Lifestyle Business

Emilio Yap’s rags-to-riches saga

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

We learned about honesty and integrity — that the truth matters... that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules... and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square. —Michelle Obama


There are no shortcuts to real success and it is tragic that those who vainly seek get-rich-quick schemes often end up with zilch. The idea that there are no shortcuts to success applies not only to business and the need to accumulate capital as well as expertise and good credit standing, but this principle also applies to all vocations, even to the arts, sports and public service via politics.

The life of the immigrant, self-made billionaire Dr. Emilio T. Yap exemplifies this over seven decades of painstaking hard work, perseverance, attention to detail, calculated risk-taking and frugality. He was a generous philanthropist to diverse civic causes and was looked up to as a leader of the local Chinese community.

Whenever I saw him at dinners he hosted, whether in his executive office with its really long dining table for VIP dignitaries or at Manila Hotel events, I’d ask him what his longevity secrets were. Yap would always reply with a laugh: “Have a clean conscience and help a lot of people, so you can sleep soundly every night.” I learned that he also maintained a very disciplined lifestyle.

Former University of the Philippines president Dr. Emil Javier recounted that when he and alumni officials visited Yap to solicit a donation for their proposed Ang Bahay ng Alumni Building at UP Diliman in Quezon City, they were surprised when Yap called his senior executives to join in. He asked each executive what year they graduated from UP, then Yap donated P1 million each in the name of those executives for that building project.

JG Summit Holdings, Inc. founder John L. Gokongwei Jr. told me that throughout the centuries, many of the pioneers in Philippine socio-economic development and various industries have been first-generation “rags-to-riches” Chinese immigrants. One example of this was the late 88-year-old media, shipping, and banking taipan Dr. Yap, who passed away on April 7.

At a recent private dinner with young Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs of Anvil Business Club, Philippine STAR president Miguel Go Belmonte mentioned that he respects the Yap family, which owns the Manila Bulletin, and also the Rufino-Prieto family, which owns the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Emilio Yap’s other businesses included Philtrust Bank, Centro Escolar University, Euro-Med pharmaceutical and The Manila Hotel.

Born in Fujian province in south China, Yap started working for others as a trader at a shop in Dumaguete City and later during World War II as a master cutter at a T-shirt factory in Manila. When he went on his own as an entrepreneur, he became a trader of threads, ballpoint pens and watches.  He mentioned to me that he sold pens.

After World War II, Yap made a fortune as a trader when he bought and sold surplus vehicles like wartime US trucks and military jeeps in the late 1940s. A businessman who supported the talented Yap was my late father’s cousin, the late sawmill entrepreneur Dy Bun Chin (also known as Dy U Bong), whose grandson, top-notch dentist Dr. Joseph Dy Lim, is head of Dr. Smile Dental Clinic and dean of the dental college of his dental patient Henry Sy’s National University. 

Yap eventually went into shipping in 1960, was invited in 1961 to invest in Manila Bulletin by the late Swiss-Jewish tycoon Hans Menzi, and invested in Philtrust Bank in 1978.

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A Filipino entrepreneur has been honored with the title of “Honorary Ambassador at Large” by Guam and his expertise as a pioneer in public-private partnerships (years ago known as “build operate transfer” or BOT) is being sought. An accountant by education, Cezar T. Quiambao is the prime mover behind such infrastructure projects as the Skyway, Star Tollway, and the computerization of the Land Transportation Office.

A professional who became an entrepreneur, Quiambao started his career in the pharmaceutical industry as a financial and accountancy executive. He then joined the wood products industry in Indonesia, serving as executive vice president of PT Green Timber Jaya from 1977 to 1982. In 1984, he ventured into the Indonesian construction industry, where he was involved in major projects up to 1993. Quiambao was a key figure in several major foreign-funded road projects in Sumatra and Java. He also managed the construction of the Lhoksumawe airfield conceived by Mobil Oil to serve the needs of the world’s largest natural gas processing complex in Sumatra.

It was in the mid-1990s that Quiambao, as chairman and CEO of Strategic Alliance Holdings, Inc. (SAHI), conceptualized and structured the partnership between the Citra Group of Indonesia and the state-owned Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) to develop the US$514 million Metro Manila Skyway Project, which would build the Philippines’ first elevated expressway.

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Thanks for your feedback! E-mail [email protected]. or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

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