The public life of Manny Villar straddles both the worlds of business and politics. He is one of the few who managed to excel in both.
He was born to a simple family on December 13, 1949 in Moriones, Tondo, Manila. His father, Manuel Montalban Villar, Sr., a government employee, hailed from Cabatuan, Balazan, and Tanza, Iloilo and his mother Curita Bamba, a seafood dealer, came from Pampanga and Bataan. Manny is the second child in a brood of nine. At a very young age, he was already helping his mother sell shrimp and fish in the Divisoria Market. With the burning desire for a better future and a strong determination to improve his family’s living conditions, Manny worked hard in selling shrimps and fish to be able to send himself to school.
“I learned from my mother what it takes to be an entrepreneur, “ he revealed. “And it means working really hard to achieve your dreams.” In Divisoria, he marveled at the volume of sales that Chinese merchants were making, thus he vowed early on to become an entrepreneur.
Hard work, persistence, and perseverance became his guiding principles in life. This earned him the title “Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga.”
He continues to inspire Filipinos with his life story and encourages each and every kababayan to improve their quality of life and fulfill their dreams through the very values he believes in -- “sipag at tiyaga.”
Manny Villar was a working student at the University of the Philippines, the premier institution of higher learning in the country, where he obtained his undergraduate and master’s degree in business administration and accountancy. By then, he was also putting in long hours as fish and shrimp trader, where the action starts during the ungodly hours of the morning when the catch lands on the market.
After graduation, he tried his hand as an accountant at the country’s biggest accounting firm, Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV). He resigned shortly though to venture on his own seafood delivery business.
When a restaurant he was delivering stocks to did not pay him, he printed out “meal tickets” which he persuaded the restaurant owners to honor. He then sold these tickets at a discounted price to office workers. It took him one year to liquidate his receivables.
He worked briefly as a financial analyst at the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines. His job was to sell World Bank loans, despite the attractive rates of which there were no takers. Convinced that he could make it on his own again, he quit his job and promptly availed of one of the loans.
So with an initial capital of P10,000 in 1975, Villar purchased two reconditioned trucks and started his sand-and-gravel business in Las Piñas.
It is here while delivering construction materials to big developers that Manny Villar came up with the idea of selling house and lot packages when the convention then was for homeowners to buy lots and build on them.
Manny Villar became the housing industry leader, and the biggest homebuilder in Southeast Asia, having built more than 100,000 houses for the poor and middle class Filipino families.
He then initiated mass housing projects to achieve economies of scale. His various innovations practically created the country’s mass housing industry. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism calls him “the dean of the (Philippine) real estate industry.”
Awards and Distinctions
For his business achievements, he was made cover story in the Far Eastern Economic Review. And his life story was also featured in Asiaweek, Forbes, AsiaMoney and Asian Business Review.
He garnered various awards such as the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award (1986) by the Philippine Jaycees, Agora Award for Outstanding Achievement in Marketing Management (1989), Most Outstanding CPA by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (1990) and Most Outstanding UP Alumnus (1991).
In a stunning political debut in 1992, Villar won with the most overwhelming mandate among congressmen in Metro Manila. He promptly applied his economic and managerial expertise as a key member of the House’s economic team, marshalling in economic reform measures of the Ramos Administration such as the New Foreign Investments Act and the restructuring of the Central Bank of the Philippines. He was the House representative in the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington D.C. in 1992.
He also oversaw various infrastructure projects in his districts like the construction of concrete roads and the Alabang-Zapote Flyover. He introduced the “Friendship Route” to ease the traffic problems in southern Manila by persuading subdivision homeowners to open up their roads to the general public.
He succeeded in passing Republic Act 8003 “Declaring Certain Areas in Las Piñas as Tourist Spots”. The law formalized his program of rehabilitating historical and cultural landmarks in Las Piñas starting with the world-famous Bamboo Organ Church. The ongoing project dubbed as “Las Piñas Historical Corridor” covers the stretch of the Old District and may even rival the Intramuros and Vigan restoration projects.
A staunch environmentalist, he initiated a privately funded tree planting drive in his district. He developed a P10-million tree nursery beside his home. He also quietly led a dedicated tree-planting drive complete with maintenance and watering of tree seedlings planted in the open spaces of the community.
When he realized that many poor students could not go to school because they do not even have fare money, he organized the “Manpower on Wheels” Program, a livelihood training school housed in a van that makes the rounds in depressed areas. The program has since produced more than 5,000 graduates and has been awarded by various government and civic organizations for its innovative scheme.
During his first term, he steered Las Piñas and Muntinlupa to cityhood. “As a developer, I have always envisioned these two communities as the ‘Twin Cities of the South’ of Manila. In fact, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa are the two fastest growing communities in the country today, he pointed out.”
For his constituency work and personal vow, he extended grants of home sites to some 10,000 poor families in Barangay CAA, Las Piñas City. Two major roads were also opened in his district; the Sucat-Pulanglupa Link Road to Parañaque and the Zapote-Molino (Daang Hari) Link Road to Cavite, thus alleviating the traffic congestion in the area.
During his second term, he was able to upgrade the Las Piñas District Hospital with a new building and better facilities. He also launched the “Sagip-Bukas” Drug Prevention Program on all the private and public schools of Las Piñas to educate the youth about the dangers of drug abuse. He also nationalized the Las Piñas High School to upgrade its facilities.
By the end of his second term of office, Villar had already proven beyond doubt his capacity for excellence as a true Filipino entrepreneur and a brilliant public servant who can get things done.
Champion for Entrepreneurs
In 1995, Manny Villar ran for re-election and won an unprecedented 142,000 votes, the highest number of votes for a congressman in the entire country. Winning media acclaim as an outstanding congressman as well as the respect and recognition of his peers, he was elected to chair the Committee on Entrepreneurship.
As one of the leading entrepreneurs in the country, he championed the cause of small and medium-sized enterprises. He authored and passed into law the landmark New Magna Carta for Small and Medium Enterprises (RA 8289). He initiated creative legislation such as establishment of the Small and Medium Enterprises Stock Exchange and Business One-Stop-Shop centers, the latter he immediately implemented in Las Piñas City with the help of local officials.
Speaker of the House
It was no surprise then to those in the know when he gained the remarkable acclaim of 171 of 220 congressmen as the Speaker of the 11th Congress of the House of Representatives.
In a time when the country is slowly recovering from a host of economic and political crises, the election of the ‘brown taipan’ at the helm of Congress signaled a watershed event in the Philippine political history. The rise of Manny Villar ushered in a new consensus of leadership based on managerial skills and not simply on oratory and rhetoric.
By his first year in office, Villar undertook three pathbreaking reforms. He succeeded in marshalling consensus in the House to reform the ‘pork barrel’ system by limiting congressional discretion projects to the set parameters of the Executive’s development policies. Secondly, he launched a revamp of leadership by appointing at least seven neophyte congressmen to head powerful committees like ecology and banks. Finally, he set a strong and principled stance on environment protection legislation with the passage of the “Clean Air Act”, a measure that for more than ten years three previous congresses were not able to pass.On his second year in office, Manny Villar steered the 11th Congress into a record-breaking achievement in legislation and economic reforms. Among the pioneering measures he shepherded into law were the Retail Trade Liberization Act, the New Central Bank Act, the New Securities Code, and the New Banking Act.
On November 13, 2000, he became the first House Speaker in Philippine history to impeach a President, paving the way for the elevation of the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Senator of the Republic
In the national elections held last May 14, 2001, despite being a relative newcomer in national politics, Manny Villar posted one of the most impressive showings in the national polls. On his first day in office, he filed 204 bills covering a comprehensive legislative program of action— the first among neophyte senators and the third highest filer among the senators of the 12th Congress of the Philippines.
After being elected by his colleagues, he assumed the position of Senate President Pro-Tempore, the second to the highest post in the higher Chamber of Congress. He is presently the Chairman of the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Agriculture. He authored 44 laws during the 12th Congress, among them are: RA 9178 Barangay Micro Business Enterprises Act, RA 9189 Overseas Absentee Voting Act, RA 9208 Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act, RA 9257 An Act Granting Additional Benefits and Privileges to Senior Citizens, and RA 9262 Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act. He has filed Bills aimed at providing business opportunities for the people and improving the Filipinos’ quality of life through basic health care, decent shelters, responsive social services, and high quality education.
Outside the Senate’s halls, Villar actively sponsors Sipag at Tiyaga Caravan Kaalaman, a livelihood training program that provide skills and inspiration to people that will allow them to venture into their own businesses. The caravan travels all over the country conducting livelihood seminars that are consistently widely attended and appreciated.
He has also spearheaded the building of schools, sending out medical missions and setting up relief operations whenever or wherever needed. He led the inauguration of the Las Piñas-Muntinlupa-Laguna-Cavite (LPMLC) link road, more popularly known as Daang Hari, as part of his road improvement program aimed at easing traffic in the south of Metro Manila. According to him, an efficient and rationalized road network is one of the fundamental requirements in improving commerce and spurring economic progress.
In February 2004, he was elected as President of the Nacionalista Party—the country’s oldest and grandest political party. He was also named the Most Distinguished UP Alumnus—the highest recognition given by the UP Alumni Association—for his exemplary public service and achievements.
Senator Manny Villar, despite his numerous accomplishments and heroism, has remained simple and unaffected. A true family man, he is a devoted husband to Rep. Cynthia A. Villar (Lone District of Las Piñas), and a loving father to sons Paolo and Mark and daughter Camille.