By the late 1960s, there was no Filipino more powerful, more famous, more elegant and stylish, needless to say more $$$ loaded, than Eugenio Lopez Sr.. If you had asked most Manilans at that time who the richest man in the Philippines was, they would have answered: “DON Eugenio Lopez,” “Don ‘Ening’ Lopez,” “Mr. Eugenio Lopez Sr.”, or simply “Mr. Lopez.” It wasn’t as if fellow multimillionaires Vicente Madrigal and Andres Soriano Jr. were also very very rich, but Eugenio Lopez Sr. embodied Mr. Big Bucks to the Filipino Everyman with his sheer wealth and cosmopolitan jetsetting style.
Eugenio Lopez y Hofilena [ Sr. ] was born at a crucial time when the sugar fortunes of the entrepreneurial Lopez family of Iloilo were expanding in all directions. His parents were Benito Lopez y Villanueva of Jaro and Presentacion Hofilena y Javelona of Guimaras island. His father Benito was inclined to politics, but several of the latter’s fifteen siblings like Maria “Bibing,” Eusebio “Sebio,” Rosario “Sayong,” Vicente “Cente,” and Paz engaged themselves fully in the sugar planting, milling, and trading businesses; often they acted as bankers to one another. In addition, they were proud of their various business ventures and constantly encouraged their children, nephews, and nieces to be entrepreneurs, loudly praising the active and successful ones to all and sundry and driving the slower ones to eventual achievements. Banking one another was a practice handed down from the generation of their parents, Eugenio Lopez y Jalandoni and Marcela Villanueva y Felipe. The first Eugenio and his fifteen siblings Clara, Eulogia, Marcelo, et. al. — already noted businessmen in their day — supported each other’s business ventures by lending substantial sums to one another. Thus was the Lopez family culture of entrepreneurship and competition in which the young Ening grew up, which was later enhanced by his education at Harvard University.