Rich and richer

Published September 11, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

What’s it like being married to the second richest man in the Philippines?
Not that Cynthia Villar does not have her own wealth to speak of, being the richest senator. She was probably among the happiest when her husband lost the race for president in 2010. “No more politics,” she happily conceded then. “Now he can concentrate on his business.” True enough, one year later Manny Villar was wealthier (and more relaxed) than ever, never mind if occasionally his wife would ask him to fund any of her many recycling projects.
Sitting down for lunch with Bulong Pulungan to update us on food prices last week, Senator Cynthia said pretty much the same when I asked her about Manny. With a smile that implied he was most likely enjoying himself, she replied, “As usual, he’s working, business.”
What she did not say was that two days later as all the broadsheets would tell it, from 2017 to 2018, Manny had trebled his wealth from $1.6 billion to $5 billion by Forbes Asia’s reckoning. Although the big leap was attributed to mass housing and memorial parks, Manny continues to be an advocate of entrepreneurship for the little people and that includes farmers, a passion Cynthia shares.
A dynamo packaged within a petite frame, the senator runs a tight ship, whether cleaning the beach or dreaming up livelihoods for the homeless, scolding smugglers of rice (sorry, she can only scold and insult them, she cannot send them to jail), transforming the Las Piñas-Parañaque wetland into a “park of life” inhabited by butterflies, egrets, migratory and rare birds, or establishing farm schools, one in each town, wow!
With so much on her plate, she sticks to the old-fashioned “early to bed and early to rise,” unlike her husband, who wakes up in the middle of the night to check his computer for news and messages.
Each time I listen to Ms. Cynthia, I learn something new. This time she was telling us about the women of Baseco compound in Tondo who peel the skin off garlic for a living, day in and day out, not to scare away vampires but to sell the skins to makers of handmade paper. A banker’s comment: “It’s gotta be garlic, onion would make the peelers cry.” NFA officials should try it sometime.