The 32 Most Powerful Families In The Philippines, From A to Z

by Town & Country Philippines, Esquire Magazine

We’ve narrowed down the city’s most respected names and selected the very best. 

The family currently engaged in banking, power, and real estate among many other ventures traces its history in the Philippines to a Spaniard of Basque origin, Paulino Aboitiz, who arrived in the 1870s. He married the daughter of a well-to-do merchant a few years later, and started the rise of the Aboitiz clan in the southern Philippines, first in Leyte and later in Cebu. Starting with abaca trade, the family diversified following the claim of Paulino’s son Ramon (1887-1974) that “Any business where we can make money, we will go into.” Today, the family conglomerate Aboitiz Equity Ventures is chaired by Jon Ramon Aboitiz while his second cousin Erramon is the president and CEO.

IMAGE Courtesy of Aboitiz Family
Ramon Aboitiz

The son of a banker, Jose Antonio founded his Century Properties real estate firm in 1986, just six days before the EDSA revolution. “Perhaps nine out of 10 of the most successful and wealthiest families derived and continue to derive incomes from real estate,” he reasoned in one interview. Today Antonio and his family are among the richest in the country, worth an estimated $260 million according to Forbes magazine. With all of his sons—Jigger, Marco, Robbie, and Carlo—involved in the business, the empire of the Antonios is ever expanding. The group’s exclusive developments include the Trump Tower, Knightsbridge and Gramercy Residences, Century City Mall, as well as collaborations with Philippe Starck, Missoni Home, and Versace Home.

IMAGE Dix Perez for Town and Country
Marco, Carlo, Jigger, and Robbie Antonio

The Aranetas of the LBC group have an interesting ancestor in the form of Don Gregorio Soriano Araneta, the secretary general of Emilio Aguinaldo’s Malolos Republic who also became the first Filipino solicitor general and secretary of justice and finance. Don Antonio Araneta, one of Gregorio’s 14 children, bought LBC Aircargo from its American owners in 1950, but it was his son Carlos “Linggoy” Araneta who made the firm a household name with his idea for 24-hour delivery service (Renamed LBC Express in 1988). Today Linggoy’s children Juan Carlos, Santi, Dino, and Monica hold the reins in the family company.

IMAGE courtesy of the Araneta family
Don Antonio Araneta with son Linggoy in Germany, 1958

In 1975, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s “Thrilla in Manila” put the country on the world’s sporting map. One of the stars of the show is still in place today, the majestic Araneta Coliseum, the crown jewel in industrialist J. Amado Araneta’s self-named Araneta Center in Cubao. This branch of Aranetas owes the start of its fortune to Juan Araneta, who founded the Ma-ao sugar refinery in Bago, City, Negros, over a century ago. The family patriarch today is Jorge Araneta, who keeps a tight watch over the Araneta Group with the help of his siblings Judy Araneta Roxas (mother of Mar Roxas) and Maria Lourdes “Baby” Araneta-Fores (mom to Chef Gaita Fores).

IMAGE Dix Perez
Jorge Araneta

What began with a small corner store owned by Jose Yao Campos in 1945 is now the country’s largest drug-manufacturing company. And though the founder died in 2006, Unilab is still a family run business, now helmed by his daughter Joy Campos Hess and her son, Clinton Hess. Jose’s eldest son, Butch, runs another family founded company, Nutri-Asia, and serves as vice chairman of Del Monte Philippines, while also serving as chairman of Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation. Jeffrey D.Y. Campos oversees the family’s vast real estate holdings through Greenfields Development, whose projects include a multi-hectare property in Mandaluyong and the joint venture with another prominent family in Santa Rosa, Ayala Greenfield Estates.

After emigrating from Fujian Province, China, in the 1940s, Chan Lib and See Ying established the trading company Liwayway Marketing in post-war Manila. Who knew that it would lay the foundation for a multitude of successful business ventures including snack items (Oishi), lighting and bathroom fixtures (Chan C Bros), as well as a best-selling apparel brand (Bench)? The most prominent of the couple’s children are the media-shy Carlos Chan, and Nenita Chan Lim and Ben Chan, both of Suyen Corporation, the parent company of Bench and Dimensione, among other lifestyle brands. The third generation of Chans—including Carlos’s six children and Nenita’s two—are slowly filling in the big footsteps of their parents in their respective companies.

IMAGE Magic Liwanag

No list about Philippine families is complete without mentioning the Cojuangcos. The descendants of a Chinese immigrant, Co Yu Hwan, members of this extended family have become influential in business, politics, and society, settling first in Bulacan and then Tarlac. From the second generation, Melecio Cojuangco’s children were Jose Cojuangco Sr. (the father of Corazon Aquino and Peping Cojuangco), Antonio (the father of PLDT’s Ramon), and Eduardo Cojuangco Sr. (Danding’s father). The fifth generation Cojuangcos include President Noynoy Aquino, Tonyboy Cojuangco, Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, Congressman Mark Cojuangco, and Charlie Cojuangco.

Behind the continuing success of this multi-generational business family are perhaps the most prominent set of twins in Philippine society, Ronnie and Joecon Concepcion. The 84-year-old brothers born just 10 minutes apart are the sons of industrialist Jose Concepcion Sr., the founder of Concepcion Industries and co-founder of RFM Flour Mills along with Salvador and Victoria Araneta, the inlaws of Joecon. Ronnie’s side of the family includes former &C cover subject Ton Concepcion as well as current Concepcion Industries president, Jojo Concepcion. John of Selecta and Joey of Go Negosyo fame are the sons of Joecon. The twins’ sister is Mely Concepcion Hechanova, whose daughter, Renna, is vice chair of Condura.

IMAGE courtesy of the Concepcion family
The Concepcion couples, from left: Joe and Marivic Concepcion, Paeng and Mely Hechanova, Jose and Hermina Concepcion, Ronnie and Menchu Concepcion, Rene and Susan Concepcion

Cornflakes in the morning, then paksiw na bangus or torta for lunch—simple fare for a not-so-simple man, David Consunji of DMCI. The construction titan is the ninth richest Filipino according to Forbes magazine, but his old habits and virtues—honesty and living simply among them—die hard. While the architects behind famous buildings are better known, it was Consunji’s company that erected them: the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center, Westin Philippine Plaza, and the Ayala Triangle, just to name a few. Sid, the eldest son, handles the construction firm now, with siblings Jing, Victor, Jorge, Lucy, Cristina, and Dinky also involved.

Three prominent branches of the Delgado family were at one time all part of, appropriately enough, the Delgado Brothers company. Founded by Antonio Delgado in 1946 with his brother Francisco (Don Paco) and Jose, Delbros was a pioneer in logistics, later on expanding into trading, investments, and port operations. After leaving the company, Don Paco further increased his wealth by going into shipping and real estate. Today Delbros is run by Antonio’s son Eduardo (married to Margarita Delgado of Teach for Philippines) and grandson Jose Paolo Delgado.

Another family with Basque origins, the Elizalde name has been prominent for more than 150 years, first gaining notice through Don Joaquin Elizalde, a sugar baron in Panay and Negros, whose descendants would acquire Tanduay Rhum from the Ynchausti family in the 1920s. Though the Elizalde clan sold the liquor company to Lucio Tan in the 1980s, it still has significant land holdings and one descendant, Don Joaquin’s grandson Fred Elizalde Jr., still owns majority of Manila Broadcasting Company running it with his son, Juan. Fred’s wife, Lisa Macuja, heads the prestigious ballet company Ballet Manila. Other well-known Elizaldes include Francisco Elizalde (married to Pamen Roxas) father to Patxi, Santi, and Carlos.

The story of this family’s patriarch doesn’t quite follow the typical rags to riches arc. Riches to rags to riches would be more apt. Born to a well off Chinese family in Cebu, the family fortune was lost when John’s father died suddenly. He revealed how he got back on his feet with a speech at the 20th Ad Congress: “So, what can I do? I worked.” Now 90, Gokongwei has surrendered duties in his companies to his children. Only son Lance picks up most of the slack at Cebu Pacific and JG Summit, while eldest child Robina is the president of Robinsons Retail Holdings, which has Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Supermarket, Handyman, and Toys R’ Us under its wing.

Andrew Gotianun called it a day back in the 1980s, hoping to spend a life in easy retirement with his wife Mercedes. But not much later he was back in business, taking charge again of Filinvest Development Corporation, the company he founded in 1955, armed with new ideas on how to take it further. His second wind gave Filinvest enough momentum to push the Gotianuns up to 18th on the richest Filipinos list of Forbes magazine in 2015. He passed away in March 2016, with four of his children carrying the load in the company, Josephine (president and CEO), Jonathan (chairman), Andrew Jr. (director), and Michael (vice president). His wife Mercedes is chairman emeritus.

The family used to be a fixture in politics, but as the clan expanded, so has its realm of influence in society. Today’s generation of prominent Laurels are descendants of the nine children of José P. Laurel (1891-1959), the third President of the Philippines. Among the notables in the brood were former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel, former Senate President Pro Tempore Sotero Laurel II, former House Speaker José Laurel Jr., and Arsenio Laurel, whom sports buffs will remember for winning the Macau Grand Prix twice. In this generation, we have the educators Bobby and Peter Laurel of Lyceum University (Manila, Laguna, and Batangas), fashion designer Rajo Laurel, stage actors Cocoy and Franco Laurel, and television personalities Patty and Denise Laurel.

IMAGE courtesy of the Laurel family
Jose P. Laurel with Rose Laurel-Avencena, Francis Cardinal Spellman, Pacencia Laurel, Nene Laurel, and Alice Yulo Laurel

Few families have gone through the ebbs and flows of fortune like the Lopezes of Iloilo. Guiding the family through its most difficult times was Don Eugenio Lopez (1901-1975), who resurrected the family fortunes (drawn mostly from sugar) after World War II, only to lose almost everything in the dark days of martial law. Though he didn’t live to see his companies (Meralco, ABS-CBN, Manila Chronicle) returned to the family, his sons Geny (“El Capitan”), Oscar, and Manolo ushered in a new era of prosperity after the 1986 EDSA revolution. The next generation is led by Piki Lopez (First Philippine Holdings) and Gaby Lopez (ABS-CBN).

IMAGE courtesy of the Lopez family

You don’t get to have a university sports facility named after you for no reason. Luis “Moro” Lorenzo certainly earned that right, after being a hoops star for Ateneo in the late 1940s and later as a visionary businessman. In the early 1980s he purchased and turned around a failing banana exporting company; now Lapanday Holdings is one of the largest independent producers and exporters of pineapples and bananas in the country. He passed away in 1997. From his eight children, eldest daughter Rica L. Davila is now the firm’s CEO and chair, while her younger brother Tomas is the vice chair. Outside the company, Martin found success operating numerous restaurant chains, while youngest Isa is an esteemed gallerist and artist.

IMAGE courtesy of the Lorenzo family
Luis Lorenzo

From humble beginnings in Albay, Don Vicente Madrigal amassed an empire built on shipping, coal, cement, and real estate to become one of the country’s wealthiest men as well as a senator in the mid 20th-century. His wife Susana was his lucky charm, as it was she who had the foresight to buy large tracts of land in Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, Canlubang, and Laguna. Upon his death, Don Vicente’s wealth was equally divided among his seven children, but it was Consuelo Madrigal (1921-2008) who achieved the greatest prominence in business and social circles, especially known for her philanthropy. Paz, another daughter, also became a Philippine senator in the 1960s. The Madrigal legacy lives on through the grandchildren of Don Vicente and Susana, which include brothers Vicente II and Gerardo Madrigal, Chu-Chu Madrigal, former senator Jamby Madrigal, and Ging Gonzales-Montinola.

According to family lore, the first Montinola to reach Philippine shores was Juan Montinola, who arrived in 1781 from Malaga, Spain. By the mid-1800s, the family had already risen to prominence in Iloilo. Ruperto Montinola, the great-grandfather of former Bank of the Philippine Islands president Aurelio “Gigi” Montinola III, was even elected the province’s governor. It was Aurelio Sr., a lawyer, who established the family in Manila shortly after World War II. One of his sons, Aurelio Jr., married Lourdes Reyes, the only daughter of Nicanor Reyes, the founder of Far Eastern University. Since Gigi stepped down from BPI, he’s busied himself with being the FEU’s vice chair, sitting on the board alongside his mother, sister Gianna, and brothers Juan Miguel and Anton.

The family name is virtually synonymous with Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown. On its most important avenue stands a statue of the clan’s founding patriarch, Don Roman Ongpin. A dealer in art supplies, his store El 82 was patronized by the likes of Juan Luna and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo—but his most important contribution to society was being a supporter of the Philippine revolution. Today, his descendants still make the headlines and society news—including former Town&Country cover subjects Lisa Ongpin Periquet and Michelle Ongpin. The two are the offspring of the brothers Jaime (Jimmy), the former finance minister under Cory Aquino, and Alphaland chairman Roberto (Bobby), respectively. Another scion of the clan, Deanna Ongpin-Recto is a champion of the arts as is Jaime’s widow, Maribel.

IMAGE courtesy of the Ongpin family

The Ortigas clan’s vast landholdings comes from Francisco “Don Paco” Ortigas (1875-1935), a successful lawyer who in 1931 purchased the Hacienda de Mandaloyon from the Augustinians, in partnership with Vicente Madrigal and a few others. The 4,033-hectare property spans the cities of San Juan, Pasig, and Quezon City. If you’ve ever wondered who Julia Vargas is while driving in Ortigas Center, it is none other than Don Paco’s wife. The properties are managed today by the family’s holding firm Ortigas & Co. Limited Partnership Holdings. Among the key people in the clan are Rafael Ortigas Jr., Fernando Ortigas, Ignacio Ortigas, Francisco “Pacqui” Ortigas III, and “Ish” O. Montilla, the son of Chari Ortigas.

IMAGE courtesy of the Ortigas family
Amalia, Julia, Carmen, Maria Asuncion, Rosario, Francisco and Eduardo Ortigas

Nicanor Escobar Padilla (1851-1936) from Pangasinan started a clan noted for producing prominent doctors, lawyers, and legislators. His brood of 11 (nine from his second wife, Ysabel Bibby) included Justice Sabino Padilla, Senator Ambrosio Padilla, Congressman Benedicto Padilla, Dr. Nicanor Padilla, and Dr. Florencia P. Dualan. From the succeeding generations, we have Justice Teodoro Padilla (the father of renowned eye doctor Minguita Padilla Lopez and lawyer Sabino “Binoy” Padilla), PhilHealth President Alexander Padilla, Couples for Christ’s Francisco Padilla, NYC-based lawyer Monique Padilla Gallego, and international banker Maite Padilla Gallego.

A big family of real estate moguls, bankers, philanthropists, and artists, the different branches can trace their roots from the children of Macario Rufino: Ernesto, Vicente, Ester, and Rafael (their initials are where the old EVER Theater in downtown Manila got its name). The siblings developed a chain of cinemas, including the legendary Rizal theater and QUAD in partnership with the Ayalas. They also co-founded two banks. Charlie, the son of Vicente Rufino (yes, the street in Makati is named after him) and brother of Marixi Prieto, is among the most visible of the current generation, being one of the top developers in Taguig and Makati. The artist Marivic, the daughter of Rafael, is also a regular on the social circuit.

IMAGE courtesy of the Rufino family
Ditas, Charlie, Cory, Marixi, mom Meding, Pixie, and Ma. Paz Rufino

For the eighth year running, Henry Sy is the country’s richest man, estimated to be worth $12.6 billion by Forbes Magazine. Now 92, Sy has long since transferred power in his various companies to his six children. Tessie Coson is in charge of the family’s banking interests in BDO Unibank; Elizabeth takes care of SM Hotels & Conventions Corporation. The eldest son, Henry Jr., chairs SM Prime, while Hans moved to a director role recently. Harley is in charge of the retail units Supervalue and Super Shopping Market (SM Hypermart), while Harley, the youngest, oversees the department stores division and SM Investments.

IMAGE courtesy of the Sy family
Henry Sy

From living in a small one-room apartment to owning vast tracts of land here and in Spain (with more than 1,500 hectares of vineyards for his brandy business alone), Andrew Tan has come a long way in a relatively short time. He became a millionaire at 27 through his appliance business, but it was his distillery (makers of Emperador Brandy) and real estate firm (Megaworld) that elevated him to megarich status. His wife Katherine is also involved in the family businesses. The couple has four children: Kevin, Kendrick, Kester, and Kara.

Over the past two years, the consolidation of El Capitan’s companies has paid off—to the tune of $4 billion. Share prices of Lucio Tan’s companies got a boost thanks to the prospect of more efficient management (eldest son Michael is in charge), making him the fourth richest in the land. At 82, Tan is still very much hands-on, known for calling business meetings with his top brass that last deep into the night. Daughter Cherry is married to Alfred Ty, son of Metrobank’s George Ty.

Lucio Tan

Tony Tan Caktiong’s family run company is truly bigger than ever with more Jollibee branches across the globe opening regularly. According to Forbes, it is the “fastest-growing Asian restaurant chain in the world” to date. Hey, even Anthony Bourdain gave the Aloha burger a thumbs up. Over the years, the family snapped up other fast-food restaurants including Chowking, Greenwich Pizza, and Red Ribbon, among others, all leading to a rise in Jollibee’s listed share price (and Tan’s net worth, now $3.8 billion). Part of the company since the beginning, Tan’s wife Grace leads the Jollibee Foundation, while eldest child and only son Carl Brian is the company’s business development director. His two daughters live in California.

If there’s a family who knows about luxury, it’s the Tantocos. Since 1951, when Bienvenido Tantoco and his wife Gliceria Rustia opened Rustan’s (a clever portmanteau of their names) the family has provided only the best in retail shopping for discerning Filipino consumers. Even their supermarkets have a luxury touch, often having gourmet items not found in other places. With the third generation of Tantocos there has been a growing expansion, not just in the acquisition of foreign luxury brands, but notably in restaurant and retail franchising, such as with Starbucks, Golden Spoon, and Family Mart. 

IMAGE courtesy of the Tantoco family
Menchu T. Lopez, Nedy Tantoco, Gliceria Tantoco, Merl Tantoco-Pineda, and Bienvenido Tantoco

When a young George S.K. Ty ran out of money in his early 20s (he was setting up a flourmill at the time), he asked for a loan from a bank. Furious about getting denied, he vowed to put up a bank of his own. At 29 he did just that, opening Metrobank in 1962. It is still the greatest source of the Ty family’s wealth, but they have diversified by going into real estate, insurance, and power generation. Ty might be ranked higher on the list of richest Filipinos, if not for his philanthropic nature—he once donated $100 million to build a Catholic church in China and funded the building of a technical school in Laguna. Sons Arthur and Alfred now run the bulk of the family enterprises.

Known to be one of the more flamboyant of the Filipino-Chinese tycoons, Emilio Yap’s crown jewel is the Manila Hotel, which is over a century old. He passed away in 2014, but the family’s influence and power carry on, much of which still comes from the Manila Bulletin, the daily paper his family has been involved in since the 1960s. The family is also into banking (Philtrust Bank), pharmaceuticals (Euro Med Laboratories), shipping (President Lines) and education (Centro Escolar University). Emilio’s son Basilio Yap took over as chairman of both Manila Hotel and Manila Bulletin, while his grandson Emil Yap III continued to serve as vice chairman of the hotel and executive vice president of the newspaper and Enrique Yap Jr. takes the reins as the hotel’s executive vice president.

IMAGE Medal Elepaño

After inheriting his father’s insurance business, Alfonso Yuchengco steadily built an empire of his own, getting involved in everything from banking and education (RCBC, Mapua Institute of Technology) to car dealerships and construction (Honda, EEI Corporation). Among his children, daughter Helen Y. Dee is most likely to assume the mantle of leadership in the Yuchengco businesses. “A.Y.”—as the ambassador is known in business circles—is a food and wine aficionado, and a member of the exclusive Chaine des Rotisseurs. Pastry chef Sunshine Pengson (daughter of Bella Yuchengco), is A.Y.’s granddaughter.

IMAGE courtesy of the Yuchengco family
Alfonso Yuchengco

Enrique Zobel attained success in real estate, construction, insurance, and agriculture. Of his two surviving children, Inigo is the more visible—an astute businessman, he’s also a fixture on the polo circuit. Enzo’s daughter Mercedes (Dedes) and second wife Dee prefer to keep a low profile, and both are engaged in philanthropy. Young Zobels coming into prominence include Inigo and Maricris’s son Jake and daughters Bianca and Natalia who recently opened lifestyle special store LANAI.

The family behind the Ayala Group of Companies (Ayala Land, BPI, Globe Telecom, Manila Water) traces its roots in the Philippines to Antonio de Ayala, who arrived in the early 1800s. The Zobel part of the name comes courtesy of Jacobo Zobel, who married Trinidad, Antonio’s daughter. The current patriarch, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, is happily retired, stepping down to devote more time to his photography hobby, most likely. His two sons, Jaime Augusto (“JAZA”) and Fernando, out of the seven children, work for the Ayala group. JAZA’s daughter Mariana, a Harvard graduate, works with Ayala Malls. His son Jaime Alfonso, also a Harvard grad, works at Globe. 

IMAGE courtesy of the Zobel de Ayala family

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