In 1892, society dame Caroline Astor, otherwise known simply as “Mrs. Astor,” hosted a ball at her mansion at 350 Fifth Avenue—where the Empire State Building now stands—inviting only guests that made up Old New York Money. The term “the 400” was coined after her guest list, a reference to the number of people Astor’s ballroom reportedly held, which became synonymous with society.
Later, the 400 List became a society staple and many publications followed suit, creating lists of their own. One of the highly anticipated releases nowadays is the Forbes 400 List, an annual compilation of the richest men and women in the world.
In the late 1950s, Manila had its own list of 400 elite families in society, columnist George Sison tells us in an interview. The first-ever list was created by Tarrosa Subido.
To come up with the list, which was made up of about 60 family names, “she gathered all society editors during that time,” says Sison, and had the list published in a now-defunct women’s publication. Sison is unsure of what the purpose of the list was, but he knew it comprised of not only the fabulously wealthy
The list included names that still ring a bell today, such as Aguinaldo, Araneta, Cojuangco, Katigbak, Laurel, Lopez, Osmeña, Guerrero, Prieto, Roxas, and Recto. The first “It” girls of society, such as
While these families were wealthy, they also were wary of how they flaunted their wealth, Sison explains. The list is now outdated as the country’s population grew from the estimated 26 million in the late ‘50s. But these old families left a legacy of grace and refinement.