When you come to think of it, the Philippines is largely dominated by a handful of the country’s most powerful and most influential families. For decades, centuries even, only a few privileged people ever set foot on the limelight of show business, politics, and commerce – and many of them come from all too familiar bloodlines. This makes it difficult if not altogether impossible to put an end to political dynasties. Anyway, here are the country’s top ten most powerful clans (in no particular order) . . .
Field: Politics, Showbusiness, Business
Notable Members: Senator Benigno Aquino Sr., Senator “Ninoy” Benigno Aquino Jr., President “Noynoy” Aquino III, Kris Aquino, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuanco, former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuanco-Aquino, Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr., and Mikee Cojuanco-Jaworski
While PNoy may only have a few months left to his reign, he remains the country’s most powerful to date, and the forerunner for the merged families from the Aquino political clan and the elite hacienderos from the Cojuanco clan.
Much controversy has clouded the family over the years, starting with the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, but the names Aquino and Conjuanco keep burning alive as Cory and husband Ninoy are immortalized in the 500 Philippine peso bill and were instrumental to ending the long-running dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. And oh, there’s always Kris to brighten (or darken) your day.
Field: Business, Politics
Notable Members: Gregorio Araneta, President Manuel Roxas, J Amado Araneta, Mar Roxas, Chief Margarita Araneta Fores, Bianca Araneta-Elizalde
The Araneta were of Spanish origin, and became increasingly influential when ancestors, Buenaventura Araneta and his sons entered politics in the later part of the 1800s and ironically fought against Spanish forces. They were hacienderos in Negros Occidental, but carved a name in Manila Society after lawyer, Gregorio Soriano Araneta, married Dona Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas.
LP standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas is the most prominent and popular forerunner of this clan being the grandson of two highly influential personalities namely, J Amado Araneta (Araneta Center and Araneta Coliseum) and former President Manuel Roxas. As a presidentiable in the 2016 elections, Mar is hardly ever off the TV screens, radio and social media promoting his candidacy. (Or was it shabu?)
Notable Members: President Ferdinand Sr., Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr., Imelda Marcos, Imee Marcos, Irene Marcos, Aimee Marcos, and model/host Xanda Rocha-Marcos (who married Luis Marcos-Araneta)
Who can ever forget the 10th president of the Philippines who declared Martial Law in September 1972 and became the figure of terror and torture all throughout the country? He was also the quintessential kleptocrat who hoarded the so-called ill-gotten wealth to support his wicked ambitions and that of his wife and children.
Despite the demise of the Marcos regime, the family continues to thrive within the political realms, with matriarch Imelda leading the way for her children as Congresswoman in Ilocos Norte. And now that the dictator’s son Bongbong Marcos is aiming for Vice President, there’s no stopping the Marcoses from making marks in our history.
Who can ever forget the original “Panday” Fernando Poe Jr.? Ronald Allan Kelley Poe aka FPJ was the “Da King” of Philippine cinema for his portrayals in notable films such as Isang Bala Ka Lang, Iyo ang Tondo Kanya ang Cavite, Kahit Konting Pagtingin, and of course the Ang Panday series.
FPJ sought kingship in all of the 7,107 islas Filipinas in 2004 under the KNP coalition, but lost to PGMA. He died in December that year due to a stroke. His adopted daughter, Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares is now running for the presidency, trying to materialize her father’s lost dream. Grace was the #1 senator during the 2013 elections, and is currently one of the promising presidentiables in the 2016 elections.
Eugenio Sr., the patriarch of the Lopez clan, is the Father of Philippine Television. Thanks to him, we now enjoy a good dose of telenovelas in the afternoons through the evenings through the country’s largest entertainment and media network ABS-CBN. Apart from owning the Lopez Group of Companies (which includes Bayan-Tel, SkyCable, Energy Development Corporation, Meralco, Rockwell Land, etc.), the Lopez family are also into politics.
No, it wasn’t Binay who made Makati what it is today, but the Zobel-Ayala family. They were prominent and influential since the Spanish colonization and until now. The Zobel-Ayala owns some of the most successful business entities today including Globe Telecom, BPI, Ayala Land and malls.
Being named the richest man in the Philippines with a net worth of $13.8 billion and counting, Henry Sy is sure to make his children and grandchildren the richest people as well. According to the 2015 Forbes survey, the Sy Family is one of three Filipino clans who made it to Asia’s 50 richest families, along with Zobel and Aboitiz. The Sy Family owns SM Malls, SM Prime Holdings, BDO, Chinabank, and Belle Corporation. If the malls the Sy Family makes are big, their influence and power are bigger still.
The Aboitiz Family has a net worth of $3.6 billion according to 2015 Forbes list. They are #44 in Asia and #7 in the Philippines as the richest clan. The family owns Aboitiz Equity Ventures, which umbrellas various ventures in shipping (Aboitiz Shipping), power generation and distribution (Davao Light & Power and VECO), construction, etc.
Around 19 family members work in various functions within the Aboitiz business empire. The success of their family business may be greatly due to the organized processing of family members who want to work for the company.
Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay Sr. may have a lackluster family background, but he sure made great waves while he had the chance to starting when he became Mayor of Makati after the EDSA revolution in 1986. Knowing how much influence and power he can amass from Makati leadership, he had his wife run as city mayor in 1998, and then sought re-election for himself in 2001. His son, Jejomar “Junjun” Jr. became Makati Mayor in 2010, succeeding his father, but was dismissed over graft charges in 2015. His daughters, Nancy and Abigail are also into politics. But what made the Binay clan more famous are the corruption charges against the family and Jojo’s presidential bid and retractment from the Aquinos who brought him to power during Cory’s presidency.
Field: Showbusiness, Politics, Business
Notable Members: Joseph “Erap” Estrada, Jorge Ejercito aka George Estregan Sr., Senator Jinggoy Ejercito, ER Ejercito aka George Estregan Jr., Gary Estrada, and Gherome Ejercito
Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada carved a name for his family when he became an action star and then entered politics as Mayor of Manila, senator, vice president to Fidel V. Ramos, and then 13th president of the Philippines. Although his presidency was short-lived after he was impeached over plunder charges. Many of Erap’s kins are also in the political scene including Senator Jinggoy Ejercito, San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito, ER Ejercito (former Laguna governor), and Gary Estrada (Quezon province board member).
These powerful, wealthy and high profile families have made their mark in Philippine history and would presumably be around for centuries to come as they have all the ingredients to sustaining their influence. We are indeed ruled by the privileged few who have the determination and wisdom to make it big in our society (whether or not it’s by good or wicked schemes).
Are you in favor of this list? We know there are tons of other powerful clans out there who can easily make their way into our top ten. Help us improve this list by placing your thoughts in the comments section below. Who is the most powerful and influential? Perhaps you should decide!