What Can We Learn from Forbes List of the 40 Richest Filipinos in 2012?

Forbes recently published a list of richest of the rich in the Philippines. It includes millionaires and billionaires - the top 40 richest Filipinos with their net worth for everyone to see, admire, envy or hate.

Besides being newsworthy, what is it about this list that ordinary Filipinos can learn about? This list, after all, got the front page headline of today’s leading news daily – the inquirer. 

If you want to see the full list again, you may follow this link. But for our purposes let’s get those in the billion dollar category. They include the following:
  1. Henry Sy & family – $9.1 billion (SM Investments Corp., SM Prime)
  2. Lucio Tan & family – $4.5 billion (Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco, Asia Brewery)
  3. Enrique Razon, Jr. – $3.6 billion (International Container Terminal Services)
  4. John Gokongwei, Jr. & family -$3.2 billion (JG Summit, Cebu Air, Robinsons Land)
  5. David Consunji & family – $2.7 billion (D.M.Consunji, Inc. or DMCI)
  6. Andrew Tan – $2.3 billion (Alliance Global)
  7. Jaime Zobel de Ayala & family – $2.2 billion (Ayala Corp.)
  8. George Ty & family – $1.7 billion (Metropolitan Bank)
  9. Roberto Ongpin – $1.5billion (Atok-Big Wedge, San Miguel)
  10. Eduardo Cojuangco -$1.4 billion (San Miguel)
  11. Robert Coyiuto, Jr. -$1.3 billion (National Grid)
  12. Tony Tan Caktiong & family – $1.25 billion (Jollibee Foods)
  13. Lucio and Susan Co -$1.2 billion (Puregold Price Club)
  14. Inigo & Mercedes Zobel – $1.15 billion (Ayala Corp.)
  15. Emilio Yap – $1.1 billion (Philtrust Bank)

We Admire the Rich

The most glaring fact about the list is how much we, as a society, glorify wealth. Admit it or not, we have deep admiration for those who have amassed wealth and consider them successful indeed. I bet we all dream of becoming wealthy ourselves.

But the real important question is this, should we be this way? Does it benefit us to place rich people to such high regard that we surely hope we could be like them? Is money the yardstick with which we should measure success and happiness in our lives?

Personally, I would say it shouldn’t be. I believe doing what you love and spending your time with your loved ones would more likely bring happiness. But we cannot diminish the role money or wealth plays in our lives. It is important indeed. I just don’t think it should be at the center dictating how we spend our time.

The Rich Got Richer

When you read the report, it will tell you a staggering increase in the amount of wealth at the very top. This should lead us to question why such things are allowed to happen when a great many of Filipinos are still dirt poor. 

This is what economists call the wealth gap. More money goes to the very rich while not enough trickles down below. Poverty rate remains high. Hunger in the provinces and cities continue to plague our fellow citizens. 

It proves that trickle-down economics is not to be trusted. Our government should actively engage in social programs that would lift the poor out of poverty. Some steps have been taken that I fully agree with. The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program is a very good example of this. 

Retail is King in the Philippines

When we look at the number one business in the Philippines, it is undisputedly SM. The biggest retailer, owner of the largest mall chain in the country, is the richest family in the Philippines. 

It is no surprise when our economy is said to be consumption-driven. Consumers drive our economic activities. The retail sector by way of malls is a big part of this. It’s not bad in itself. It’s just that we could have been better off creating rather than consuming. 

Countries do not prosper to become first world economies by retailing. Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, China – these neighbors of ours became what they are now because they created things. They manufactured products and sold them to the world. 

Filipino-Chinese Business Acumen

Lastly, I would take note of this list and say that a great majority are of Chinese descent. Some people even go so far as to say that the Chinese owns the Philippines. I wouldn’t say that at all. 

I believe they may be Chinese by blood but they are Filipinos too. I know many fine Chinese-Filipinos. I like them. We may have quite a lot to learn from them about business but I don’t blame them or blame us for not being business-savvy. 

I think what we should focus on is the quality of our education to make our future generations better. Having Filipino-Chinese businessmen succeed in our country is proof of possibilities and opportunities if we have the courage to make a difference.