The shipping magnate and fashion mogul have filed cases against each other in Metro Manila and Cebu City.

Mano a Mano: Josie Natori vs Doris Magsaysay Ho

Two of the country’s fiercest business minds and society stalwarts are currently caught in a legal battle. Who will win? We’ll let their personalities allow us an informed guess. By BAM ABELLON
ANCX | Aug 04 2020

Doris Teresa Magsaysay-Ho and Josefina “Josie” Cruz Natori, two powerful Filipinas in the world of business, are engaged in a legal battle over a two-hectare property estimated to cost around 3 billion pesos in the current market. The land is part of the Cruz family’s Mareco, or Mandaue Realty and Resources Corp., a reclamation area in Mandaue City, Cebu.

According to a report by The Philippine Star, posted on July 28, 2020, the property in question is a seaside area inherited by the Cruz family from the late business mogul Felipe F. Cruz (F.F. Cruz), who died in 2013. F.F. Cruz founded, among others, his namesake engineering and construction firm.

Natori's fashion business started when she showed a Bloomingdales buyer an embroidered blouse from the Philippines. Photo from Natori Company on Wikimedia Commons

The report said that Ho’s NMC Container Lines has been leasing the two-hectare area for years. The leasing contract expired in 2008, and NMC Container Lines renewed it for another ten years. Before the second contract expired in 2018, Ho’s company filed a case in Metro Manila, claiming it had the right to buy the land they have been leasing for an amount equivalent to its value in 2003.

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, posted on August 2, 2020, Mareco is said to have offered to sell Ho the property in 2003, but the company turned down the offer. The Philippine Star noted that the Cruz’s side insists that the late F.F. Cruz offered only a right of first refusal.

The case, filed by Ho, is now at the Manila Regional Trial Court. While Natori filed a case in Cebu City to eject Ho’s company out of their property.

Die-hard Manila business resident Doris Ho with Mayor Isko.

The cases were kept concealed from the public—as most things run in the upper echelons of society. But walls do have ears, even if they’re covered in expensive damask. And now all eyes are on the tough heiresses. 

But before this all blows up, let’s not forget how these two women made a mark for themselves in their own industries. And while we wait for the courts’ decision, let’s see how they fare in our own minor league in this mano a mano. 


Current post

Ho: President and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Magsaysay Group of Companies

Natori: Founder and CEO of The Natori Company

Josie Natori at the 40th anniversary celebration of her company. Handout photo


Ho is the daughter of Robert Ho, founder of The Magsaysay Group of Companies, and Anita Magsaysay-Ho, the revered Filipina artist. 

Natori is the daughter of F.F. Cruz, construction pioneer and founder of F.F. Cruz & Co., Inc., one of the country’s largest contractors, and Angelita Almeda of the upper class Almeda family in Bicol.


Educational Background

Both are alumnae of the private Manhattanville College, a Catholic boarding school for women located in New York City. Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, the film producer and philanthropist, is a co-alum. Ho has a master’s degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute, also in New York. 


Road to Success

Ho: After staying in different countries, like Brazil, Japan, and Canada, Ho went back to the Philippines to help run the family business at 29 years old. In 1981, she became the chief executive of the business.

Natori: Worked her way up Wall Street until she became the first female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. Used to own a McDonald’s franchise. 


Current Place of Residence

Ho: Philippines

Natori: New York



Ho: Classic, conservative

Natori: Bold, intricate, high-fashion


What they said 

Ho once told the Financial Times how it was to live in a man’s world: “Not once did I ever think that I was not the same as a man until I came to the Philippines.”

Natori: “I have always believed there are no boundaries,” she says in the company website. Her path was very much influenced by the women in her family. “My grandmother always said, ‘Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to depend on anyone.’” 


Romantic attachment

Ho: Divorced with three kids, once linked to Mar Roxas and once dated the architect Conrad Onglao, Zsa Zsa Padilla’s current partner 

Natori: Married to Ken Natori who is chairperson for the Natori company. They married in 1972. 

Magsaysay Group CEO Doris Magsaysay-Ho joins Stewart on the rice paddy.

Attachments to Philippine Arts and Culture

Ho: Asia Society Philippines Foundation, chair; Metropolitan Museum of Manila, board member; Manila House, co-owner

Natori: Asian Cultural Council, board member; Orchestra of St. Luke’s, board member; Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines, board member


What people say about their work

On Ho, from Insular Life, after she became the recipient of the first Asia CEO- InLife Shero of the Year Award: “The success of her organization, as well as her personal endeavors, her striving for excellence for herself and others, deserve praise and recognition.” 

On Natori, from Tatler: “More than 30 years in the business but still going strong...continues to captivate the global fashion industry with her forward-thinking collections.” 


What you may not know about her 

Ho: She is an environmental advocate, and a huge supporter of the rehabilitation of the Pasig River. She has also been lobbying for creating clear and solid plans for the areas around the river for years. Among her friends, she’s also known as a gracious host and event planner—she hosted a fabulous dinner for Martha Stewart at her home last year, a dinner for new Manila mayor Isko Moreno with the next gen Philippine tycoons as guests, and helped put together the El Nido wedding of her son Jesse Ho Maxwell to Jessica Kienle in 2016. 

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Natori: According to Forbes, she owns real estate in New York's Westchester County, Manhattan and Palm Beach. Natori is also a gifted pianist, and performed a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra when she was nine, and played a storm at the Carnegie Hall in front of nearly 3,000 friends when she hit 50. She has two Steinway Model D concert grands in her Manhattan apartment. “In every home that we've had, the first object I have is a piano,” she once said in an interview. “To me, there's no home without a piano.” 


Portrait of Josie Natori from Official Website

Portrait of Doris Magsaysay Ho from Magsaysay Group of Companies on FB