Finding success, thanks to mentors | Inquirer Business

Finding success, thanks to mentors

Leaders are not born but formed, carefully nurtured and not mere accidents of nature.

There is no dispute that wide experience, extensive knowledge and the right set of circumstances are all necessary for molding future executives. But often undervalued when studying the reasons why some come out on top while others fall by the wayside is the difference that a generous and supportive mentor can make.

In keeping with the Inquirer’s 38th anniversary theme of “Inspiring Change. Igniting Minds”, we asked the top executives of some of the country’s largest corporations who they consider to be the mentors who made the biggest impact on their lives and their career, the ones who saw the diamond in the rough and helped cut and polish them into the leaders they are today.

Manny Villar

Manny Villar

1. Manny Villar

Chairperson Villar Group of Companies


My mother is my single biggest influence in my path as an entrepreneur.

I know it’s rather cliché to say that mothers are our first teachers but my Nanay Curing made the biggest difference in my life.

At a very young age she taught me the value of hard work and perseverance. There is no problem, no obstacle, that cannot be solved or hurdled by one’s sipag at tiyaga. And she taught me that not through a lecture or a book but by doing it herself.

When I would accompany and help her sell fish and shrimps in Divisoria I saw how she worked hard to earn a living so we can have food on the table and how she persevered through the toughest challenges in our lives.

I can honestly say that it is the image of my mother standing inside our little stall in the wet market of Divisoria that gave me inspiration at the toughest moments of my career as an entrepreneur.

Nanay Curing also taught me the importance of providing excellent products and services to customers. Sometimes a suki of ours would come by and chat with her for a while. She would turn to me and say: “Boy, never cheat customers, always treat other people with honesty and kindness.”


That stuck with me and guided me in my life both as an entrepreneur and a public servant.

Benedict Sison

Benedict Sison

2. Benedict Sison

CEO and country head, Sun Life Philippines

I consider my college professor, Dr. Emmanuel Soriano, the 14th president of the University of the Philippines who passed away on April 22, 2023, to be the mentor who made the biggest difference in my life.

Dr. Soriano invited me to teach at the UP College of Business

Kelvin Ang

Kelvin Ang

3. Kelvin Ang

CEO, AIA Philippines

I consider a former Group CEO of AIA Group of companies the mentor who made the biggest difference in my life.

I first met him in Hong Kong in 2009, when I was the General Manager of AIA Guangdong Branch. Under his wing, I rose to General Manager of Shanghai Branch in 2010, Chief Agency Officer of AIA China in 2013, Chief Agency Officer of AIA Malaysia in 2015, and CEO of AIA Philippines in 2019.

I once pledged that I will be a good soldier to him, and he promptly corrected me that I should not. Instead, I need to be a great general. A leader of my own and to others.


Ricardo Isla

4. Ricardo Isla

CEO, AirAsia Philippines

My idol bosses whom I also consider as my mentors are Tony Fernandes who gave me a huge responsibility of pivoting AirAsia Philippines to success, and Manny V. Pangilinan – MVP who opened a lot of opportunities for me when I was still with Smart-PLDT which gave me all the necessary exposures and trainings I needed which molded me into the leader I am now.

I met Tony when I joined AirAsia Philippines in 2019. His strong leadership style which rallied the whole AirAsia organization from post pandemic recovery to world domination is one of the biggest lessons I learned from him.

For me he is also a transformational leader in aviation who piloted the company from being the complete travel lifestyle company to a market leader in the Asean.

Eyes on the target with strong focus on safety, is what Tony inculcated in his leaders. His leadership has also accorded AirAsia with various recognitions such the Best Low-Cost Airline for 14 years in a row, and Asia’s Leading Low-Cost Airline for eight years now.

MVP on the other hand, who’s been my boss for more than a decade, taught me a valuable lesson on how to become aggressive to become a market leader.

My experience working in international retail sales and distribution in Asia and the Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe to being the Regional Head of Operations and General Manager for the united Kingdom, Europe, US, Italy, and Singapore game me a wider perspective of not only how the market works, but also how consumers think, which is an effective application I brought when I transferred to AirAsia.

MVP is a visionary who puts the interests of the customers at the same time. Learning from him made me master this formula which I still apply to this day with AirAsia.

Both Tony and MVP also taught me the value of customer experience, people growth, and growing the company.

Ernest Cu

Ernest Cu

5. Ernest Cu

CEO and president, Globe Telecom Inc.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala is my most influential mentor.

I met him as a co-parent at an international school in Manila. While perhaps many expect business to be our conversation starter as a first encounter, it was actually not the case. We found ourselves immersed in our kids as doting dads. I immediately saw JAZA’s value of family, mirrored to how he values everyone in the organization.

We’re not just an employee, but a partner in shared progress.

From my years of working with JAZA, I understood that effective leadership extends beyond mere business acumen. It’s putting people first. It encompasses qualities such as empathy, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of all stakeholders.

JAZA’s approach has shown me the significance of nurturing a corporate culture that empowers employees and rewards their contributions. This philosophy has shaped my leadership style and became a fundamental pillar of Globe’s corporate ethos.

Frederic DyBuncio

Frederic DyBuncio

6. Frederic C. DyBuncio

President and CEO. SM Investments Corp.

Throughout my stint as a career banker in over 20 years, I have encountered a number of valuable mentors who helped shape the way I think and do things.

The collective takeaways would be trust and mutual respect and I have embraced and carried that in my current role today.

As Filipinos, family is the most important thing in our lives.

As part of a family, trust and mutual respect are key to fostering healthy relationships.

I see the value that the SM group provides —for its slew of stakeholders that include our shareholders, employees, communities, and the general public.

To me that’s important. Anchored on a “family” culture, the SM group views its stakeholders and entire ecosystem as a family and there is that strong culture to help each other.

Nina Aguas

Nina Aguas

7. Nina Aguas

Executive chairperson, Insular Life

Dennis O Green, then chief auditor of Citigroup on boarded by John Reed. He gave me the confidence and the empowerment to take on responsibility, accountability and the assurance that I can make honest mistakes, learn from them and produce better results.

[I met him] early on in my Citi career life and the upward trajectory just took off. He gave me the platform to showcase my leadership capability and gave me the entire Asia Pacific Corporate Audit function to manage.

[He taught me] to learn the trade, be comfortable in your skin…literally as well (he was an African-American and I was a brown Asian woman), humility in success. Be grateful always.

Atty. Felipe L. Gozon

Atty. Felipe L. Gozon

8. Felipe L. Gozon

Chairperson, GMA Network

While it is difficult to pinpoint a sole mentor who made the biggest difference in my life, for there were many, I suppose they were my father, former Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Benjamin M. Gozon, Sr. and my mother Carolina Lapus-Gozon, who made me realize that I was wasting my time and opportunity to make something of my life.

It was on my third year at the U.P. College of Law when they made me realize this.

[The biggest lessons learned from them] is to seriously pursue the career you choose with honesty and integrity. And always to have faith in and trust God.

9. Rafael D. Consing Jr.

CEO, Maharlika Investment Corp.

I consider former Finance Secretary Lito Camacho as my main mentor in my continuing Career.

I worked under him for four years at Bankers Trust — in Manila and in Singapore. And we have remained friends all these years.

Continually, I seek his advice — for things professional and personal. So, I could say that he has truly guided me through my career over the years.

With respect to my personal life, he has always been ready with this reminder: A person is incomplete, even if he is a great success in a material sense, until his family is complete.

Like a true big brother – every time we spoke – Lito has reminded me about having a great family life. I believe him. After all, I have also witnessed how devoted he is to Mrs. Camacho. That’s an inspiring fact.

Regarding my career – from my years managing banks here and abroad to joining a conglomerate like ICTSI – and now entering government service — Lito has always emphasized that I should be sure always to speak and act with integrity. This is a brief advice with volumes of implications for me to remain true and honest in my government career.

Let me say now that Secretary Camacho is one of the few people I trusted with my major decisions. It was he who encouraged me to apply for the role of Maharlika President and CEO. Heed his advice I did.

10. Emmanuel Rubio

CEO, Aboitiz Power Corp.

There are two people whom I consider to be my mentors. I met both of them in my 20s at a very early stage in my professional career in another company. As both of them were my team leaders then, they set the tone for the leader I am now and the leader I still strive to be.

The first, who is a fellow Filipino, taught me how to manage people, how to negotiate, and how to conduct myself in the corporate world. The second, who is an Australian CEO, showed me how to be a model leader; one who sets clear expectations and defines boundaries, or in other words one who is fair but firm. I hope that in a lot of ways I embody those characteristics.

I also hope that I have the same effect towards my team members in AboitizPower, or at the very least that I have the capability to connect our young professionals with the right mentor for them.

Such is the practice in AboitizPower, hinged on the belief that when young minds are mentored by proven industry experts — as well as inspired by a shared vision and guided by the same set of priorities — we are genuinely leaving the company a better place than when we found it.

11. Robert B. Jordan Jr.

CEO, Asialink Finance Corp.

During my tenure at UCPB, I had the privilege of working under the guidance of an exceptional mentor in the Lending Division. Over the course of my seven-year tenure at the bank, my former boss imparted invaluable knowledge and expertise regarding the intricacies of the lending process. Renowned for his stringent teaching methods and disciplined approach, he instilled in me a strong work ethic and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

One of my former boss’s most remarkable qualities was his unwavering attention to detail. His ability to meticulously analyze and delve deep into business and financial aspects has proven to be an invaluable skill that I have skillfully applied in my current capacity as the CEO of a lending company.

In essence, my former boss at the Lending Division in UCPB not only served as an exceptional mentor but also equipped me with the necessary tools and insights to excel.

12. Kevin Tan

CEO, Alliance Global Group

My father [Andrew Tan] has set the bar very, very high. There are strong expectations within the family and even within the organization to carry his vision through, and even chart a new vision for our group of companies. Obviously, all those thoughts continue to resonate in my mind.

But it’s good that my father tries to keep the environment light. He’s very understanding, and so is the organization, which allows me to charter our own course, with their guidance of course. It also encourages new ideas and new thinking, especially in this day and age. The pressure, if you think about it, is there, but the atmosphere is very progressive and very conducive to progress.

As for lessons, two things: always uphold the value of integrity, and respect seniority and hierarchy in the organization.” For the first one, my dad always emphasizes that integrity is not only a culture but also a company and family-wide commitment. There can be no exceptions at any point in time.

You have to be consistent with integrity so that you will always set a high standard and an example to the hundreds or thousands of people who work in your organization.

Next, respecting hierarchy in the organization. You must respect the experience and the tenure of the people who have been with the company for a long time. Regardless of whether these senior executives are family members or professionals, if they have shown loyalty and a deep understanding of the business and its processes, you must follow their authority completely.

You cannot meddle or distort the leadership structure just like that, just because your family owns the company.

Ramon Ang

Ramon Ang

13. Ramon S. Ang

CEO, San Miguel Corp

I’ve had the privilege of learning from many, but if I were to name my biggest mentor, it would be Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. From him, I learned the importance of hard work, patience, and ‘malasakit’. His constant question, ‘What more can we do for our country and our people?’, has deeply influenced my approach in business, reminding me that success isn’t just about profits, but about making a positive impact on our fellow countrymen.

I see this next phase of my life as an opportunity to do more in terms of creating jobs, enhancing food security and improving the quality of life for our people. Ultimately, I would like to be able to leave a legacy that ensures the next generation inherits a Philippines that is not only stronger but also more prosperous.

Manuel V. Pangilinan

Manuel V. Pangilinan

14. Manuel V. Pangilinan

CEO, Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

After my mother, my influential mentor was my Philosophy professor at the Ateneo—Fr Roque Ferriols, S.J. He opened my mind into the meaning and richness of Insight, Abstraction, and Concepts, Metaphysics especially Ontology—the nature of being, and the ability to hold these opposing concepts together.

In my last thesis defense with him—St Thomas Aquinas and Descartes—he admonished me for giving a theoretical example—”Mr Pangilinan, why can’t you be more human?

That says it all about Fr Ferriols.

Edgar “Injap” Sia

Edgar “Injap” Sia

15. Edgar “Injap” Sia

CEO, MerryMart Consumer and Double Dragon Corp.

My parents are my biggest and deepest personal mentor. During my formative years, they ingrained in me and my siblings old-fashioned core values and principles such as discipline, determination, integrity, hard work, courage and humility.

They have also tacked in my mindset the vital importance of creating a significant lasting net positive impact to the society and my fellowmen. They have also taught me to always be patient and be kind as possible but never be a pushover.

My parents also showed me the value of perseverance, to be steadfast and to always take a long-term view, which has greatly benefited me as I stayed on course during the roller-coaster nature of building startup businesses multiple times, and nurturing them for many years to become sturdy and durable. And most importantly, I am most grateful to my parents for teaching me the value of keeping my feet on the ground no matter what place destiny would bring me to.

16. Eduardo Francisco

President, BDO Capital & Investment Corp.

Nestor Tan is my biggest mentor. He has a clear strategy and focuses on implementation. He is very logical and quick in understanding issues and finding solutions.

Many other institutions keep on redefining and changing their strategy. The strategy he set over two decades is still valid. What helped BDO achieve success is his leadership and ensuring we execute and keep our customer focus.

Lester Yu

Lester Yu

17. Lester Yu

CEO, Fruitas Holdings and Balai Ni Fruitas

Mr. Warren Buffet. I learned the snowball effect after I read his biography written by Alice Schroeder.

The snowball effect is about compounding gains while staying consistent. We just keep rolling the investment and growing. Instead of spending on luxury which just provides instant gratification, we continually invest in the business.

We keep on investing bit by bit until growth is multiplied. This formula makes it more likely you will hit the jackpot one day.

Fabian Dee

Fabian Dee

18. Fabian Dee

President, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.

I have been blessed to have several mentors in the industry who have been instrumental in my career. My first bosses were two consummate and brilliant bankers who were tough as nails: Pabs Yap and Butch Alcantara.

As I progressed, I met new mentors who became critical in molding me: Security Bank Chairman Emeritus Frederick Dy, Metrobank Founder and Group Chairman Dr. George SK Ty, Mrs. Mary Ty and of course, the one who sharpened and polished me and took the biggest chance by making me Metrobank president—our Chairman Arthur Ty.

Pabs Yap and Butch Alcantara challenged me with tasks that were, at that time, too big for a fresh grad young banker like me. I learned to face loan restructuring challenges and had to pursue new business generating opportunities during very tough market conditions.

With Mr. Dy, he taught me how to think like an entrepreneur, develop the appetite for risk taking, and the strategy of always having a second way out. He challenged me to do unfamiliar things. After I joined Metrobank, Dr. Ty and Mrs. Ty exposed me further to multiple and unfamiliar roles, and I learned from them how to lead with both discipline, humility, and malasakit as a servant leader.

Finally, our current chairman, Arthur Ty, took the ultimate bet on me by appointing me as Metrobank’s President.

In doing so, he taught me what he learned from our dear Group Chair, which helped further sharpen my capability to think holistically and to always have the mindset of thinking how things will impact the business and our people further down the road.

Today, I pass on these lessons from my different mentors as I coach different teams and make sure the next generation of Metrobankers are ready for their own leadership challenges and journey.

Peza OIC Tereso Panga

Tereso Panga

19. Tereso Panga

Director General, Philippine Economic Zone Authority

Hands down, my most influential mentor would be Atty. Lilia B. De Lima as she was the one who brought me in when I joined Peza in 1998.

We worked together for 18 years where she led Peza to become a top performing agency in government until her retirement in 2016. Like an effective mentor to his mentees, Atty. De Lima guided me with my career path through immersion in key planning and operations groups and as I rose from the ranks in the organization.

Among the valuable lessons and workplace discipline that I imbibed from her include : adoption of agency core values such as honesty, integrity and utmost service; walk the talk principle for greater credibility and accountability; participative management in building consensus and promoting high-involvement practices; and, transformational leadership in advocating for change and game-changer strategies.

Without her, I will not be the Peza director general that I am today.

From her, I learned that leadership is a total package. And that you have to have this aura or image that you can lead based on previous achievements or government posting or positions. Success is incremental and not achieved overnight. In the same vein, the image of being able to lead is created by decisions upon decisions which over time made positive impact to the organization.

Leadership should be consistent and unwavering. One should be resolute in achieving the organizations mandate. Performers should be recognized, and slackers should be disciplined but should be allowed to realize their worth in the organization if still capable of contributing to the overall aim; if not, they should find a place that suit them.

I learned that in promoting the Philippines as an investment haven, investors have to be treated special. Maybe that is the reason why their intended locations are called special economic zones. DG De Lima coined the no red tape, but only red-carpet treatment.

That the key to investors eventually locating in our ecozones, is not only investment promotion but trade facilitation, which simply means ease of doing business.

And then collaboration with government agencies. DG De Lima, was into collaboration when even before the whole of government approach became a buzzword in government bureaucracy.

20. Antonilo DC Mauricio

General Manager, National Development Co.

My most influential mentor is my dad. He was patient and circumspect in giving his opinions. He was quite my opposite, and I continue to understand him and his actions better as I get older. I have a new and deeper appreciation of his actions then.

My dad was Antonio SA Mauricio Sr, nicknamed Tony. We share the same birthday but he couldn’t name me Tony because he already had a Jr, my older brother. My dad passed in 2009. My dad and I were opposites, so even now I am learning more from him in hindsight, as I grow older.

He was patient and considerate and forgiving. He would be deliberate in his actions and not prone to making rash decisions. As a father of five boys, he was strict and tried to treat us fairly.

The single most important lesson that he taught me was to try to have a lighter touch in treating people. Using that lesson, I am more circumspect when giving people my opinions, especially when it is not sought.

I am more deliberate, knowing that my actions affect people’s lives. I have to balance empathy and consideration with justice and fairness. For example, even if the personal circumstances of an underperforming staff is hard, it is unfair to the govt and people to keep them on. We just soften the blow with kindness and whatever we can give officially and personally.

Steven Tan (right) with the late SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr.

Steven Tan (right) with the late SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr.

21. Steven Tan

President, SM Supermalls

My most influential mentor was Henry Sy Sr.

I met him when I joined SM back in 2004 but it was during the first two years when MOA opened that I interacted with him very closely.

He would call me every afternoon to meet him at Starbucks MOA and for 30 minutes every afternoon around 2pm, he would share with me some life lessons and how people behave and move inside the shopping center.

Those lessons up till these days I bring with me and when I encounter some challenges and difficulties. I’d ask myself “how would Tatang handle this?”

And more often than not, it would be the best decision.

Anna Ma. Margarita Dy

Anna Ma. Margarita Dy

22. Anna Ma. Margarita Dy

President, Ayala Land Inc.

I have been fortunate to work with very supportive bosses, especially during my 18 years in Ayala Land.

Jim Ayala somehow saw something in me and got me on board ALI so many years ago. Tony Aquino set such high standards for the organization that I was able to accomplish things even if I didn’t think I could.

Bobby Dy was the boss I worked with the longest. He is the best thought partner one could ask for. He is cool in times of crisis, he has a long-term view, he is objective and always fair.

I have a lot to be thankful for to Jim, Tony and Bobby. I wouldn’t be here without them.

Eugene Acevedo

Eugene Acevedo

23. Eugene Acevedo

President and CEO, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

I had the good fortune of having over a dozen mentors. Among my Filipino mentors I would pick Arcus Fernando as most influential.

Arcus was a kuya figure in the Citibank dealing room where he was two years ahead of me. He later became Treasurer and i was his head of corporate sales and structuring.

He taught me crisis management by example – preaching clarity of thought and dogged execution. This was useful during the global financial crisis when I was assigned abroad. And he insisted on keeping strategies simple, not accepting anything longer than one page. If I can’t be concise, then I didn’t really understand the business.

I also watched him up close as a highly admired and respected leader.

Delfin Angelo Wenceslao

Delfin Angelo Wenceslao

24. Delfin Angelo Wenceslao

CEO, DM Wenceslao and Associates Inc.

My mentor was definitely my dad, our late chairman, Ding Wenceslao.

For as long as I can remember, we would have regular Sunday meetings after dinner where he would talk about the company (and his projects) and ask us about our interests and goals. My dad always instilled in us – me and my brothers – that he was building this business for us, the next generation.

The biggest lessons I learned from him are:

1. “Everything worth doing in life is hard”. – I think this guides me in most things. Our business is an effort business. The more effort you put in, the better the product, the easier it is to sell, the better your numbers will be.

2. You can’t do everything! -Find good people to work with and invest in long term relationships. Good partners are hard to find so when you find the right client, supplier, contractor, treat them fairly.

Marco Antonio

Marco Antonio

25. Marco R. Antonio

President and CEO, Century Properties Group Inc.

The mentor who had the most profound impact on shaping my journey toward eventually becoming a CEO is undoubtedly my father, Amb. Jose E.B. Antonio, the founder and executive chairman of Century Properties.

His guidance and wisdom have been invaluable throughout my professional and personal development. Under his mentorship, I not only gained essential skills but also imbibed the importance of integrity, resilience, and innovation in the corporate world.

My brothers – Jigger, Robbie, Carlo – and I were immersed in the business from a young age.

Growing up, Century Properties played a significant role in our lives, shaping our upbringing and instilling in us a deep understanding of the industry. We bore witness how he was very hands on with the company, with all employees, and how he led by example. He not only deeply-ingrained discipline in us but he also trained us to be good leaders.

Dad started Century with only six people back in the 80s, and by leading through example he’s successful in not only growing the business but also getting all of us involved in the business. He really inspired us to put our hearts into continuing his legacy. All these and more make me truly honored to be given this role as the company’s President and CEO.

The lessons I’ve gleaned from my father are myriad, but some paramount principles that are part of my core and consistently resonate in my mind are the values of putting Passion, Creativity, and Innovation in everything that we do. This is why it’s been in Century Properties’ DNA. Adding to these is being a good father. These virtues, epitomized by our dad, were ingrained in us from an early age.

Through the years dedicated to propelling the company forward and serving the country, I observed how he navigated numerous challenges with humility and a grateful heart.

Our dad continues to inspire me as he contributes to the Philippines in the diplomatic corps as an ambassador-at-large. I wish to emulate his many traits, especially being a good parent, and impart the same to my kids.

Alvin Lao

Alvin Lao

26. Alvin Lao

CEO,  D&L Industries

It’s really my dad, Leon, and uncles because they are the first generation that started the business.

One thing I always remember is their reminder for us to look at oneself in the mirror. That means to examine ourselves honestly and reflect, to not be overconfident and to stay grounded in reality.

Another lesson is that there is no shortcut to success. It’s really hard work, dedication and persistence. One example is D&L’s food business, which is probably 60 percent of revenues today. But when it started it was losing money for the first eight years. But there was a vision, there was a target and the company kept working to achieve this.

Cosette Canilao

Cosette Canilao

27. Cosette Canilao

President and CEO, Aboitiz InfraCapital

I consider various people at pivotal stages of my professional life as my mentors. They left strong impressions that are now part of my make up.

May Siy (now CEO of PBCom), my first boss. She hired me right out of college. I almost didn’t join because I had to relocate to Manila but she made arrangements for me to be hired out of the headquarters. She paved the way and gave me challenging assignments despite me being a rookie.

My lady bosses at Plantersbank, Aida Gadin and Bess Umali. They showed me how to be successful at work while also being a strong pillar in their respective homes. Very strong corporate women, hardworking, courageous and so put together.

Dette Ratcliffe, who opened my mind to pursuing higher education when I got listless at work, and even though I already had a young child then.

The late Secretart Cayetano Paderanga, he got me into government service, and though I couldn’t see it then, was very insistent that my professional background was perfect for the [Public Private Partnership] program. I remember while we were walking in the not so busy Eastwood then, he said that if we become successful with the PPP program, especially in cascading it to the local government units, business districts all over the country would be teeming with people. He was very sharp and discerning, a good judge of character.

Arrey Perez

Arrey Perez

28. Arrey A. Perez

President and CEO, Clark International Airport Corp.

[My mentor was] Vivencio “Vince” Dizon,  my former president and CEO during the Duterte Administration. I was then the vice president for business development at the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

Working with him in building the New Clark City Sports Complex and organizing the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines really pushed me to my limits as key senior management of the PHISGOC (Philippine SEA Games Organizational Committee).

From Vince, I learned leadership by example and being hands-on to get things done, especially because we were really ambitious and set lofty goals for ourselves: building a new metropolis in Clark, including CRK, and the National Government Administrative Center (NGAC), among others. We dived deep, studied and designed concrete strategies of implementation, set feasible milestones, and involved ourselves in all aspects of the work to make sure everything materialized as envisioned.

We also worked together during the pandemic by volunteering to handle the first COVID-19 repatriates from Wuhan, China. It took a lot of courage and a lot of work under very difficult circumstances to build new quarantine facilities and convert existing buildings to serve our national public health response. We also developed COVID-19 guidelines to ensure business continuity in all of the bases managed by BCDA such as Clark, John Hay, and Poro Point. We created safe havens during the pandemic, such that we became key members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. I was eventually appointed as Director for Oplan Kalinga-NTF, which managed isolation of COVID-19 patients in grassroots communities across the country, and I also became the director for bubble sports events such as the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and PBA Season 45.

All of these built me up to take on the work I now have the privilege and responsibility to take on in CIAC. In this new era, I consider my strategic adviser, Patrick “Pato” Gregorio, my mentor as well. He has been instrumental in so many massive PPP projects and has contributed extensively to sports development and tourism efforts on a national scale. We have big plans for the 2,367 hectares of the Civil Aviation Complex, and we’ve already made headway with various networks and organizations to set them up. Now, I am just excited to do the work that we need to do to build CIAC as a trailblazer in development innovations and overall economic reinvigoration in the years ahead. We’ll be working non-stop, but we’re ready for takeoff.

Chito Salazar

Chito Salazar

29. Chito B. Salazar

President and COO, Phinma Corp.

My father, Professor Meliton Salazar of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), was of course my role model growing up. AIM was founded in 1968 by prominent business leaders of the Philippines and the Harvard Business School and academics, including my father.

He served as a case method teacher and was known to ask many challenging questions of his students. He’s the reason I became exposed to the importance of education at an early age. He liked to say, “It is more important to know the right questions to ask. The answers may become irrelevant, but knowing what questions to ask opens to new opportunities to learn.”

I bring this with me until now as we tackle new challenges. For us, it always begins with asking, “How will this help our students?”

Mr. Anton Huang, SSI Group Inc. President - 3

Anton Huang

30. Anton Huang

President, SSI Group Inc.

My grandparents, Lolo Benny and Lola Glecy Tantoco, stand as pillars whose vision has not only shaped my journey but has also opened a realm of possibilities for countless Filipinos. Their foresight has positioned us uniquely, enabling us to elevate taste, spark desire and inspiration, and empower every Filipino to lead a meticulously curated life.

Their unwavering commitment to the retail industry has profoundly influenced my path. Growing up amid their passion and dedication, I absorbed a deep appreciation for the art of teaching Filipinos about refined taste. They played a pivotal role in introducing the world to the beauty of the Philippines, instilling in me a profound love for the retail industry.

This love and commitment have become the driving force behind our family’s mission—to offer only the best in lifestyle experiences, thereby enhancing the lives of every Filipino. It is a lesson I continue to learn and live by daily. Our business, founded on their principles, has been instrumental in shaping the discerning taste of the Filipino shopper, infusing meaning into the concept of lifestyle.

Our unique position allows us to shape markets, set trends, and cultivate a life well-lived for the Filipino people. Through our endeavors, we strive to connect Filipinos with global possibilities, unlocking the potential for self-expression through personal style. My grandparents’ legacy lives on, guiding us to empower individuals and leave an indelible mark on the landscape of Philippine retail.

Three fundamental life lessons guide me in steering our business, forming the foundation of my leadership philosophy.

Firstly, I emphasize the significance of passion in all endeavors. It serves as the propellant for success, with fulfillment as its ultimate outcome. As the torchbearer of my grandparents’ retail legacy, my mission is to ensure the business not only thrives but evolves into an innovative, sustainable, and productive enterprise. Our unique position allows us to shape the choices and enrich the lives of Filipinos, and with passion as our driving force, we persist in our mission of providing curated options for a fulfilled life.

Secondly, I firmly believe that a family business must operate with professionalism and ethics at its core. Personal agendas have no place in the business landscape, as they compromise its integrity. Regardless of scale, a business should adhere to a value system and moral compass, in our case, guided by the Tantoco family’s principles.

The emphasis on family and service, instilled by our grandparents, permeates our organization, treating everyone—be it boutique managers, store clerks, IT technicians, or brand practitioners—as part of the SSI family. United in our mission, we provide customers with extraordinary retail experiences through our unique brand of service.

Lastly, adaptability and an openness to change are vital in navigating the evolving landscape of consumer behavior. Over the years, Filipino consumers have become more discerning, placing a premium on experience and satisfaction. Mere product availability is no longer sufficient; we must immerse the Filipino shopper in a journey that enriches every moment.

Our resilience as an organization lies in our ability to not just accept but embrace change. Whether through the integration of new technologies for shopper convenience, the implementation of streamlined processes for seamless transactions, or the cultivation of a transformative mindset causing a paradigm shift in our company culture, we remain attuned to change as an opportunity for growth and progress.

Louie Ferrer

Louie Ferrer

31. Louie Ferrer

Vice chairman, Megawide Construction Corp.

Since Edgar Saavedra, Oliver Tan (now Citicore Power President) and I had no “serious” corporate experience before Megawide, we were all learning while doing the actual work. We’re incidental leaders in that Megawide grew so fast and we had to face challenges that were beyond our experience at the time.

We keep each other on track and, when needed, in check. In that sense, Ed and Oli are also like my mentors. And because we often enter new industries, we also learn from team members who are experts in their fields like airport and landport operations. We make time to understand the work they do.

Edgar and I have been friends since college. The turning point was when I was appointed president of our airport company in 2014. None of us had airport experience then but we had to rise to the occasion. We are always honest about our feedback, at times brutally, but we don’t take offense because we’re friends and at the end of the day, the job needs to get done.

We often hear balance is key, but in life and in business there’s really no way to achieve a perfect balance – more so if you’re an entrepreneur or the head of a business. That’s the reality. You just need to find a balance that’s acceptable to you, and your stakeholders. This will help you manage the challenges that come your way, and help you move forward in the direction you choose.

Edgar Saavedra

Edgar Saavedra

32. Edgar Saavedra

CEO, Megawide Construction Corp.

I started my own business when I was only 22 years old and a fresh graduate. My biggest influence at the time and until now is my family, especially my dad. We were very close. He influenced my mindset as an entrepreneur, he trained me informally in business early on. We had to work in every summer in Zamboanga, and while in school we still did errands regularly.

He taught me that challenges and failures are part of business. Of course you feel pain when you fail, but what’s important is for you to understand the lessons that came from the failure so you can do better. This is how I learned to value relationships more than money. Now that I’m older, I realize the trust your partners place in you is worth so much more in the long term. We’ve had many partnerships over the years and from experience, I can say that good relationships grow into good business. I look for partners who share common values and common cultures with our companies.

My dad made sure that we knew the ins and outs of the business so that we were capable. I didn’t realize it then, but I now see the importance of empowering people and managing an organization properly. As CEO, you need the know-how but you also need to have capable and committed people to achieve your goals and move the company forward. The business is not just about you – it’s about the people around you.

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With reports from Meg Adonis, Tyrone Jasper Piad, Ian Nicolas Cigaral, Alden M. Monzon

TAGS: Business

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