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How They Did It: Success Secrets of Self-made Filipino Millionaires

how to become a millionaire success stories

Becoming a millionaire doesn’t happen overnight. It takes vision, dedication, and a little bit of luck. Here are some Filipino business giants whose rags to riches stories can teach you a thing or two about money.

1. Mariano Que (Founder and Owner of Mercury Drug)


Mariano Que started out as an employee in a drugstore before World War II. After the war, he saw the need for sulfa drugs and grabbed the opportunity. A surplus of antibiotics from war-time supplies and a booming demand from the masses fueled his business model.

In 1945, Mr. Que put up his first drugstore in Pasig followed by landmark branches in developing CBD Makati and in the iconic Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila. Today, Mercury Drug is the country’s quintessential pharmaceutical establishment with quality products at affordable prices.

Lesson: Know what the market needs and provide it. Remember, when there’s a need, there’s money to be made.

2. Socorro C. Ramos (Co-founder of National Bookstore)


how to become a millionaire success stories socorro ramos

Photo source: Primer


At a young age of 18, Ms. Socorro, also known as Nanay Coring, worked for the iconic Goodwill Bookstore in Escolta. It wasn’t until after she married Jose Ramos that Nanay Coring put up her own. The couple rented a small corner space at the foot of Escolta Bridge and started with a measly capital of a P211 (or P15,047 in 2015). They sold GI novels, textbooks, and school supplies, but shifted to selling candles, soap, and slippers during World War II.

Tragedy struck when their first branch was burned down during the Battle of Manila in 1945. They rebuilt it only to be toppled by typhoon Gene 3 years later. After much adversity, the couple finally established their footing in the industry when they procured licenses from Hallmark and publishers like McGraw-Hill and Prentice Hall to print affordable textbooks. Today, Nanay Coring’s P211 investment has more than 145 franchise stores nationwide.

Lesson: Adversity is life’s best teacher. With hard work and determination, no world conflicts or calamities can stop you from achieving your goal. In addition, starting early can balloon your small investment to a market-defining franchise.

3. Tony Tan Caktiong (Founder of Jollibee)


how to become a millionaire success stories tony tan caktiong

Photo source: Forbes


For most parts of the world, you go to McDonald’s if you’re craving for burgers and fries. But not in the Philippines. Here, Tony Tan Caktiong’s smiling red bee dominates the fast food scene and is now hailed as Asia’s most valuable restaurant chain. But not many people know that Tony started Jollibee by selling cold treats.

At 22, he seized a franchising opportunity with Magnolia Dairy Ice Cream and opened two ice cream parlors. In response to customer requests, he added hot meals and sandwiches to the menu, which soon proved to be a lot popular than ice cream.

Three years later, he discontinued the Magnolia franchise, converted his ice cream parlors into fully blown fast food outlets, and the rest was history.

Lesson: Going against giants is hard but not impossible. With close attention to customer feedback and the right attitude in managing risk and reward, you too can make it big in a saturated industry.

4. Corazon D. Ong (Founder of CDO-Foodsphere)


how to become a millionaire success stories corazon ong

Photo source: FEU


Being a full-time mother didn’t stop the entrepreneur in Mrs. Ong. After quitting her career as a dietician, she used her skills in preparing delicious baon for her family to start her own food company. In 1975, she founded a kitchen-based mom-and-pop enterprise producing siopao with a longanisa filling and other tocino products.

The company was based at their home in Valenzuela City, which for the most part, was also their production, warehouse, and distribution areas. It had two employees—Mrs. Ong and her husband Pepe.

Fast forward 40 years and Foodsphere is one of the country’s top food companies employing 3,000 Filipinos and producing high-quality products under popular brands like CDO, Bibbo, Holiday, San Marino, Highlands, and Danes. Not too shabby for something that started from a makeshift kitchen with two employees.

Lesson: If you love doing something, try to make money out of it. It may be a hobby or a passion of yours but it could also be the next big thing.

5. Diosdado Banatao (Co-Founder of Chips and Technologies Co.)


how to become a millionaire success stories diosdado banatao

Photo source: Illustrado Life


Born to a rice farmer and a housekeeper, Mr. Banatao used to walk barefoot for most of his elementary and high school days in Cagayan Valley. Despite his hapless upbringing, he refused to settle for just a high school diploma.

He pursued higher education and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in Mapua Institute of Technology. He then worked as a design engineer for world-famous aviation company Boeing and capped off his exceptional academic stint by completing a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

Mr. Banatao used the knowledge and expertise he gained from all the years in school and in the aviation industry to develop milestone innovations in the computer industry. He co-founded Chips and Technologies Co., which was later bought by Intel for $430 million.

Lesson: Good education is the catapult to success. What you do with your four years in college can have a lasting impact on the rest of your life.

Read more: 7 Simple Ways to Become a Millionaire in Your 20s

These successful businessmen may come from different backgrounds and have different stories to tell, but at the core of all their success is the same thing: their belief that they can be successful. Despite their fair share of obstacles and challenges, they took a leap of faith and turned their dreams into reality.

It’s your turn to make your dreams come true. Try our Personal Loan Calculator below to see how much you can borrow:

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