Manny V. Pangilinan is one of the biggest names in the Philippine business scene, whose initials stand for the most-sought after award in a sport competition. MVP, as he is often called, is the best player in his own game, and has proven how will and determination can get anyone a great shot at success.
Mr. Pangilinan, who is turning 72 years old tomorrow, has achieved a lot in life. He is currently at the driver’s seat of many of the country’s biggest and most influential business entities that contribute significantly to nation building, including Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC); PLDT, Inc.; MediaQuest Holdings, Inc.; Philex Mining Corp.; Manila Electric Co. (Meralco); and Maynilad Water Services, Inc.
Behind MVP’s awe-inspiring accomplishments is a tale of struggle and adversity. Unlike other business personalities who inherited a good fortune from their families, Mr. Pangilinan started from nothing. His journey to success was not easy; he also stumbled and suffered from failures.
Born on July 14, 1946, Mr. Pangilinan is the second son of Dominador Pangilinan, who was a messenger at Philippine National Bank, and Soledad Velez-Pangilinan, who was a homemaker. They lived with his grandparents for a while in Sampaloc, Manila and soon transferred to Little Baguio, in San Juan.
“Our house stood right on the boundary of a squatter settlement. But from my bedroom window, I could see, smell, and feel the lives of the real poor,” Mr. Pangilinan said during a commencement address to the graduating students of Philippine Women’s University in 2013, recalling his early life as a student, a professional manager, an overseas Filipino worker and a successful entrepreneur.
Mr. Pangilinan said that he owed much of his achievements to education. In his elementary and secondary years, he was a scholar at San Beda College, where he only had a daily allowance of 25 centavos for snacks and bus fare.
He continued his tertiary education at one the most reputable and expensive universities in the country, Ateneo de Manila University. While a lot of his classmates had cars and others even had their own drivers, he only had a P10 weekly allowance. Despite the lack of financial support, Mr. Pangilinan graduated cum laude with an economics degree.
“After college at Ateneo, I wanted an MBA in the United States. But I knew no money was available for this. So I had to find a way myself. Fortunately, Procter and Gamble offered a rare scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. It was a national competition. I entered and won,” Mr. Pangilinan said.
The professional career of Mr. Pangilinan started after he completed his studies abroad. He began as an executive assistant to the president of a local gas company, Fil Oil, with a salary of P1,000 a month. After several years, he decided to try his luck abroad, where he worked for a Philippine investment bank based in Hong Kong, Bancom International, and later on, for a joint venture investment bank with American Express.
In 1981, Mr. Pangilinan, with the help of some clients he met in the region, founded the First Pacific Company Limited in a 50-square-meter office space in Hong Kong. From a small enterprise, having only six people, First Pacific grew into a large investment management and holding company with key interests in consumer food products, infrastructure, natural resources and telecommunications. The company is now earning billions of dollars a year and employs more than 102,000 people as of December 2017.
At present, Mr. Pangilinan is still at the helm of First Pacific as its managing director and chief executive officer. The company’s portfolio has a balance of more mature assets in various corporations from different countries, including MPIC, which Mr. Pangilinan chairs.
MPIC is a leading infrastructure holding company in the Philippines, with investments in the country’s largest electricity distributor, hospital group, toll road operator and water distributor. It also holds significant investments in logistics and light rail operations, and in the largest electricity generator in the Visayas region. MPIC is committed to investing through acquisitions and strategic partnerships in prime infrastructure assets with the potential to provide synergies with its existing operations.
Through the years, Mr. Pangilinan received various accolades and recognition for his outstanding accomplishments in business and in philanthropy. Among of these are the Presidential Pamana ng Pilipino Award by the Office of the President of the Philippines in 1996; Best CEO in the Philippines by Institutional Investor in 2004; CEO of the Year (Philippines) by Biz News Asia in 2004; People of the Year by People Asia Magazine in 2004; Distinguished World Class Businessman Award by the Association of Makati Industries, Inc. in 2005; Management Man of the Year by the Management Association of the Philippines in 2005; Order of Lakandula (Rank of a Komandante) by the Office of the President of the Philippines in 2006; one of the Heroes of Philanthropy by Forbes in 2009; and Global Filipino Executive of the Year by Asia CEO Awards in 2010.
According to Mr. Pangilinan, there is no magic, mystery or secret recipe to success; it arises from old-fashioned values as basic as being honest and truthful, values as essential as working hard, playing fair, having goals and the discipline and determination to pursue them.
“Success is about passion. Passion to succeed, passion for excellence. Passion to compete. My Hong Kong experience taught me to believe that depth of commitment can overcome lack of resources. That a spirit of purpose can give impetus to human energy. That the power of ambition can set heroic goals and achieve them,” Mr. Pangilinan said.
“Two things will be inevitable in your lives — you will have successes and you will have failures. You must seize both for your constant betterment. Successes tell you that you can attain more successes in the future. Your failures tell you that you can survive, and move on. In the end, it is your character which counts.”