Mang Jaime lives at a make-shift nipa shack across our house by the creek. On farmers market days, he would get up early and harvest fresh shoots of kangkong (ipomoea_aquatica) and sell at Calabanga’s only public market. A bundle of the aquatic vegetable would earn him about five pesos (one peso is equivalent to US $0.0223 at the current exchange rate). Whatever money he gets from the sale of his bundles, he would buy bread and food for his family.
Mang Jaime dreamed of good life when he was young. He went to Metro Manila to find work and good fortune. But armed with guts and dream without good education as he didn’t finish high school, he was forced to accept odd jobs. With his youth and prime now gone, he went back to town and squat at the available space he can, a piece of land between the irrigation canal and the ricefields. There he set up his nipa hut.
We mention this in passing to give our readers a good comparison how marginally poor Bicolanos strive hard to make a living as compared to the wealthy in our society.
At least we can start absorbing the information below:
The Philippines’ 40 richest are now worth $22.8 billion, up 39 percent from $16.4 billion a year ago, according to the 2010 Forbes Asia Philippines rich list.
The buoyant economy, which grew 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, coupled with the 17-percent rise in the stock market since last year, contributed to the growth in wealth of the country’s richest tycoons.
The biggest dollar gainer this year and sitting firmly at pole position again is 85-year-old mall mogul Henry Sy. He has held the richest Filipino title four times, including this year, since Forbes Asia published the inaugural list of the country’s richest in 2006.
Sy is worth $5 billion, $1.2 billion more than last year. His wealth was boosted by his stock, SM investments, which is up more than 25 percent in the past year. The group is one of the country’s biggest conglomerates with interests in retail, mall operations and banking.
Staying put at No. 2 is Lucio Tan with $2.1 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2009. The 76-year-old tycoon owns a bevy of businesses, including Fortune Tobacco, Asia Brewery and Hong-Kong based Eton Properties.
Third on the list is first-time billionaire John Gokongwei Jr. The 83-year old is worth $1.5 billion, more than double his last year’s net worth of $720 million. His JG Summit Holding’s shares hit a two-year peak earlier this year, pushing his net worth into the 10-figure bracket. The stock rose partly on plans to list the group’s budget carrier, Cebu Pacific.
This year, there are five billionaires on the list, compared with three last year. In addition to the top three, Ayala Corp’s. Jaime Zobel de Ayala, who dropped a notch to No. 4 this year, is worth $1.4 billion, and Alliance Global Group’s Andrew Tan is again a billionaire, after a two-year hiatus, at No. 5 with $1.2 billion.
The top five tycoons are not the only ones who saw gains in their wealth; 28 others on the list also enjoyed growth in their net worths.
One notable winner is 89-year-old David Consunji, ranked No. 12, whose wealth again significantly increased for the second- straight year. His net worth soared to $715 million, up from $300 million in 2009 and $105 million in 2008, as his construction firm DMCI’s shares have more than doubled.
Bucking the trend, four tycoons are poorer compared with a year ago. Manuel Villar, who lost the Philippine presidential election in May, dropped to No. 17 with a reduced net worth of $380 million, down from $530 million last year; GMA Network’s Gilberto Duavit (No. 25, $145 million); Menardo Jimenez (No. 26, $143 million); and Felipe Gozon (No. 27, $120 million) also saw smaller fortunes this year.
There are two new faces on the list this year. The highest-ranking newcomer is former minister of Trade, Roberto Ongpin (No. 21, $300 million). He is part of an investor group that is poised to become the majority shareholder in San Miguel. The 73-year-old also has investments in property, gaming, mining and telecom. The other new entrant is Wilfredo Keng (No. 32, $100 million) who runs mining company Century Peak Metals.
The minimum net worth to make the list this year increased to $50 million, up from $38 million previously.
Now, how do you fare in this ranking?
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