Congressman Albee Benitez’s big plans for show business

Simply Red by Isah V. Red
posted December 18, 2017 at 05:40 pm

Tomorrow, Alfredo Abelardo Bantug Benitez (a.k.a. Albee Benitez), a Filipino businessman and politician and congressman representing the 3rd District of Negros Occidental, turns 51 years old.

Congressman Albee Benitez (center, seated) in a photo op with entertainment press (clockwise), the author, Ricky Lo, Gorgy Rula, Salve Asis, and Lolit Solis, during an accidental meeting in Taipe in late November 

The scion of the famed Benitez clan (think Philippine Women’s University, Sen. Helena Bentiez, his father Jollie Benitez) marks his birthday with, apart from the usual meet up with relatives and constituents in Negros, a deep contemplation on what he’d plan to do when his term in Congress ends in 2019.

“If I decide not run for the Senate, perhaps I’d be a private citizen and attend to my business,” he told members of the press he met accidentally at Bellavita, the cathedral-like bespoke mall at Xinyi in Taipei. He treated the group to a sumptuous dinner at the mall’s upscale Host Shabu.

In between chop sticks of shabu-shabu, Congressman Benitez answered questions from the group, some nearly palpably miles removed from what he does professionally, others pinning him to admitting showbiz ambitions that nearly had him laughing, albeit restrained since admitting to being cautious particularly with people he isn’t very familiar with.

Albee, as his friends call him, has had brushes with show business, having produced and hosted a magazine show, Game Changers, aired on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC)for five seasons, the last one with his 22-year-old son Javier Migues or Javi, a student at Sta. Clara University in California.

“We had to stop production for a while,” he said. “We need to reassess what we can do on the show. Or produce a totally new show, although, in the same mold as Game Changers. I really want a show that can help the audience become a game changers in their lives.”

Earlier this year, he had an agreement with an theme park owner to build jointly one in his district in Negros.

“It is not just a plan, we are now in the development stage,” he said. “And I hope when it’s finally completed, it won’t just attract theme park aficionados from Negros but from other islands as well.”

Cong. Albee is currently in talks with actor Gabby Concepcion, who agreed to be part of the first's initial movie venture 

Albee said that he envisions the theme park in the same mold as the Disney and Universal theme parks where the attractions and rides are based on characters of movies that have become hits among the youth.

“Perhaps we can develop something similar to that, and I mean Filipino characters that have become popular via the movies,” he added. In fact, he already had one on the drawing board early this year. He had approached his friends in show business, like Gabby Concepcion, Albert Martinez, and Richard Gomez who agreed to join him in his initial movie venture. “The idea was to produce something like Steven Soderbergh's Ocean 11 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Piolo Pascual, Cesar Montano and Sharon Cuneta would have been on board until the project ran into some glitch, which he refused to reveal as it might affect the plans should he decide to push through with the project.

His friendship with the actor Gabby Concepcion dates back a long time ago. “I’ve known him even before he courted Sharon Cuneta,” he said.

Apart from the themed park and movies with the characters that could be part of the attractions along with the rides, Benitez and his Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) are currently talking with Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group for a possible casino resort development in the Philippines.

The joint venture spells from $300 to $500 million investments for an integrated casino resort.

Benitez said, “We are still determining where to situate the development.”

 “Several high tourist traffic areas are being considered but negotiations with local authorities are still ongoing,” sources said.

Galaxy’s expansion in the Philippines comes on the heels of China’s strict no-smoking policy in casinos and an ongoing crackdown against corruption in gaming territories like Macau.

As a former TV host for ANC, Cong. Albee plans to have another show that will help audience become game changers in their lives

Friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China has also resulted in more players from the mainland coming to the Philippines.

In Macau, Galaxy first opened in 2011 at the Cotai Strip, a 550,000 square meter resort with Las Vegas-style facilities such as the world’s largest sky wave pool, a white sandy beach and dozens of private villas and cabanas.

But, whatever it is that Benitez dips his fingers into, it is anticipated to become a success. All he needs is a mental calculation of how a partnership will benefit no only his own interests, but the general public as well. What is he a mathematician for, if he couldn’t determine the course of his business endeavor?

Jose Conrado Benitez and Betty Bantug could be smiling wherever they are now as their son has grown to be the kind of man they had molded him to be. And as he turns 51 tomorrow, the Benitez clan can only be happy someone among them has chosen to follow in the footsteps of Jolly and his tita Helen.