22 Influential Matriarchs From Notable Filipino Families

October 17, 2017
by Filinvest Development Corporation

We round up a list of inspiring and accomplished women who have made an impact on Philippine society.

Betty Go-Belmonte

Sonny and Betty Belmonte with Miguel, Kevin, Joy, and Isaac

Isaac and Miguel Belmonte remember their mother, Betty, by naming 25 truths about her in the Philippine Star. Among these interesting tidbits include her real name, Billie Mary Go Belmonte. In her early life, she majored in English literature at Claremont Graduate School in California. Coming from a family of newspaper magnates, the founder of the Star was the one who chose its yellow logo and its motto, “Truth shall prevail.” She also co-founded the Philippine Daily Inquirer toward the end of the Marcos regime. A close friend of President Corazon Aquino’s, she was at Camp Crame every day during the EDSA revolution and handed out sandwiches and copies of the Inquirer to protesters.

Julia Vargas de Ortigas

The wife of lawyer Don Francisco Ortigas Sr. and mother to their seven children, Julia Vargas dedicated a chunk of her life to subduing the widespread tuberculosis epidemic. She is credited for being an active volunteer of the Quezon Institute, which services the Philippine Tuberculosis Society, Inc., of which Vargas was president until she passed away in 1968. From being one of the leading causes of deaths in the country, tuberculosis cases dropped from 35,355 deaths to 24,194 in a span of 21 years. Throughout her years of philanthropic service, Vargas accumulated over 21 citations and awards.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho


An icon in the Philippine art scene, Magsaysay-Ho broke records when she sold her oil painting “In The Marketplace” for a whopping P15 million at a Christie’s auction in 1999. Fortunately, her batch produced many of our country’s greatest artists. She attended the U.P. School of Fine Arts at the early age of 13 and went to school with Vicente Manansala, Galo Ocampo, Botong Francisco, and Cesar Legaspi, the Philippine Star reports. She trained under the watchful eye of Fernando Amorsolo and was most recognized for her modernist style and paintings of landscapes, harvest scenes, and females. A cousin of President Ramon Magsaysay, she was married to shipping tycoon Robert Ho and together they had five children.

Glecy Rustia-Tantoco

Gliceria and Bienvenido Tantoco

Gliceria, or “Glecy” as she was fondly known to her family and friends, was the heart behind the Rustan’s brand. She and her husband Benny Tantoco established Rustan’s and were the first to introduce the department store concept to the country in the early 1950s. She championed the brand and was very hands-on with buying the items to be sold in their stores. She personally met with international designers to bring their goods into the country. She firmly believed that the “tasteful Filipina had every right to be immaculately dressed by only the finest and most coveted names in style.” Now on its 65th year, Rustan’s flourishes with Glecy’s legacy intact.

Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil


Although her father, Alfredo, was a doctor, and her mother, Filomena, was the first Filipino pharmacist, celebrated journalist and essayist Carmen Francisco Guerrero also comes from an impressive lineage of artists. Her extended family consisted of famous playwrights, poets, essayists, painters, and fictionists. After becoming a widow twice, first to Ismael Cruz and then to architect Angel E. Nakpil, she turned to journalism. She quickly worked her way from proofreader to editor and eventually contributed a daily column in the Manila Chronicle and a weekly column in the Sunday Times. She later headed the National Historical Commision and Cultural Committee of the Philippine Commission for UNESCO as chairwoman. The award-winning writer’s most notable works include The Philippines: The Land and the People, Woman Enough and Other Essays, The Rice Conspiracy, and more.

Judy Araneta Roxas


While her brother Jorge L. Araneta leads the family’s Araneta Group as CEO, chairman, and president, Judy A. Roxas serves as the group’s vice chairman. The family-led corporation consists of the Araneta Center, Philippine Pizza Inc., United Promotions, Araneta Hotels, and Progressive Development Corporation. No stranger to the political sphere, she is also well-known as the wife of the late senator Gerry Roxas and mother of 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas. Judy continues to chair the Gerry Roxas Foundation, which her husband started over 50 years ago. Her resume also boasts of her position as a director of Makati Medical Center.

Soccoro Cancio Ramos


Another resilient businesswoman on this list is “Nanay Coring” Ramos, co-founder of National Book Store. Together with her husband, “Tatay” Jose Ramos, she saw the business withstand the trials that got in its way—including the devastation of their first two stores. Without fail, she manned National Book Store’s offices and front of the stores for decades. Through her unparalleled grit and business savvy, she received the coveted Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young in 2004.

Chito Madrigal


A Madrigal on her father’s side, and a Paterno on her mother’s, Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal was one of the Grand Dames of Manila. Madrigal’s father Vicente was one of the richest and most influential men and as such, she inherited his many businesses and ventures. Madrigal married Manuel “Manoling” Collantes in the 1960s, most known as the former undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. As a businesswoman, Madrigal held positions at Metrobank and the Rizal Cement Group of Companies. Madrigal also established the Consuelo Chito Madrigal Foundation, an organization focused on helping disadvantaged families. As Hyatt Hotel’s social director, the matriarch was also credited with popularizing fashion shows as entertainment. Madrigal died at the age of 86 in 2008.

Armida Siguion-Reyna


The daughter of Alfonso Ponce-Enrile and Purificacion “Purita” Liwanag, Siguion-Reyna grew up with siblings Irma Potenciano and former Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile in Malabon. As a young girl, Siguion-Reyna showed interest in the arts and would play the lead roles in her mother’s opera productions. The talented Siguion-Reyna pursued her dreams and became one of the biggest names in entertainment, starring in film, television theatrical roles to music and producing. Before her big break, she found love with lawyer Leonardo Siguion-Reyna and had three children. Today, she manages Reyna Films Company with her award-winning director son, Carlitos.

Marixi Rufino-Prieto


Prieto hails from the Rufino clan, an influential family of entrepreneurs, politicians, and philanthropists. Today, she acts as chairperson for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. According to Bloomberg, Prieto serves as Treasurer of Sunvar Realty Development Corporation, Marilex Realty Development Corporation, and Ionian Realty & Development Corporation. In 2007, Forbes Asia ranked the media mogul as the richest Filipina. Prieto is married to Alejandro “Alex” Prieto and has five children. Her daughter Alexandra Rufino Prieto-Romualdez is the president and CEO of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Another daughter, Tessa Prieto Valdes, is a society columnist and pop culture celebrity.

Mercedes Gotianun

Mercedes Gotianun with husband Andrew L. Gotianun, Sr.

Mercedes Gotianun founded Filinvest Development Corporation together with her husband Andrew. Gotianun graduated magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a degree in pharmacy. The couple ventured into finance, banking, and real estate. Under one of the couple’s earlier ventures—Family Savings Bank, the matriarch earned the distinction of being the first Filipina to become president of a universal bank. Today, the Gotianun matriarch serves as Chairman Emeritus of Filinvest Development Corp. and a director of Filinvest Land Inc. and East West Banking Corp.

Beatriz Zobel de Ayala


The matriarch of the Zobel de Ayala clan, Beatriz Miranda Barcon Zobel de Ayala is a well-known advocate and philanthropist. Zobel is an avid and active member of the Catholic Women’s Club and is known for her contributions to arts and culture as well as her involvement in civic organizations. Zobel is married to Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, with whom she has seven children: Jaime Augusto, Fernando, Bea Jr., Patricia, Cristina, Monica, and Sofia.

Consuelo Rufino Lopez


Connie Lopez is the wife of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Oscar M. Lopez, and has always managed the household finances of the family. They have eight children, including Town&Country cover subjects Cedie Lopez-Vargas and Piki Lopez, and have 27 grandchildren, including Town&Country cover subject Marianna Lopez Vargas. Last year, Lopez was given the rare honor of having the smallest of the world’s largest species of flowers named after her. The Rafflesia Consueloae was discovered near a watershed in the area operated by First Gen Hydro Power Corp, of which her son Piki is chairman and CEO.

Amparito Lhuillier

Amparito with husband Michel J. Lhuillier

A former beauty queen and model, Amparito Llamas Lhuillier is one of the country’s legendary matriarchs. She acts as wife to Michel J. Lhuillier of the M. Lhuillier Group of Companies, mother to children Charles, Michael, Yvette, and Monique, and the founder and chairperson of the Amparito Llamas Lhuillier Educational Foundation. Through her foundation, Lhuillier has sent over 1,500 young people to college and then provided them with employment opportunities in Lhuillier-owned establishments.

Imelda Cojuangco

Portrait of Meldy by Claudio Bravo, 1967

The daughter of Dr. Ramon Velasco Ongsiako and Carmen de la Paz, Imelda de la Paz Ongsiako-Cojuangco went by a number of names; most popularly “Meldy” or “Meldy Co.” Cojuangco came from a family of lawyers and doctors in Manila and dared to be different by immersing herself in the arts and philanthropic causes. The society icon founded the Moreno Foundation, sat on the board of Cofradia de la Inmaculada Concepcion, and was active in the Family Rosary Crusade. Finding love, she married Ramon “Monching” Cojuangco, the owner of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company. Together they had children Tonyboy, Choy, Mikey, Marvie, and Ningning. Cojuangco passed away in 2016.

Elizabeth Gokongwei


Heading the family that owns one of the leading conglomerates in the country, Elizabeth Yu-Gokongwei imparted her most cherished treasures to her children: humility and moral values. It was after the war that John Gokongwei set his eyes upon Elizabeth Yu. In a Forbes profile, the magnate recounts, “I told my mother she’s the one I’m going to get married to, so I chased her for four years. Doing business was easier [than chasing her down].” The two married and have six children: Robina, Lance, Lisa Faith, Hope, and Marcia. The Gokongwei matriarch helps keep the family fort down. Her son, Lance Gokongwei describes her as, “kind-hearted, warm, and a very true person.”

Celia Diaz Laurel


Celia Diaz was in for a political life when she married senator and later vice president Salvador “Doy” Laurel, Jr. She, however, continued to pursue her own interests and contributed to the world of art. An actress, painter, writer, poet for over 60 years, the immensely gifted Diaz Laurel was unstoppable. In 2014, the mother of eight released an autobiography of sorts, chronicling her life from childhood memories of growing up in Negros Occidental, to mentoring under Guillermo Tolentino and Fernando Amorsolo, to her life at the U.P Diliman campus.

Lorna Laurel


Another entry from the Laurel family tree, Lorna married the late senator Sotero Laurel, the elder brother of Doy Laurel and son of President Jose P. Laurel. Sotero or “Teroy,” as he was known, took over the Lyceum of the Philippines University after his father did. The reins were handed over to Lorna, who, as chairman of the board, sometimes still spends her Sunday mornings with the university’s basketball team, the LPU Pirates. Among the school’s well-known alumni are President Rodrigo Duterte, Sonny Belmonte, and Rodrigo Delos Reyes.

Lourdes Reyes Montinola


Daughter of Far Eastern University founder Nicanor Reyes, Sr., Lourdes took over the family business and but as of 2013 stepped down as chairman of the board and CEO of the university, which was once exclusively an accountancy institute. Her children seem to be following in her footsteps. Her son, Juan Miguel, is chief finance officer, her daughter Gianna is vice president of corporate affairs, and her son Aurelio, or “Gigi,” is chairman of the board.

Apart from being an educator, Montinola is also a skilled writer, having earned her doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines. Montinola famously wrote Breaking The Silence, which recounts the events during the liberation of Manila in 1945.

Fe Panlilio


In addition to being an international jeweler, Fe Sarmiento-Panlilio was a matriarch to the clan she bore with husband Atty. Jose Lazatin Panlilio. A daughter of Pampangenos Laureano Sarmiento and Ines Lugue, Panlilio grew up in Bacolor with sister Luz Sarmiento-Panlilio. Panlilio was often considered as one of the Manila’s best dressed and was one of the Philippines’ prominent jewelers. Known as “The Jeweler,” Panlilio had loyal customers all over the world, including “The Last Krupp” Baron Arndt Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Christina Ford, the Sultan of Brunei, and various Arab sheiks.

Felicidad T. Sy


Felicidad Tan-Sy is a well-known philanthropist and matriarch of the Sy family. Together with the Chinese-Filipino business magnate, Sy has six children, namely Teresita, Elizabeth, Henry Jr., Hans, Herbert, and Harley. The Felicidad T. Sy Foundation has put up countless wellness centers and wards in hospitals. According to the SM Foundation, Inc., the foundation is “focused on spiritual development and promoting Catholic living in the community,” while spearheading, “building of Catholic churches, providing SM employees spiritual programs, and caring for church leaders and ministers through various special projects.”

Maritess Lopez


Maritess Lagdameo-Lopez is a well-known philanthropist and a patron of the arts. She is the wife of former Philippine ambassador to Japan Atty. Manuel “Manolo” M. Lopez, with whom she has four children: Maita Lopez Lichauco (president of Benpres Insurance Agency Inc.), Beaver (CEO of Global Integrated Contact Facilities Inc.), Mike (general manager of Rockwell Integrated Property Services Inc.) and Mark (CIO of ABS-CBN Corp.).


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