Eugenio Hofileña Lopez Sr.Eugenio "Eñing" Lopez Sr., in the half century or so that he was active as an industrialist, was responsible for either setting up or acquiring and running some 20 companies.
The founder of the Lopez Group was a lawyer by education, being one of the 50-member Class of 1923 of the University of the Philippines College of Law and who completed his master of laws in Harvard. But by inclination and upbringing, Eñing was an entrepreneur—he had put together almost a dozen start-up enterprises in his hometown, including the country’s first domestic airline, even before he was 40.
Biggest Sugar Baron
With his wife Pacita, their children and the young members of the third generationEñing, born July 20, 1901, was a fourth-generation Lopez and the third known Eugenio in the landed Iloilo-Negros clan. He became the biggest Filipino sugar baron in the 1950s, but it was also he who led the Lopezes from the sugarcane plantations and into new and exciting frontiers.
On June 12, 1928, Eñing and his only sibling Fernando ("Nanding") formed E&F Lopez Inc. to handle their business interests, then consisting mainly of the haciendas they inherited from their parents. These two Lopezes, who were orphaned of their father while still very young, never fought over money. It was said that “whatever one brother one was always split equally with the other,” even as Nanding later took on a less active role in the business to go into politics. (The brothers were so close that, up until he himself passed away at the age of 89 in 1993, the former Vice President would still talk about how much he missed Eñing.)
Before World War II, the Lopez brothers’ pioneering ventures included fast ferryboat services via Iloilo Shipping, and Iloilo Transport Company, which introduced Filipinos to double-decker buses.
Eñing also revived his late father Benito’s English-language newspaper, Iloilo Times. The neophyte publisher, who was then only 29, zeroed in on the provincial governor for his alleged ties to illegal gambling. Governor Mariano Arroyo hit back by suing for libel, but when the dust had settled a year later, it was the young challenger who was the last man standing, upheld by no less than Governor General Dwight F. Davis.
But it was perhaps Iloilo- Negros Air Express Company (INAEC) that made Eñing’s stock soar during this period. He formed INAEC in Iloilo in August 1932, a time when aviation had barely toddled out of infancy. The new airline made its first ever flight to Manila in February 1933, giving the Ilonggo businessman a comfortable head start over Andres Soriano and his Philippine Airlines, founded in 1941; Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow’s Cathay Pacific, then based in Shanghai (1946); and Japan Airlines (1951).
Gina LopezLike many others, Eñing lost his businesses during World War II. Undaunted, he moved to Manila, where he soon enough proved he still had his golden touch. In a sort of return to his roots, he bought a two-year-old newspaper called The Manila Chronicle, which became a vehicle for “espousing his nationalist ideals.” He also brought the country into the age of radio and television through Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) and later, Alto Broadcasting System (ABS).
In his 60s, he made one of the most daring moves of his career by buying Meralco from its American owners. With Eñing at the helm of the utility, Filipino managers and engineers had a chance to work alongside their American counterparts. This allowed the Filipinos to learn from the best and later become the best managers and employees themselves.
Beyond the professional benefits and corporate milestones, one driver of the socalled golden age of Meralco was the new owner himself. As company president, the Ilonggo lived up to his people’s reputation for being galante, distinguishing himself as a fount of generosity and goodwill who could not do enough for loyal employees.Don Eñing snapped this photo of Eugenio Jr., Oscar, Presentacion, Manuel and Roberto on their visit to Harvard
His notable investments in this aspect include an in-house hospital, which was inaugurated only two years after he took over the utility; and a recreation center fitted out with basketball courts, volleyball and tennis courts, and bowling alleys. There were also generous, often unexpected raises and benefits that made the Meralco employee “the best-paid employee in the country.”
Within a few years, Meralco’s various requirements necessitated putting up allied ventures, such as a transformer manufacturing facility, a bank, a pipeline, an oil refinery and a construction firm, further expanding the Lopez empire.
Businessman of the Year
SpeakL-R: Don Eñing is greeted by his younger brother, Vice President Fernando Lopezing before the Business Writers Association of the Philippines which honored him as its Businessman of the Year in the late 1950s, Eñing laid down one of his most famous prescriptions: “We sincerely believe that a greater proportion of the earnings accrued from business should be returned to the people whether this be in the form of foundations, grants, scholarships, hospitals or any other form of social welfare benefits. We consider this a sound policy and a good investment which, in the long run, will pay off because it will mean more business and goodwill for the company and would minimize, if not prevent, the social unrest and disorder which are prevalent nowadays.”
This stance—corporate social responsibility even before the term was coined—gave rise to institutions such as the Asian Institute of Management, the Lopez Museum and a host of foundations. In a way, Eñing mirrored the act of the first Eugenio Lopez, a mayor of Iloilo in the 1870s who sold a hacienda in order to feed his town mates during a famine.
In the 1960s, Eñing sounded the alarm on Pres. Marcos through the Chronicle, which published, among others, editorial cartoons with thinly veiled references to the dictator’s hidden wealth. While they could have looked the other way and, indeed, even joined the President and his cronies in pillaging the country, the Lopez brothers chose to challenge their former ally. As a result, they became Marcos’ especial targets and paid the price when martial law was declared.
112th Birth Anniversary
Family Planning with the Lopez familyThis year, the Group marks the 112th anniversary of Eñing’s birth. In 2010, his sons and other descendants paid him tribute through the launch of the Lopez Credo and Values. This statement of purpose reaffirms the Group’s raison d’être—to serve the Filipino people— and includes the main values that guided Eñing as a businessman and as a Filipino: a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, business excellence, unity, nationalism, social justice, integrity and employee welfare and wellness.
“Beyond pride in being a part of the Lopez Group, we are hoping the Credo will effective clarify the employee value proposition… what it means to be an employee in the Group. In other words, the Credo will also make it clear what is expected of each employee to include such things as upright conduct, positive attitude and service orientation. The Credo also gives the employee ideas on what to expect from the employer,” said chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez (OML) during the launch in 2010.
Lopez Group chairman Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez, speaking at the same gathering, described the Values as “principles that truly guide everyday decisions and actions.” “They transform even the most ordinary people to extraordinary heroes and the most common everyday situations into special occasions,” he said. (Story by: J.Javier)