Real Estate & Hospitality

Manuel "Manny" Villar

Photo Willy Saw

The real estate magnate Manuel "Manny" Villar is the Philippines’ richest individual person

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“Have you ever bathed in a sea of trash?” asks the opening line of the popular campaign jingle of one-time Philippine presidential candidate Manny Villar. When he ran for the highest position in the land in 2010, the song was everywhere—an odd earworm and a smash hit across the Philippines. And though Villar lost the election, the jingle made him a popular national figure, known by many for rising from obscurity to become a venerable real estate tycoon.

The jingle, of course, was largely an exaggeration—Villar is known to have come from a middle-class background, and not one of bathing-in-trash poverty. But it nevertheless established his story: from relatively humble beginnings, an enterprising Villar built a real estate empire with mass housing projects and cemeteries. His political career began in 1992 when he was elected as the representative of Las Piñas-Muntinlupa, and then served three terms in Congress followed by two terms in the Senate. All the while, his businesses continued to grow, such that by 2019, Villar was the Philippines’ single richest individual, with billions of dollars to his name. Through the Vista Group, which includes Vista Land, Villar heads a wide range of residential subdivisions, condominiums, supermarkets, shopping malls, healthcare facilities, and more.

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Manny Villar’s 2010 presidential campaign jingle “Naging Mahirap” was composed by advertising executive Merlee Jayme. 
 

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