Esther Vibal's secret for success
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - March 4, 2010 - 12:00am

On Monday, Esther A. Vibal will be honored with the first ever Go Negosyo-Philippine Center Inspiring Women of the Year award in recognition of her excellence in her field, and for embodying admirable traits, such as concern for women’s causes, care for the community, and integrity.

The award is part of the joint efforts of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) and the Philippine Council of Women (PCW) in mounting the second women negosyo summit with the theme “Babae, Tagumpay ka ng Bayan,” which will be held at the World Trade Center, Roxas Blvd., Manila. The theme centers on the objective “to empower Filipinas by uplifting the women micro and small entrepreneurs and addressing the issues and concerns that “womenpreneurs” face.  Presenting Esther the award will be President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Joey Concepcion, founding trustee of the PCE, and Myrna Yao, PCW chair.  

People who have seen Esther work appreciate the organizations’ recognition of her entrepreneurial and managerial skills. The Vibal name is a leader in the book publishing industry in the country.

Vibal Publishing House Inc. began with very little capital but with great determination, foresight and hard work. Esther was a writer for the women’s section editor at the newly-organized Manila Times, where her husband, the late respected Hilarion P. Vibal, was business editor. In 1953, Hilarion decided to set up his own company, which published specialized trade journals; after some time, Esther joined him and learned the ropes of running a publishing venture. When Hilarion passed away, Esther headed the company with an aggressive and results-oriented management style. She hired highly trained education specialists and writers, propelling Vibal Publishing House, Inc., into a leading developer and publisher of textbooks and instructional materials for elementary and high school students.The company soon grew into a multi-million peso corporation with sales offices in various regions of the country. Today, with some 400 employees and state-of-the-art printing facilities, Vibal Publishing continues to serve the needs of thousands of private schools.

Esther’s management style being to employ the best and latest technology, the company is now making a mark in digital publishing through Vibal Foundation’s Cybersmart Program which aims to harness technology for education. Under this program are four premiere websites: (Philippine digital library), (an online encyclopedia), (containing free and open educational resources) and the Philippine Online Chronicles — which lives up to the tradition of innovative journalism.

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Esther is very proud of the stature of her publishing business, but, unbeknownst to only a few, she attributes much of the financial success of the Vibal family to real estate, finance and stock market investments. Even as the publishing venture was well on its way, she discovered she had an innate talent for buying and marketing real properties. She recalls finding herself helping colleagues sell their lots, lending them money to tide things over, and becoming their village association’s credit and loan manager. She and her husband eventually established Pacifica Realty Development Corporation, which up to this day is engaged in banking and property development through joint ventures.

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But more than anything, Esther takes pride in her involvement in women’s causes. She expresses admiration for the commitment to women’s welfare of Francisca Tirona Benitez, president of the Civic Assembly of Women in the Philippines (CAWP), which became the National Council of Women of the Philippines (NCWP). Esther served as president of the NCWP, the umbrella organization of all women’s groups in the country, including the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the Catholic Women’s League, ZONTA and the Young Women’s Christian Association of the Philippines.

Esther says it was the CAWP that initiated moves to have the government organize a women’s organization; this led to the creation of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), and eventually, the National Commission of Women (NCW). Esther served as one of the NCRFW commissioners for nine years — “under three Philippine Presidents,” Esther recalls.

As such, she joined delegations to many international conferences on the status of women sponsored by the United Nations in New York, Nairobi, Beijing, Copenhagen and many other places.  

She is also the first, and thus far, only Asian to be elected world president of the International Inner Wheel, an organization of wives of Rotary members worldwide based in London, England.

Currently, she serves as one of the trustees of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies Foundation. She is one of the board members of the Philippine National Red Cross-Quezon City Council; a life member of the Girl Scout of the Philippines, and Catholic Women’s League.

Esther recalls that it was in the early years of the National Council of Women in the Philippines that the idea for an instrument for women empowerment was being pushed. As NCRFW commissioner, she took active part on deliberations on what has now become a “magical” moment, the enactment of the Magna Carta on Women. Yesterday, a national forum on the Magna Carta and its implications for Filipino women and girl-children was sponsored by the Asian Women’s Network on Gender and Development (AWNGAD), the Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP), the Philippine NGO Beijing Score Board. Esther is an active member, adviser, and financial source of these organizations. At the forum, UKP executive director Daphne Roxas referred to Esther as a helpmate and inspiration for women.

Her helping hands have helped government and non-government women’s organizations make their dream projects realities. Why is she so generous with her time, talent and resources? Because, says Daphne, “she has a big heart for women and the marginalized.” In fact this caring nature of hers is expressed in the Vibal Foundation’s corporate social responsibility flagship projects — the, both of which are Internet-based knowledge sharing initiatives.

Esther has a higher inspiration for her successes, She says success “can only come from a spiritual mooring.” She maintains a charismatic prayer group, the Servant of the Good Shepherd, on the ground floor of her residence in her one-hectare compound in Quezon City.

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