Pictures of Chinese billionaires are truly worth a billion words. The pictures of the top 15 Filipino billionaires in the April issue of Philippine Sentinel is crystal clear — that ethnic Chinese control Philippine economy. Even more glaring is the fact that Chinese Filipinos comprise only 1 percent of the population but control 60 percent of the economy. These Filipinos are of pure Chinese descent. Many of them migrated to the Philippines in their youth and some of the more successful ones were born in China.
Looking at the photos of those billionaires, we can immediately see the domination of the Chinese Filipinos. The assumption is confirmed by their Chinese family names. Nine of the 15 billionaires — or 60 percent — are in fact ethnic or pure-blooded Chinese: Henry Sy of Shoemart, Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines, John Gokongwei of JG Group of Companies, Andrew Tan, George Ty, Robert Coyuito, Tony Tan Caktiong, Lucio Co and Emilio Yap. All of them speak at least one Chinese dialect and presumably, some of them speak and write Mandarin, the Chinese national language. Though not listed as among the 15 billionaires, let us not forget that Lance Gokongwei (son of John) is CEO of Cebu Pacific, now in control of Philippine skies.
The final three: Ricky Razon, Jaime Zobel, and Iñigo Zobel, are obviously Spanish Filipinos. Their mother tongue is most probably Spanish, although Iñigo’s father, the late Enrique Zobel, spoke Filipino like a native Batangueño.
Nine of these 15 billionaires can be classified as “self-made.” They came from almost nothing — Sy, L. Tan, Gokongwei, Consunji, A. Tan, Ty, Tan Caktiong, Co, and Yap. The others appear to have inherited wealth, which at the very least assured the best education, which they then used to excellent effect.
It can be assumed that their wealth came from 1) honest-to-goodness hard work, or 2) hard work combined with political and/or financial hanky-panky, or 3) hard work with shameless labour exploitation, or 4) hard work plus getting rich by hook or by crook), or 5) just sitting back and not rocking the boat on inherited wealth.