He was born to a simple family on December 13, 1949 in Moriones, Tondo, Manila. His father, Manuel Montalban Villar, Sr., a government employee, hailed from Cabatuan, Balazan, and Tanza, Iloilo and his mother Curita Bamba, a seafood dealer, came from Pampanga and Bataan. Manny is the second child in a brood of nine. At a very young age, he was already helping his mother sell shrimp and fish in the Divisoria Market. With the burning desire for a better future and a strong determination to improve his family’s living conditions, Manny worked hard in selling shrimps and fish to be able to send himself to school.
“I learned from my mother what it takes to be an entrepreneur, “ he revealed. “And it means working really hard to achieve your dreams.” In Divisoria, he marveled at the volume of sales that Chinese merchants were making, thus he vowed early on to become an entrepreneur.
Hard work, persistence, and perseverance became his guiding principles in life. This earned him the title “Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga.”
He continues to inspire Filipinos with his life story and encourages each and every kababayan to improve their quality of life and fulfill their dreams through the very values he believes in -- “sipag at tiyaga.”
Manny Villar was a working student at the University of the Philippines, the premier institution of higher learning in the country, where he obtained his undergraduate and master’s degree in business administration and accountancy. By then, he was also putting in long hours as fish and shrimp trader, where the action starts during the ungodly hours of the morning when the catch lands on the market.
After graduation, he tried his hand as an accountant at the country’s biggest accounting firm, Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV). He resigned shortly though to venture on his own seafood delivery business.
When a restaurant he was delivering stocks to did not pay him, he printed out “meal tickets” which he persuaded the restaurant owners to honor. He then sold these tickets at a discounted price to office workers. It took him one year to liquidate his receivables.
He worked briefly as a financial analyst at the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines. His job was to sell World Bank loans, despite the attractive rates of which there were no takers. Convinced that he could make it on his own again, he quit his job and promptly availed of one of the loans.
So with an initial capital of P10,000 in 1975, Villar purchased two reconditioned trucks and started his sand-and-gravel business in Las Piñas.
It is here while delivering construction materials to big developers that Manny Villar came up with the idea of selling house and lot packages when the convention then was for homeowners to buy lots and build on them.
Manny Villar became the housing industry leader, and the biggest homebuilder in Southeast Asia, having built more than 100,000 houses for the poor and middle class Filipino families.
He then initiated mass housing projects to achieve economies of scale. His various innovations practically created the country’s mass housing industry. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism calls him “the dean of the (Philippine) real estate industry.”
Awards and Distinctions
For his business achievements, he was made cover story in the Far Eastern Economic Review. And his life story was also featured in Asiaweek, Forbes, AsiaMoney and Asian Business Review.
He garnered various awards such as the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award (1986) by the Philippine Jaycees, Agora Award for Outstanding Achievement in Marketing Management (1989), Most Outstanding CPA by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (1990) and Most Outstanding UP Alumnus (1991).
In a stunning political debut in 1992, Villar won with the most overwhelming mandate among congressmen in Metro Manila. He promptly applied his economic and managerial expertise as a key member of the House’s economic team, marshalling in economic reform measures of the Ramos Administration such as the New Foreign Investments Act and the restructuring of the Central Bank of the Philippines. He was the House representative in the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington D.C. in 1992.
He also oversaw various infrastructure projects in his districts like the construction of concrete roads and the Alabang-Zapote Flyover. He introduced the “Friendship Route” to ease the traffic problems in southern Manila by persuading subdivision homeowners to open up their roads to the general public.
He succeeded in passing Republic Act 8003 “Declaring Certain Areas in Las Piñas as Tourist Spots”. The law formalized his program of rehabilitating historical and cultural landmarks in Las Piñas starting with the world-famous Bamboo Organ Church. The ongoing project dubbed as “Las Piñas Historical Corridor” covers the stretch of the Old District and may even rival the Intramuros and Vigan restoration projects.
A staunch environmentalist, he initiated a privately funded tree planting drive in his district. He developed a P10-million tree nursery beside his home. He also quietly led a dedicated tree-planting drive complete with maintenance and watering of tree seedlings planted in the open spaces of the community.
When he realized that many poor students could not go to school because they do not even have fare money, he organized the “Manpower on Wheels” Program, a livelihood training school housed in a van that makes the rounds in depressed areas. The program has since produced more than 5,000 graduates and has been awarded by various government and civic organizations for its innovative scheme.
During his first term, he steered Las Piñas and Muntinlupa to cityhood. “As a developer, I have always envisioned these two communities as the ‘Twin Cities of the South’ of Manila. In fact, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa are the two fastest growing communities in the country today, he pointed out.”
For his constituency work and personal vow, he extended grants of home sites to some 10,000 poor families in Barangay CAA, Las Piñas City. Two major roads were also opened in his district; the Sucat-Pulanglupa Link Road to Parañaque and the Zapote-Molino (Daang Hari) Link Road to Cavite, thus alleviating the traffic congestion in the area.
During his second term, he was able to upgrade the Las Piñas District Hospital with a new building and better facilities. He also launched the “Sagip-Bukas” Drug Prevention Program on all the private and public schools of Las Piñas to educate the youth about the dangers of drug abuse. He also nationalized the Las Piñas High School to upgrade its facilities.
By the end of his second term of office, Villar had already proven beyond doubt his capacity for excellence as a true Filipino entrepreneur and a brilliant public servant who can get things done.