The Established, Old, and Still Rich call them “Desconocidos.” They have waxed spectacularly rich in a short period of time and overnight have appropriated all the visible trappings of wealth. Their numbers are increasing, proving that Not Everyone is Poor in Third [ or Fourth, or Fifth? ] World Philippines…
An industrious couple — no longer considered “desconocidos” for years now — effortlessly entered the ranks of society with their discreet but formidable arms and ammunitions business. The wife became the favorite client of the most important Manila jewelers because of her penchant for large, truly large, diamonds of high quality.
Not really a “desconocido” but with an immense, relatively rapidly accumulated fortune during the 1990s [ but having its seed in the 1970s and consistent growth in the 1980s ] is a lawyer businessman who started his professional life as an assistant to the all-powerful Defense Secretary of the 21-year Marcos regime. His first big breaks in the 1980s were the syndications of big contracts between big local companies. Then came the influx of Southeast Asian investments into the Philippines, of which he was a major organizer and negotiator. His personal fortune hit a record high of USD $ 600 million at its height. Then he lost some USD $ 250 million with Argentinian bonds. But still…!!!
There is currently a Mining Boom, brought about by China’s insatiable demand for all kinds of metals. It has certainly brought a wave of unimagined prosperity to a whole group of hitherto “desconocidos.” From the mines of Mindanao to Luzon, Filipino “nouveaux riches” with fantastic fortunes from mining have been created. To underscore their newfound prosperity and power, they have been establishing bases in Manila in the most expensive residential enclaves, paying top dollar for prestigious expanses of land. Their families are among the best clients of the city’s most expensive foreign boutiques, that is, when they are not abroad vacationing.
A most interesting “desconocido” is a secondary gambling lord in Central Luzon. “No read, no write.” How he managed to rise through the ranks to almost trump his boss, The Ultimate Lord, is anyone’s guess. He has accumulated a fortune in the Php billions through the usually derided numbers game. He built an immense Corinthian Gardens-style mansion, complete with helipad, on one hectare of gardens on the outskirts of the provincial capital. His wife spends her days attended by a retinue of staff, expensively tutored by mentors in the art of living, selecting jewelry from the Manila jewelers that visit the mansion daily, and choosing expensive furniture, Persian rugs, and European decorative accessories from the decorators and interior designers that also call at the mansion daily. He has managed to parlay his large fortune into legitimate, lucrative businesses like hospitals, hotels, and resorts. However, he has a philanthropic streak and is particularly supportive of priests, nuns, students, and sick people.
One very respectable “desconocido” — with a completely legitimate fortune — started out in life as a poor relation to an affluent, landed, “Old Rich” Central Luzon family, hence the patrician family name. In the ultimate dream rags-to-riches story, he migrated to the USA in the 1970s and worked the usual 9-5 jobs. He was very focused: he succeeded in accumulating working capital and in establishing a network of business connections. In the 1990s, He was the only businessman awarded by the US Government the first gambling concession in that progressive western state. And the rest is history. His was a triumphal return to the Philippines and to his Central Luzon hometown. He built a contemporary mansion, complete with helipad, right smack in the new center of his hometown that dwarfed his originally more affluent relatives’ ancestral house where he grew up. His name is associated with Philanthropy, Philanthropy, and Philanthropy.
The most spectacular “desconocido,” bar none, is of course my personal favorite [ as well as a personal acquaintance ], “Eminence Gris.” In the relatively short span of 10 years [ 1986 - 1996 ] in the USA, he accumulated an unimaginable fortune [ especially to Filipinos! ] in the single USD $ billion range. The immense fortune was supposed to have been made from a virtual monopoly of computers and other high-tech gadgets sales in several “Banana Republic” Latin American countries from a Miami, Florida base. That, and other businesses as well. During the heyday of his power-mongering days during the Estrada administration [ 1998 - 2001 ], he was doubtless the most powerful man in the Philippines.
I like them. I certainly would like to be one of them. All that Shopping Money!!! Hahahah!!!