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Property magnate Antonio Turalba may be 80, but age hasn’t slowed down his love for sports cars

Property magnate Antonio Turalba may be 80, but age hasn’t slowed down his love for sports cars

Tessa R. Salazar

What do you do when you’ve been financially blessed many times over for doing the things that you love, and you’re still remarkably fit physically and mentally despite hitting 80? Well, you just grab the wheels, step on the gas, and drive straight to all the things that you ever wanted to do when you were so much younger.

And that’s exactly what Antonio Asperilla Turalba, founder and chair of real estate conglomerate Active Group of Companies, has been doing with his time nowadays. Turalba, an architect by profession, made his fortune developing numerous properties, and now supports many student scholars in several colleges and universities. He also finances numerous medical missions. He has also established a daycare center for toddlers and very young kids.

While Turalba supports scholars studying in La Salle Lipa in Batangas and in the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna, he holds especially close to his heart a scholarship program he initiated in 1970 for poor but deserving students of his alma mater Osias Colleges in his hometown of Balaoan, La Union. Since then, many of his scholars had become successful professionals. One scholar Turalba mentions had become a doctor, who has paid it forward by also sponsoring other students. By Turalba’s estimates, around 98 percent of all his scholars are now employed.

Other than ensuring that he does his part in educating future Pinoy professionals, Turalba keeps himself busy nowadays by keeping his body active, and his mind sharp. And he does that by playing rounds and rounds of golf, engaging in practical shooting and going on scuba dives in open water. He doesn’t do all of that for and by himself. These activities are also meant to be important bonding times with his family, particularly with his children.

These activities also give Turalba the reasons to drive his sports cars. So, if you see all of 14 cars parked in his garage in Batangas, you know the man’s at home.

Turalba’s garage looks like a virtual sports car showroom. You can spot a red Ferrari 458 Spider, a white Audi R8 V10, a red BMW Z4 M40i Roadster, a red Ford Mustang GT, a classic Jaguar Daimler Super V8, a red BMW 730Li, a gray Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S, a black Mercedes-Benz S560 Maybach, two Bentleys, a Porsche 718 Boxster, a Maserati Quattroporte GTS and a Corvette. Turalba says these cars were acquired throughout his career as an architect and developer.

And as his collection grew, so did his children’s appreciation of these cars. His eldest son, architect Toti Turalba, president and CEO of Active Group, and grandson Juha, an aeronautical engineer, have been motorsports achievers themselves. Juha, a karting prodigy, was the overall champion of the 2023 Manila Sports Car Club Mazda Miata Spec Series while father Toti bagged second place in the BRM Chronographes Masterclass category.

Turalba’s 9 grandkids range in age from 12 to 30. He’s a father to four accomplished professionals (two have become architects, one a businesswoman and another a US-based doctor).

When he met our Inquirer Mobility team earlier this week at the sprawling family home in Malarayat Estate in Batangas, Turalba wasted no time accompanying us to his garage. Still nimble, he gingerly sat inside the Porsche 718 Boxster convertible and held the steering wheel firmly. You could tell he was proud of this fine specimen, and he was even prouder he could still drive it the way it was meant to be driven.

“Even at 80, you continuously develop your reflexes. You train them with your driving. When you hit a certain speed, you need to focus. You have to be able to sense right away outside movements, when someone crosses the road. I crave fast driving where I can feel even the small bumps on the road,” he says, before gunning the Boxster for our videographer Tope Crisostomo.

Turalba and his fellow architect wife Cristina made a name for themselves in the world of architecture, design, construction, and property development through their crowning achievement the P3-billion 210-hectare resort community Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club & Residential Estates situated in the Malarayat mountain range. This development would become the centerpiece of the Active Group.

Exceptional in math

In grade school, Turalba exhibited exceptional math skills, such that his father entrusted him with negotiating with the tobacco farmers in the Ilocos Region.

“I was 10 or 11 when my father introduced me to his business. I was 12 or 13 when I went on my own,” he quipped. He tagged along with Tomas Agtarap Turalba, who was into trading, buying and selling and transporting products through a trucking business. “The Turalbas of La Union belonged to the middle class. All of us studied. We were not rich.”

Turalba narrated that his family owned an International Harvester pickup truck. When he was around 12 or 13 during school vacations, he would drive the truck and load it with tobacco. “I didn’t have a driver’s license, but a student permit. I enjoyed the business. Being the youngest in a family of 6, Turalba said he viewed his field chores both as a leisure and a necessity.

He says he’s grateful to his father that he learned the ropes at a young age. But he then says there was a time his father told him to go back to school. “Your study is very important. You can have (this business) later on. But you have to go to school,” Turalba says his father told him.

And that’s probably why Turalba gives a lot of emphasis on his scholarship programs.

Exiting his Boxster convertible, Turalba admits that he would rather drive a sports car that would also provide him the comfort of a luxury sedan.

“When you reach 60, or 65, and you still want the speed, you’ll also be looking for a comfortable ride, because that’s the age you’ll be starting to feel things in your body,” he laughs. That’s why, he says, he would usually drive a Bentley. If he were much younger, he’d drive his Ferrari more often.

“The human body is just like a car. Even if you maintain them properly, they still deteriorate,” he chuckles.

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Reward, and payment

What got him into collecting sports cars, anyway?

Well, in a way, these cars weren’t merely rewards for jobs well done. Turalba points out that cars were quite literally the payments he received for his work.

“Clients, who are mostly friends, were asking us to design their houses and villages. Many of them paid in cash, while others paid in kind, too. Some of these payments were in cars. I began by choosing two-door sports cars as payments. The Chevy 2-door was one of the first payments I received, followed by the 2-seater Datsun 240Z.”

When word got around that Turalba was accepting sports cars as payments, there formed a figurative bandwagon for his services. It also helped that he had friends in the automotive industry like the luxury car tycoon Robert Coyiuto Jr, whom he said “gives me an affordable way of paying for cars.”

And when he acquires a car, he almost always never sells them. He says he takes good care of them, appreciating them for their build, design and engineering. “I love not just the driving part, but the cars themselves,” he stresses.

The secret to fitting in: No excesses

In height and heft, Turalba certainly isn’t lacking in such dimensions. Which is why this writer couldn’t help but ask how he seems to easily fit himself in the cramped cockpits of these low-slung sports cars.

“I do find it a little bit difficult to get into and out of, especially in sports cars built for racing. But the moment you’re used to it, you get to know how to maneuver yourself. But nowadays, I usually ride in cars that provide both speed and comfort, like a Bentley, with 8 to 12 cylinders and over 600hp, but you get the comfort of a sedan, and the suspension and ease of going in and out,” he explains.

In all respects, Turalba can afford to acquire much more than what he already has in his estate or his garage. But the man has also set limits to the finer things in life. In the coffee table book “Antonio A. Turalba, Passion & Integrity,” he shared: “It’s nice to have good things. But don’t be excessive.”