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The Road To Riches Of The Philippines' 11 Billionaires

'Sipag, tiyaga, at nilaga' personified
by Mars Salazar | Mar 14, 2016
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ICYMI: Forbes magazine recently revealed this year's edition of their annual billionaires list. As expected, several Filipinos (11 to be exact) are part of the prestigious roster, a.k.a. the country's richest people.

For us mere mortals who are thankful value meals exist comes the question: How did they all get so loaded?

Suffice to say, they have incredible life stories, stories that led to their status as the Philippines' wealthiest. Read on to know more about how they obtained their hard-earned billions.

1) Henry Sy ($12.9 billion)

Age: 91
Global ranking: 71

The country’s richest man has an admirable rags-to-riches story: After relocating to the Philippines at the age 12 in an attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps, he did everything he could to improve the hand fate dealt him. He would buy goods from Divisoria to resell in his father's sari-sari store, only to watch as their humble mart burned down during World War II. His dad gave up and returned home to China, but Henry persisted, and decided to try his hand at peddling Marikina-made shoes. The rest, as they say, is history.

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John Gokongwei Jr. ($5 billion)

Age: 88
Global ranking: 270

John Gokongwei had the kind of childhood we all wish we had: His dad, one of the richest men in Cebu, owned a chain of movie houses in the province, and he was a popular kid in school. But when his dad died when he was 13, the luxe lifestyle he was used to vanished as everything they owned were repossessed by the banks. John, who used to be chauffeured to school, opened a small stall in a palengke in the outskirts of Cebu City, where he sold basic items to the residents. "Life will always deal us a few bad cards. But we have to play those cards the best we can. And we can play to win!" he once said.

3) Lucio Tan ($4 billion)

Age: 81
2016 global ranking: 380

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Had Lucio Tan graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree from the Far Eastern University in the late '50s as intended, he probably would not be one of the richest people in the country right now. Tan had to stop schooling to earn for his family, finding employment at a cigarette factory before opening a glyceine-manufacturing business. In 1965, he was able to open Fortune Tobacco.

4) George Ty ($3.7 billion)

Age: 83
Global ranking: 421

When he was 19, George was assigned by his father to put up their family business, Wellington Flour Mills. But funding came short, and the young Ty was frustrated by the banks’ refusal to lend him some much-needed cash to complete the factory—a defining moment that made him determined to have his own bank. When the flour mill was completed and in stable working condition, he pursued his dream of establishing a bank that would readily help businessmen and the community, and the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., now known as Metrobank, was born in 1962.

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5) David Consunji ($3 billion)

Age: 94
Global ranking: 569

Growing up on a farm in Bataan introduced David Consunji to the concept of hard work and made him unafraid to get his hands dirty—literally. After graduating with a Civil Engineering degree from the University of the Philippines in 1946, he worked as an apprentice for his cousin before he was hired as a concrete inspector, where he learned about the importance of construction. When he started getting construction and design projects, he put up D. M. Consunji Inc., which has since played a vital role in shaping Metro Manila’s cityscape.


6) Andrew Tan ($3 billion)

Age: 63
Global ranking: 569

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When he was a kid, Andrew Tan only wanted to have a grocery store so he could fit in with his classmates, whose families owned small businesses. Growing up in a poor family, he opted to walk to attend his classes at the University of the East instead of commuting so he could save money. Through sheer hard work and extreme penny-pinching, he was eventually able to save enough to buy the distillery that would produce Emperador Brandy, which would become the world’s top-selling brandy in just a few decades.

7) Tony Tan Caktiong ($3 billion)

Age: 63
Global ranking: 569

When he was 22, Tony Tan Caktiong opened two ice cream parlors in Cubao, adjusting to cater to their target market’s desires. When they discovered that people wanted to eat something hot, they added hamburgers to their menu, which were soon outselling their ice cream. In 1978, he decided to focus on selling hamburgers, and his baby, Jollibee, now has hundreds of stores in the Philippines and around the globe.

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8) Enrique Razon Jr. ($2.4 billion)

Age: 56
Global ranking: 722

The Razons have long been a landed family—like the Zobel-Ayalas, this mestizo's clan traces its roots to Northern Spain—but it was Enrique who steered the family’s cargo-loading business to its current multibillion-peso net worth. Now, he’s the youngest of the country’s top-ranked billionaires, having also staked a claim in the gaming and entertainment industry via Solaire Casino and Resorts.

9) Lucio and Susan Co ($1.6 billion)

Age: 61
Global ranking: 1,121

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The husband-and-wife team behind supermarket giant Puregold started with just one store in 1998, as well as duty-free airport shops that cater to the middle class. The last few years bore witness to their aggressive expansion, and from a virtual unknown in the supermarket stage, they have since become the country’s second-largest retailer, only surpassed by Henry Sy's SM group.

10) Robert Coyiuto Jr. ($1.6 billion)

Age: 63
Global ranking: 1,121

It was actually Coyiuto Jr.'s father, Robert Coyiuto, who built the family’s business empire: When he died in 1982 at the age of 58, he was already one of the local insurance industry’s bigwigs. The younger Coyiuto may have gotten a headstart by inheriting top insurance firm Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc., but luxury car distributor PGA Cars is all his own.

11) Bonus: Manny Villar ($1.3 billion)

Age: 66
Global ranking: 1,367

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Say what you want about Senator Villar's political track record and his "Dagat Ng Basura" jingle. The fact is, the man’s still a true-blooded Pinoy we should all look up to. This Tondo boy grew up with nine siblings, and he would help his mom sell fish at the market when he was a kid. His business empire, which he started in 1975 at the age of 25, started with hard work and a borrowed capital of P10,000. He earned his first million after just a year. Not content with that, he decided to concentrate on low-cost housing, where he would emerge to become a key player in the real estate industry.


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