The Rags-to-Riches Success Story of Manny Pangilinan

Another inspiring story of a successful man is the very own story of Manny Pangilinan. Popular to many and to the business industry as MVP, Manny admitted that he has undergone as series of trials and hardships in his life before he was able to achieve what he have now. Let us all ponder and be inspired on the story of how Manny strived really hard to be the best person he is now.

Manny Pangilinan, born in July 14, 1946, is now a well-known Filipino Businessman. He grew up in the streets of Manila, and because of that, he already has witnessed the different realities of life. He grew up in a not-so well off family. His father was then a messenger at a bank, and his grandfather was just a simple high school principal. They did not belong in the upper strata of the society then. He took up his primary and secondary education at San Beda College under a scholarship. He said that during those days, he needed to be moneywise, because it not, he might have ended up walking home or hungry because he was only given P10 as allowance for a day. Furthermore, he said that he needed to be careful with every cent because they were hard earned by his  parents. Going to college was also not that easy. His parents cannot still shoulder his expenses alone, so he applied again for a scholarship at Ateneo de Manila University. He took up a degree in Economics and graduated as a Cum Laude.

It was a sure future ahead, some would say. But Manny said that it is not done and fulfilled yet. He said that he needed to study still. So he asked his father if he can study MBA, abroad. His parents, unfortunately said NO because they clearly cannot afford it, so if he really wants to study abroad, he alone must find a way. Luckily, there was a rare opportunity offered by Procter & Gamble. They hosted a national competition where the winner would have the opportunity to study abroad for free. Manny joined, and he fortunately won. He then flew to study at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He finished his MBA at the said University in 1968. After studying there, he finally realized that it’s time to go out there and test all the learnings he have acquired from the academe and from those two-decades of continuous studying.

Believing that he now can, applied at P&G for a managerial position. However, his application was turned down. Why? Because he was a fresh graduate with no experience yet. But he did not wallow on that rejection, and instead he continue on finding a job. Luckily, he was accepted at Phinma Corporation, as the Executive Assistant to the President. It was good job, which paid him P1000/month. After six years of staying in that company, he then realized that it’s time to go out. So right there and then, he decided to work abroad. He thought of Hong Kong at that very instant. When asked why, he said that he’s just like anybody else then – excited to explore other’s culture, the beauty and glamor of working overseas. But above all these, he said that what drove him to work abroad was his need to find himself. He wanted to realize and get hold of his potentials without the limits of “what is”. He wanted to pursue independence because only through that he can experience, resiliency and flexibility. So despite his family’s cold thought on the matter, he asserted his independence.

Upon arriving at Hong Kong, he was immediately recruited by Bancom International, a Philippine Investment Bank based in Hong Kong. It was a great experience for him because learned a lot from his Chinese Colleagues about the dynamics of international finance. Right after Bancom International, he was sent to work with American Express. Manny was doing very good, and he was putting all of his effort in his work. So when AMEX is about to promote and appoint a new CEO, Manny did believed that it’s going to be him. But he was not appointed. He was really disappointed about the company and about himself for not getting the position. Right after that moment of depression he rethink about what he should do next. Stay abroad or just go home? At 30, it was one of the difficult and life changing decisions he has ever done. He continued working for AMEX; not just because he still wanted the job, but to prove to himself that he’s stronger than his disappointment, and that AMEX is blind to the talent and dedication of the Filipinos. True enough, after four years, he was called for a promotion to work in London. This time, he happily declined, because he felt like never leaving home again, the Asia.

In 1981, Manny founded First Pacific still in Hong Kong. Starting only with a small capital, Manny has received a lot of help from his friends whom he all got to know for years of working in the region. First Pacific started only with six people, 50 square meters of office space and with that little capital. But since he has friends who supported his idea on regional banking and trading business, Manny was able to expand the business. Today, the companies that constitute First Pacific have sales of $5 billion, with more than 60,000 employees across the region.

In 1998, after 22 years of working abroad, Manny then decided to come home to the Philippines. He then took over Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), one of today’s most stable and most profitable companies in the Philippines. But, taking over and scrapping the old values of the company has been hard for Manny. Before him, PLDT was a company governed by values which are bad for any business. It has been defined by ‘lousy’ and ‘corrupt’ business practices, which Manny primarily changed. When he came back, he ordered to lay off individuals who do not fit for the new set of values he was instituting in the company. It was a crucial period for the company because from 14,000 to 9,000 employees. It was a rough transition but Manny managed. Today, PLDT lives on the principles of Transparency, Accountability, Integrity, and Discipline. PLDt has indeed morphed into the more stable company that it is today.

Aside from PLDT, Manny also owns and manages a lot more companies including TV5 or the Kapatid Network, Philex Mining, Philex Petroleum,  and Metro Pacific Investment Corporations. Indeed, Manny has come a long long way from his roots. On one of his speeches, here’s his message for all the aspiring youths out there…

“Keep it real. Stay true to what’s best in yourself, to the best of your experience… Trust your instincts. Believe in yourself. Engage in sports, you’ll need it as you age. Make art, or at least, value it. Be brave. Be bold. Find something that moves you or pisses you off, but do something about it. You have a voice, speak up.

Take a stand for what’s right. Make a change. You may not always be popular, but you’ll be part of something larger and greater than yourself.

And as a final statement, let us all be a person who is like Manny. Let’s not wallow and be eaten in this sickening system of poverty. To quote Manny once again, “I was born poor, but poor was not born in me. And it shouldn’t be born in you either. You can make it. Whatever you may wish to do with your future, you can make it. It gets dark sometimes, but morning comes always. Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end, faith will not disappoint. You must not disappoint”. Just believe in yourself!

Leave a Reply