Town&Country presents its first-ever list of Manila's Most Prominent Families. On this four-part list, we've narrowed down the city's most respected names and selected the very best. You may find the rest of the series linked below.
When Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III ran for president in 2010, he had a number of things going for him, but perhaps the most important was the legacy of the Aquino name. His father Ninoy was widely admired for his uncompromising stand against the Marcos administration—his assassination in 1983 sparked a chain of events that ultimately led to Marcos’ ouster three years later—while his mother Cory was a symbol of virtue and honesty during her six-year term as president.
Ninoy and Cory Aquino with their children Noynoy, Pinky, Kris, Viel, and Ballsy
This powerful and inspiring family influences countless Filipinos daily through its newspaper business as well as through politics. Though Betty Go Belmonte passed away more than 20 years ago, her legacy is still felt through the Philippine Star, a newspaper she co-founded in 1986. The daughter of Go Puan Seng of the Fookien Times, Betty married Feliciano Belmonte, a lawyer and former reporter for the Manila Chronicle (and now Speaker of the House of Representatives)—so publishing and politics clearly runs in the family’s veins. The couple’s children have followed their lead: Miguel, Kevin, and Isaac Belmonte split duties at the Philippine Star, while daughter Joy is the vice mayor of Quezon City.
Sonny and Betty Belmonte with Miguel, Kevin, Joy, and Isaac
For many years, the extended Benitez family has produced writers, politicians, and educators. Among the most celebrated is 99-year-old Helena Benitez, the daughter of Philippine Women’s University founders Conrado Benitez and Francisca Tirona. Tita Helen, as she is fondly called, has been a senator, diplomat, arts and culture patron (she helped found the Bayanihan dance troupe) and women’s rights advocate. The Benitez family compound, Mira Nila in San Juan, has been declared a National Heritage Site, while the university is currently being run by a fourth generation member, Francisco B. Benitez.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s chair, Marixi Prieto, is also a scion of another family on this list, the Rufinos. Two of Marixi’s five children with husband Alex work with the daily: Sandy P. Romualdez is the president and CEO, while Tessa has a lifestyle column. Another prominent branch of the Prieto family stems from Leo’s cousin, the late Leo Prieto, a sportsman and founding commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association. Married to society doyenne and queen of etiquette, Mary Prieto, Leo’s children include Marylou Lovina, Leo Jr., and Mike Prieto.
The slogan of National Book Store’s loyalty card rings true: so many of us love books because we are “laking National.” The founder of the ubiquitous chain of stores has just turned 90, but Nanay Coring shows no signs of slowing down. Despite her success, she still prays for the same things every night. “Good health, good business, and please help me pay the utang,” she revealed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Among her children, Alfredo runs Atlas Mining, Ben is an entrepreneur (Virgie Ramos of Gift Gate is his wife), and Cecilia is National’s vice president for purchasing.
Socorro “Nanay Coring” Ramos
Though taken from us far too soon, the late Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo continues to inspire thanks to his honesty, integrity, and dedication to serve. His efforts did not go unrecognized during his lifetime, thankfully, as he was honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000 for his public service. With her husband as a guiding light, his widow Leni has picked up the fight against traditional politics, successfully becoming Vice President of the Philippines after a term in Congress.
Jesse and Leni with children Tricia, Aika, and Jillian
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This story was originally published in the December 2013-January 2014 issue of Town&Country.