10 Powerful Tycoons from Cebu

Cebu's most prominent members of the business elite and how they got started

Cebu is well known for its picturesque views and delectable lechon. But as the Philippines’ second-largest city, Cebu also has a lot to offer in terms of the economy and infrastructure.

In just a short amount of time, the booming city has become the center for shipping, furniture-making, tourism, business processing services, and heavy industry. According to the Cebu provincial government, “Cebu’s export growth rate for the past five years has averaged close to 20 percent considerably higher than that of the country and any other province in the Philippines.”

Here are the Cebuano movers and shakers who continue to shape the region.

Erramon Aboitiz

The grandchild of Aboitiz patriarch Don Ramon Aboitiz, Erramon Isidro “Monchu” M. Aboitiz is the current president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. AEV was founded by Paulino Aboitiz in the 19th century as an abaca-trading and general merchandise business. Today, the company is involved in a wide span of industries, including power, banking, food, land development, and biofuel.

With his appointment as chief executive in 2009, according to Rappler, he “transformed the once family-owned business into a publicly-listed conglomerate currently with more than 20,000 employees and, as of the first half of 2013, a consolidated net income of P11.9 billion.” Forbes estimates Aboitiz’s net worth at $130 million. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a major in Accounting and Finance from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.


Michel Lhuillier

French-born Filipino businessman Michel Lhuillier is the founder and chairman of the M Lhuillier Group of Companies, “one of the largest financial and real estate businesses in the Philippines.” Lhuillier’s wealth stems from the business of pawning and money remittance. Michel J. Lhuillier Financial Services (Pawnshops), Inc. was founded in 1992, and deals with the sale of pre-owned merchandise such as antiques and many other secondhand goods. Lhuillier’s group of companies has since expanded to construction, real estate, restaurants, foundations and food product importation and food processing.

Aside from business, Lhuillier acts as the chairman of Cebu Provincial Sports and is an honorary consul of France in Cebu. He is married to former model and socialite Amparito Llamas with whom he has four children, one of which is international fashion designer Monique Lhuillier.

John Gokongwei

Though his many businesses have extended far beyond Cebu, Filipino-Chinese magnate John Gokongwei was born and raised in the southern city. Gokongwei had a privileged childhood, but at 13, after the death of his father, his family lost everything. To make ends meet, he peddled items to sell and engaged in trading. These all contributed to his eventual success and in 1957, he founded JG Summit Holdings. Today, Forbes estimates Gokongwei to be worth around $5 billion.

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Andrew Gotianun

The Gotianuns founded Filinvest Development Corporation and East West Banking Corporation. What many don’t know, however, is that patriarch Andrew Gotianun was born in Cebu, the “child of Chinese immigrants who established a thriving trading business in Cebu.” In fact, Andrew and Mercedes Gotianun’s first foray into real estate was a subdivision project in Cebu St. Michael.

Today, Filinvest is involved in real estate development, sugar, hospitality, power generation and banking. According to Forbes, “[The Gotianuns] began the business 60 years ago with 8 employees, offering appliances and financing for second-hand cars.” After Andrew Gotianun passed in 2016, his wife became Chairman Emeritus and senior adviser to the Board of Directors.


Jack Gaisano

Jack S. Gaisano belongs to the prominent Gaisano family through his parents Victor and Sally Gaisano, the founders of Metro Retail Stores. Gaisano finished at the University of San Carlos and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, and has completed several courses at the Institute of Corporate Directors.

He currently holds the title of Director of Metro Retail Stores Group, Inc. (MRSGI) which has over 45 multi-retail stores located in key cities in Visayas, Luzon and Metro Manila. He is also Chairman and President of Taft Property Venture Development Corporation, Midland Development Corporation, and Vsec.com Inc. as well as President and Vice Chairman of HTLand, Inc. Previously, he held the position of Chairman and President from 2003 to 2011. He also served as Director for Vicsal Securities and Stock Brokerage, Inc. from 1989 to 2009.

Margaret Gaisano Ang

Another member of the Gaisano clan, Margaret Gaisano Ang has served as director, corporate secretary, and treasurer of Metro Retail Stores Group, Inc. (MRSGI) since 2003. She also holds directorship posts at Vicsal Development Corporation, Taft Property Venture Development Corporation, Vicsal Securities and Stock Brokerage, Inc., Filipino Fund, Inc., Grand Holidays, Inc., Manila Water Consortium, Inc., and Maric Ventures, Inc.


Gaisano Ang is a University of San Carlos graduate and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce, major in Accounting (Cum Laude)—making her a certified public accountant—and has completed several courses at the Institute of Corporate Directors.

Augusto Go

Attorney Augusto “Gus” Go is the son of Manuel Gotianuy, the founder of Visayan Surety & Insurance Corp. Go is the founder and president of the University of Cebu and chairman of Toyota Cebu City. He is also chairman of the Board of Aspac Rural Bank Inc., Cebu Central Realty Corp. (Elizabeth Mall), Cebu Coliseum Complex Inc., Metro Ferry Inc., Visayan Surety and Insurance Corp. and AWG Development Corp as well as chairman of the board of the College of Technological Sciences-Cebu, president of Cebu Eastern College and a member of the board of Sacred Heart School-Jesuits. In 1987, he served as appointed vice mayor of Cebu City. The Cebu-based tycoon is known as “the man who makes education accessible to those who have less in life.”


Bernie Liu

Golden ABC’s Bernie Liu got his start as “an architecture student who decided to venture into an informal business of designing and producing t-shirts for school and corporate giveaways using the modest sized garment factory owned by his family. When he graduated and passed the board, he only briefly worked for the family’s lumber business because he realized the potential of branded retail prompting him to return to their garments business.”

Today, Penshoppe has over 800 stores around the world including Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Bahrain, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Danny Lua

Lua serves as chairman and president of Cebu-based Philippine Spring Water Resources Inc. (PSWRI), the maker of bottled water brand Nature's Spring. PSWR was founded in 1991, and today, it has become the “Philippines' overall market leader in the bottled water industry. Over the years, the company has expanded its business offerings and further entered in diversifying its product lines through continuous innovation, state-of-the-art facilities and competent employees.” In 2016, the Luas entered the business of hospitality through Bai Hotel.

Barbara Gothong Tan

Barbara “Bambi” Gothong-Tan is the president and CEO of A.D. Gothong Group. One of the companies under the Gothong group is A.D. Gothong Manufacturing which deals with the production of high-quality oils and fats as well as bakery ingredients. Alpa Land, a “home-grown developer,” is A.D. Gothong Group’s real estate arm. Through Alpa Land, the Gothong Tan’s “operates the Alpa Dormitory and Alpa Centrum, a commercial complex strategically situated in J. Lopez Jaena St., Subangdaku, Mandaue. Under its management also is the AD Gothong IT Center, an eight-story IT, tower fitted and designed for BPO offices, situated in the same area. Alpa Land, Inc. also developed independent houses, the Alpa Townhouses in Banawa, Cebu.”

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About The Author
Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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