, anticipating the construction-industry boom. The company’s total assets reached P37.48 billion in 2015, with net profits of P1.53 billion in 2016.
His business firsts include the introduction of international standards to the local property market; a transportation-oriented development with direct access to the Metro Rail Transit; a residential high-rise at Bonifacio Global City; a fully furnished condominium in Makati; and wi-fi integrated residences in Cavite.
The lure of travel photography
His love of travel is also revealed in his investment pursuits. Antonio has business interests in Subic Air, the country’s largest corporate jet charter service; the distributorship of BMW luxury cars; and Philtranco, the Philippines’s oldest bus company.
He established the Philippine-China Business Council when he served as a special envoy for trade and economics to the People’s Republic of China in 2005. Months before his franchise partner Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States, Antonio accepted an appointment as special envoy for trade, investment and economic affairs to the United States.
To this inveterate traveler, “The combination of travel and photography is terrific,” he gushes. “It lets me record experiences, and look back at these places, people, and events whenever I want.”
He is a member of the Camera Club of the Philippines, and of the Leica Club. In 2012 he began to join the National Geographic Expeditions. These expeditions provide hands-on experience for amateurs to explore picturesque locales, under the guidance of a professional National Geographic photographer.
Antonio marveled at the majesty of the Himalayas in Bhutan, gained a greater appreciation for living simply in Mongolia, and revealed in the charm of New York’s diversity. Going off the beaten path thrills him. “There are still a few more places I’d like to see,” he admits, “that are included in my bucket list.”
Composition and business acumen
He draws inspiration from Xyza Cruz Bacani, a former Hong Kong-based Filipino domestic-service worker, who won a Magnum Foundation scholarship and now exhibits her photography in New York.
Antonio is no amateur, either, not by a long shot. Working with film gave him his introduction, but “there’s so much talent to be found in digital photography,” he declares. “People do excel, and anyone can be good at anything they’re passionate about.”
He hopes to experiment with cinema, “for my own consumption,” he qualifies. He will not abandon digital photography anytime soon.
Good photographs are the end result, but enjoying the process is a pay-off, too. “Photography keeps my mind relaxed as I record different places,” muses Antonio. “There are elements captured in photographs that can escape the naked eye.”
Photography is more than a hobby to him. There is something transcendent in its pursuit, he believes, as it lets him see the world in a different light, and explore probabilities and possibilities.
“I particularly love and appreciate beautiful things and people,” he elaborates. “Photography primes me to appreciate different kinds of people, and what different places are known for. It requires me to review and research the places I visit. The world is a big basket of cultures, experiences, and people, and its commingling makes travel photography very exciting.”
The property mogul is also currently the director of the US-Philippines Society, a group of business leaders, and Antonio inevitably draws parallels between taking great shots and running a successful business.
“Photography starts with composition; what you want to put into the picture and how you will treat a certain situation. It’s the same principle in business,” he adds. “You start with a vision. You need to be mindful of technical issues, have all the right elements and, in both cases, implement them well.”
Seasoned photographers like to say that it’s not all about aperture. In life, in business and in art, that which illuminates must work with interesting shadows, and foreground subjects offset background details. To pull off any complex enterprise, all sorts of factors come into play.
As Antonio likes to quote American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”