Ongpin’s place in history


I am very proud of my former student.

I have always admired business tycoon Robert “Bobby” Valdes Ongpin, an unforgettable personality. As chairman of Alphaland, he develops properties for the rich and famous, and for those who want to be rich and famous,. He was once my student when I was teaching at Ateneo de Manila High School. I also covered him starting from when I was business editor at The Philippines Herald. During the Marcos regime, he was minister of trade and industry.

I followed his career even after he left the country and stayed in Hong Kong as an international businessman. He was then with the American Insurance Group that founded Philamlife Insurance Corp.

Generations after the Marcos regime may not know him too well, but to my mind, Bobby Ongpin has his place in Philippine history. He saved the Philippines from economic collapse after the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983. Aquino’s death caused foreign investors to leave the country to the extent that foreign exchange reserves in the Central Bank came down to zero. Imports were also halted.

I recall that after consultations with strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Ongpin devised a plan. He gathered some 14 Chinese foreign exchange traders in Binondo and threatened them to be put in the stockade if they did not furnish the necessary foreign exchange. Santa Banana, the plan worked! That was the birth of the so-called Binondo Central Bank. This saved the economy from collapsing. I know this because I was covering him at that time.

Ongpin’s strategy that saved the Philippines from economic collapse made it to international news, so that both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank hired him to help countries with similar problems. Egypt was one such country.

From 1986, Ongpin stayed abroad and only returned to the Philippines during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

His first “magnum opus” was the development of Balesin island off the coast of Quezon. It is a 20-minute ride from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

I happen to know the beginnings of Balesin quite well. It was once owned by industrialist Bobby Ysmael and was acquired later by Eddie Tordesillas, Ongpin’s undersecretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

I saw the beginnings of Balesin Island Paradise Club. I visited the villas when they were just being constructed. Now the island is a great tourist destination. My gulay, its exclusive membership has grown so much!

I have always marveled that typhoons have spared Balesin despite its location. So when I read the column of my colleague, Tony Lopez, about how Balesin suffered under typhoon Ulysses, I was saddened.

I read Ongpin’s letter to members and guests. I could not believe what happened. When Ongpin saw that the typhoon was battering the island, he felt that a chainsaw was cutting his leg!

When Ulysses struck, Balesin had 125 guests. They believed that the island was not only COVID-free but typhoon-free. On ordinary days, the number of guests was a lot higher.

Ongpin reported that in about a week or so, things would be normal at the resort again. He credited Balesin’s efficient staff led by Mike Asperin, the manager, who worked overtime to restore the island to is former glory.


Other Alphaland developments are doing well, like the City Club, the foremost business leisure and sports club. Makati Place is the best place to stay in in Makati City; it is also where the Aegle Wellness Club is located. Alphaland Mountain Lodge is called the Forbes Park of the North.

There will also be a development on Patnanungan Island off Balesin. Ongpin will build a resort-hotel-international gateway for Balesin’s foreign members.

I am so happy that somehow I touched his life. Congratulations, Bobby!


I cannot fathom what hold Philippine National Police Chief Debold Sinas has on the Palace that if the courts find him guilty of violating quarantine restrictions – remember he partied with his subordinates on his birthday in May – President Duterte would pardon him right away.

Santa Banana, Sinas was not only promoted in rank, he was given the top post in the police force!


The statement of Senate President Tito Sotto that there is no need to probe anomalies in relation to the sports facility at New Clark City is difficult to swallow. This is immaterial; it is not even the Senate investigating the matter.

No wonder there is so much graft and corruption in our government.

Topics: Alphaland , Sinas , PNP
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