Meet PH's top philanthropists on Forbes Asia's list

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 30 2013 10:42 AM | Updated as of May 31 2013 07:04 PM

Henry Sy, Sr., and John L. Gokongwei Jr. (Composite File Photo)
MANILA, Philippines - Four Filipinos, including two tycoons, a perfume manufacturer and an architect, landed on Forbes Asia magazine's list of top philanthropists in the region.

Henry Sy, Sr., the country's richest man, and John L. Gokongwei Jr. were included in the magazine's annual Heroes of Philanthropy list.

Top architect Felino "Jun" A. Palafox Jr. was also on the list, along with mass market perfume manufacturer Joel S. Cruz.

The 88-year-old Sy is the founder and chairman of the SM Group, whose businesses include shopping malls, condos, banks and department stores. Forbes Asia cited the tycoon for giving $7 million to De La Salle University to build an eco-friendly building for the school, and donating $112 million to an un-named foundation.

Gokongwei, who founded conglomerate JG Summit, is chairman of one of the Philippines' most endowed foundations - the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation. He started the foundation with his three brothers in 1992. In 2006, he gifted the foundation with half of his shares in JG Summit, a donation which is now worth more than $1 billion.

"The foundation is the conglomerate’s largest shareholder, with a 29.4% stake worth $2.3 billion. Disbursements are funded out of company dividends and are focused on education," Forbes Asia said.

Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox and Associates, was cited by Forbes Asia for donating the firm's services for the design of low-income housing developments. This includes a 12-hectare project for the Smokey Mountain dumpsite community in Manila.

"A former Catholic seminary student, (Palafox) gives money to a program helping needy churches and in the last 5 years, his firm has done pro bono architectural and interior design or master planning for 6 church-related projects," Forbes Asia said.

Cruz, 48, is the founder and CEO of Central Affirmative Co., which makes Aficionado Germany. Forbes Asia cited Cruz for making donations to help abandoned children, as well as elderly and disabled.

"Each year his company — the manufacturer of Aficionado Germany, the country’s leading mass market perfume brand — celebrates its anniversary by giving cash to charities and paying employees to volunteer for a day. Nicknamed the “Lord of Scents,” he plans to launch the Joel S. Cruz Aficionado Foundation in the next year," Forbes Asia said.

Forbes Asia's annual Heroes of Philanthropy list highlights 48 of the region's "most remarkable givers".

"The selections are subjective and we aimed for a mix of notable people and causes. We also try to identify new philanthropists each year and pick only true philanthropists who are giving their own money, not their company’s because donating shareholder funds isn’t charity. By calling attention to these charitable souls, we hope to encourage more giving," John Koppisch, Senior Editor, Forbes Asia, said in a statement.

Other noted philanthropists on Forbes Asia's list were India's biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Show; South Korean musician Cho Yong-pil; Chinese CEO Zhang Xin; Japanese talk show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi; and Miss Universe Malaysia Deborah Henry.

The full list can be found in the June issue of Forbes Asia as well as at www.forbes.com/altruists