LIST: Meet the 10 richest women in the Philippines

These women have a combined wealth of $15 billion—bigger than the economies of Madagascar, Mauritius or North Macedonia.  

One Saturday, not too long ago, I bumped into SM Investments Corp. vice chair Teresita Sy-Coson at a Filipino restaurant in a popular hotel. When I asked how everything was, she said she was so glad to be out relaxing, having an easygoing lunch with her friends.

“I’m out of my work clothes,” Tessie Sy-Coson said gleefully, pointing out her relaxed slacks and printed feminine blouse, a definite departure from her weekday black-and-white corporate attire. (The ladies who had just lunched, it turned out, included celebrated stockbroker Vivian Yuchengco and former Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia.)

Sy-Coson, eldest child of the late taipan Henry Sy Sr. who grew his retail, banking, and property empire from one shoe store in Quiapo, tops the list of the richest women in the Philippines, based on the latest wealth tracker of Forbes. Currently vice chair of the SM Investments Corp., Sy-Coson was born in the humble town of Plaridel, Bulacan and started cutting her teeth on the business when she was just eight years old, selling children’s shoes as her first job at ShoeMart.

Known to be modest, Sy-Coson does throw caution to the wind on occasion, gamely lip-syncing to a Christmas tune on camera, when prodded by the right friends. (Net worth: $2 billion)

richest women in the Philippines
Photos of Tessie Sy-Coson and Elizabeth T. Sy courtesy of SM Prime Holdings; Susan Co, Puregold; Vivian Que Azcona, Mercury Drug

Elizabeth T. Sy, president and chair of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. (SMHCC), must be all smiles these days with the tourism industry finally rebounding. This has encouraged her to sign a contract with the Radisson Hotel Group to manage 14 new hotels the SM Group will be building in the next five years. Sy’s nose for opportunities in the hospitality business was sharpened when she started at the Manila Royal Hotel in Sta. Cruz, Manila, where she helped her father run the family’s first hotel.

Described by colleagues and staff as “simple and down to earth,” Sy, or Betty to her friends, lives a life with no frills. “When eating at China Blue for instance, she enjoys the tofu spinach dish… and has coffee in places like CBTL,” said one source.

Although art populates the halls of Conrad Manila, SMHCC’s flagship property, Sy herself isn’t an avid art collector, and doesn’t have any masterpieces hanging on the walls of her own home, keeping to her ethos of simplicity. (Net worth: $1.8 billion)

Usually low key, Susan Co, vice chair of retail giant Puregold Price Club, was in the headlines recently, when embattled showbiz trio Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon broke free from TAPE Inc., long-time producer of their show, Eat Bulaga, after major disagreements on the show’s direction. De Leon told TV5 how Co texted him, genuinely inquiring on his wellbeing after the trio’s chaotic departure from their old home. She also assured De Leon that Puregold would continue to support them, saying, “What’s important to us is that you’re all okay.”

Recognition or publicity is not important. What matters is that we are able to use our resources to extend a hand wherever we can, in the best and most expeditious way possible. —Vivian Que-Azcona

Susan co-founded Puregold with her husband Lucio in 1998, opening its first outlet along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong. It is set up as a wholesale supplier of reasonably priced consumer goods for partner sari-sari stores under its Tindahan ni Aling Puring Program, with some 800,000 members. It recently hosted a major convention with their partners, attended by over 10,000 sari-sari store owners. (Net worth with husband: $2.3 billion)

Vivian Que-Azcona, president of Mercury Drug Corp., has been at the forefront of innovation at the country’s largest drugstore chain. She conceived the Gamot Padala service, enabling clients to order their medicines for pickup or delivery. She also launched the popular Suki Card, with which loyal customers accrue points with every purchase and then use them for rebates. Other innovations include value cards, in-store adult flu and Covid vaccinations, a mobile phone app, to name a few.

She once said, “Recognition or publicity is not important. What matters is that we are able to use our resources to extend a hand wherever we can, in the best and most expeditious way possible.” This philosophy keeps Que-Azcona quite active in the firm’s foundation, joining medical outreach projects and encouraging more access to clean water for under privileged communities. (Net worth with siblings: $1.2 billion)

With her German-Spanish mestiza features, Soledad “Gretchen” Oppen-Cojuangco reportedly caught the eye of then 19-year-old Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., during a ballet recital with his sisters.

Known as Manila’s “It Girl” of her time, Oppen-Cojuangco was among the first Filipino women featured in Harper’s Bazaar in 1964. Asked about the secret to her youthful complexion, she shared to our source, “A moisturizer from Switzerland.” (Our source was too shy to ask for the brand since she figured it would be too expensive to buy.)

Danding’s widow is known for her generosity, often sending her friends delicious coffee crunch cakes on their birthdays, and fruits like mangosteen, mangoes, and lanzones harvested from their family farm in Negros. (Net worth with children: $1 billion)

most affluent filipinas
Photos of Maria Grace Yao Uy courtesy of Converge; Josephine Gotianun-Yap, Filinvest; Betty Ang, Monde Nissin

At 55, Maria Grace Yao Uy is the youngest woman on the wealthiest Filipinas list, having co-founded Pampanga-based fiber broadband operator Converge ICT Solutions with her husband Dennis Anthony Uy. She remains humble despite the recent successes of Converge, such as its initial public offering at the height of the Covid pandemic, and the quick growth of their residential subscriber base which now stands at two million.

“There isn’t anything ‘special’ about my leadership that other women don’t have,” she told People Asia last year. “I’d like to believe that I made a great effort in understanding the business and used my own skills and knowledge to contribute to the success of the company.”

Having lost her mother when she was just 13, Uy strives to raise her three daughters as empowered women, able “to speak out for themselves and make sure their voices are heard.” (Net worth with husband: $930 million)

Josephine Gotianun-Yap’s first job, soon after joining her parents Andrew and Mercedes Gotianun’s consumer finance and realty business, was reportedly to write a position paper for a pension plan. While that probably doesn’t sound terribly exciting, especially for a recently returned MBA graduate from the US, it did set her on the serious path of corporate planning and management.

As president and CEO of Filinvest Development Corp., which now includes retail, banking, agribusiness, power generation and hospitality, she confesses she now has little time to indulge in her hobbies like golf and painting.

Gotianun-Yap’s brother Jonathan, who chairs FDC and EastWest Bank, described her to Forbes Asia as a “strategic and innovative leader, (who) often comes up with solutions, suggestions or comments, which are quite out of the box and which have been instrumental in propelling Filinvest forward this last decade.” (Net worth with family: $850 million)

The troubles Lucky Me! instant noodles had in Europe last year may have made some dent in its manufacturer Monde Nissin’s profit, but strong domestic sales have allowed company co-founder and president Betty Ang to retain her substantial, albeit reduced, net worth.

As one of the country’s largest food manufacturers, Ang has invested in expanding the capacity of its plant in Davao in response to increasing demand not just for its instant noodles but other Filipino staples like SkyFlakes crackers and Fita biscuits.

Ang remains one of the most low-profile tycoons of the country; her last appearance on camera was in September 2021, at the height of the pandemic, assuring consumers that her company was trying to keep costs down to ensure their products remain in the reach of ordinary Filipinos. In that interview with BusinessWorld, she also committed to using renewable energy and implementing sustainable schemes to reduce her company’s carbon footprint. (Net worth: $695 million)

Old rich women
Photos of Helen Yuchengco-Dee courtesy of RCBC; Robina and Lisa Gokongwei, Gokongwei Brothers Foundation

We’re not able to desegregate the individual net worth of the Gokongwei siblings as sisters Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope, and Marcia share their fortune with their only brother, Lance.

Let’s count their wealth as one for our purpose. The Gokongwei sisters inherited their wealth from their father, Universal Robina Corp. founder John Gokongwei, who passed away in November 2019.

As head of Robinsons Retail, Robina likes to joke about her twin snake in the dressing room of Robinsons Department Store, an urban legend woven in the 1970s perhaps by a competitor. This lady philanthropist is also quite a passionate supporter of the UP Fighting Maroons men’s basketball team, donating enough resources that have helped beef up the players’ roster and training. Her efforts eventually paid off when the team won the UAAP championship crown in 2022.

Lisa, who heads Summit Media, revolutionized the local publishing business, scaling back on international magazine titles and putting all of them on digital platforms. She is a fan of dark comedy series tackling families or family issues like Succession and The Bear.

Faith and Hope are twins and were once crowned “beauty queens” by their achi Robina at their birthday celebration. They also work for the family-led conglomerate. Marcia, a Communication Arts graduate of De La Salle University, takes breathtaking photographs on her travels, as can be seen on her Instagram account. (Unfortunately for her fans, her last post was in January 2020.) (Net worth with siblings: $3 billion)

Helen Yuchengco-Dee assumed the leadership position of the Yuchengco family’s businesses, consolidated under the House of Investments, when the family patriarch, Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco, passed away in 2017. Already having taken over most of her father’s management tasks in 2003, her mettle was certainly tested when their banking unit, RCBC, got entangled with the infamous Bangladesh Bank scandal in 2016.

A source who worked with her closely during that intense period describes Yuchengco-Dee as someone with a “steely personality. Not everybody can go through that existential nightmare unchanged. But it’s like she was the same as before. ‘Next problem, please.’ She was in charge and you know and could feel that she was.”

In one interview, she admits to being less affable than her father, preferring to stick to just a few close friends, and eschewing social events except when needed. (Net worth with siblings: $420 million)

The new lifestyle.