"Here are more of these exemplary individuals."
(Continued from Saturday)
Bobby Ongpin was my student when I was teaching at Ateneo de Manila. I followed my dutiful student’s career to becoming an international businessman.
Bobby specialized in high-end property development, having made Balesin Island the number one membership club off Quezon province. One only has to take a 20-minute plane ride to savor Balesin Island Club with all its replicas of international tourist destinations.
I have been to Balesin Island myself when it was still owned by my good friend, Eddie Tordesillas, who got it from another good friend of mine, Baby Ysmael. After Bobby acquired the island, he made it into a paradise complete with all the amenities you can think of.
Bobby also bought a portion of Patnanugan Island where he is building a runway for jumbo jets for Balesin’s guests. There will also be a beach hotel. Since Patnanugan Island is not too far from Balesin, Bobby has bought a jet ferry for the guests.
Santa Banana, after making Balesin Island Club an international name, Bobby went on to build Makati Place at the end of Ayala Avenue. It houses the Alphaland City Club, the biggest and best leisure and business club in Metro Manila!
At Makati Place, Bobby also put up Alphaland Suites, a residential hotel, which surveys say is the best in Metro Manila and Luzon. Bobby has indeed outdone himself. City Club has nine restaurants, a swimming pool, a basketball court and a tennis court. The well-known Aegle Wellness Center is also there.
My gulay, not content with all these, Bobby has also built Baguio’s Mountain Lodges, which residents love to call the Forbes Park of Baguio. Last time I saw the place which used to be Bobby’s retreat, I was amazed at what was there. The place is surrounded by an eight-foot-high perimeter fence for security. It also has a chapel and a gym.
Bobby has given some space, rent-free, to Baguio’s well-known restaurants. It is just a 15-minute ride from the city – and on a well-paved road.
Sometimes I ask myself: What will Bobby think of next?
And then there is the Consunji family. The late David Consunji is definitely on my list of nation-builders, heroes and patriots. I knew Consunji personally, having covered him when he was Secretary of Public Works and Highways. I also know his son, who took over the group after the death of his father.
Consunji put up so many condominium buildings around Metro Manila. He was also in mining and water concession.
Another on my list is Manny V. Pangilinan. MVP started with the country’s first investment bank, Bancom, and was assigned to Jakarta, Indonesia to head a branch there. There, he befriended Salim, a crony of Suharto. After the downfall of Suharto, the Salim family put up the First Pacific Group.
Knowing Philippine business, MVP also put up Metro Pacific, and acquired PLDT from the Cojuangcos and Yuchengcos. He even went into infrastructure—NLEX and SLEX—and into water distribution as well as power distribution. He is a good man who truly loves his country.
I am putting the Ayalas – Jaime and Fernando—alongside MVP because they are also water concessionaires. They have been the targets of President Duterte’s tirades, and been called oligarchs, saboteurs and plunderers. Actually, the problem was not exactly their fault. Was it their fault that the water level in Angat receded?
Now, Duterte has told them to take it or leave it. In fairness to both concessionares, they have given up the P11-billion claim for their losses even after the arbitral tribunal in Singapore decided in their favor. They must take it, or else the government with nationalize water distribution. But my gulay, we all know what happens when government goes into business.
The Ayalas made Makati City the financial hub that it is today.
Andrew Gotianun is another taipan on my list. I am proud to say he is my friend. He has made property development a byword by putting up Filinvest City.
The late Alfonso Yuchengco a true blooded taipan, was also my friend. He put up Great Pacific Life, a big insurance firm. I recall the time when I was president of the Business Writers’ Association of the Philippines. We named him Insurance Man of the Year. When I was business editor, I was always invited to give economic briefings to VIPs like the former Prime Minister Cesar Virata. They listened to me; whether they believed me is another story. (To be continued on Thursday)