RAGS TO RICHES
Founder and General Manager of National Bookstore, Inc.
For Filipinos, the name National Bookstore has become synonymous to school supplies and bestsellers. But the driving force behind the biggest bookstore franchise in the country came from humble beginnings herself—from working in another bookstore.
Owner Socorro Ramos was 18 years old when she was a salesgirl for Goodwill Bookstore in Escolta, Manila. Because of her skills, she was eventually put in charge of the store. Ramos didn’t own a bookstore until she married Jose Ramos, and the couple invested in setting up their own shop. But they could not afford the extra help, so Ramos did everything from manning the cashier and keeping stock to scrubbing the floors.
But when the Japanese invaded during the World War II, their store burned to the ground.
After the war, Ramos set up a general merchandise store that did fairly well until Typhoon Gene destroyed their store anew in 1948. Undaunted, the couple worked tirelessly to regain their losses. They diversified their products, procured licenses from Hallmark and international publishers like McGraw-Hill and Prentice Hall, among others, to reprint affordable textbooks. Today, National Bookstore boasts of over 145 branches nationwide and vast range of offerings for the Filipino school children and book lovers.
John Gokongwei, Jr
Founder, JG Summit Holdings, Inc.
John Gokongwei is the head of his giant holdings company that owns Cebu Pacific Airlines, Robinsons Land Corporation, Robinsons Bank Corporation, Universal Robina Corporation, JG Summit Petrochemical Corporation, and the Philippines Long Distance Telephone Company. But from a net worth of more than $2.4 billion in 2011 (the third richest Filipino, according to Forbes), Gokongwei started without a penny to his name.
Although he came from a wealthy family in Cebu, creditors seized their family’s assets when his father died in 1939, leaving his family penniless. Unable to keep the family together, his mother placed the 13-year-old Gokongwei under his granduncle’s care. When his granduncle could no longer support him, Gokongwei sold soap, thread, and candles on a bicycle to support himself.
Unsatisfied, he traveled to Manila to sell products from Cebu and Lucena during World War II. His initiative impressed older Chinese traders enough for Dr. Alberto SyCip, chairman of the board of China Bank, to entrust him with a P500,000 loan when he wanted to start a corn-milling factory in 1956. Since then, Gokongwei hasn’t looked back, investing and re-investing in different ventures to grow his empire into what it is today.
Founder, Regal Films
Monteverde was born into the family of copra magnate and Chiang Kai Shek School founder Domingo Chu, but her father refused to lend her any financial support because of her rebellious youth. She also did not receive anything from her in-laws. But what she did have was a passion for the movie industry. She used to go out of her way to visit the studios of Sampaguita Pictures and LVN Pictures for a chance to see her favourite movie stars.
After marrying her husband Remy, she worked for her father-in-law in 1961 for P200 a day. She saved enough money to buy two popcorn machines at P1,500 each to install at a Cherry Foodarama branch in Mandaluyong, and naturally, at Podmon Theater in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Her popcorn sold well enough for her to earn P7,000, enough money to buy the screening rights to the Hollywood film, “All Mine to Give.”
The film earned P500,000 within half a month of screening for Monteverde, and she and her husband began flying to the United States and Europe to find more film rights to buy. In 1976, she produced the box office hit “Kayod Sa Umaga, Kayod Sa Gabi,” starring Elizabeth Oropesa and Gina Pareño. The movie grossed P4 million. With those profits, Monteverde opened Regal Films that gave rise...