Senator Manuel ‘Manny’ Bamba Villar was born on December 13, 1949 in Moriones, Tondo, Manila to a family of nine children. His father, Manuel Villar Sr. was just a low-ranking civil servant and they were just living under a rented apartment. The main source of their income was their small fish and shrimp business in Divisoria. His mother, Curita Bamba Villar was a market vendor. As a boy, he was often seen assisting his mother in the wet market. His mother used to wake him up early in the morning to help her carry loads of fish. Young Manny used to complain it was too early but he would do it anyway just for her mother to save money by not hiring a helper to do it. He recalled he was once commanded by his mother to encash a 40-peso check at a bank in the former Manila Hilton Hotel. He was one of the earliest customers that time and the teller complained that the check smelled like fish. However, he remained firm telling the bank teller it was her duty to accept the check.
Manny learned his entrepreneurial skills from his best teacher, his mother. He said, “I learned from my mother what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and it means working really hard to achieve your dreams.” He described his mother as a ‘consummate entrepreneur’. He described her as a very hard working person who was never been absent or late in the wet market. He further described her as a dynamic, a woman of tremendous passion and ambitions, resourceful, pragmatic, and has a very good skill in arithmetic especially in counting change.
Manny finished both his undergraduate studies and Master’s Degree of Business Administration in University of the Philippines (UP). He then worked with the accounting giant firm SGV & Co. but resigned to try his luck into his first business venture. Having a background in the seafood business, he first ventured into that same business. Unfortunately, it failed having lots of uncollected receivables and he was technically bankrupt at the age of 22. Resilient, he thought of an idea and he approached one of the restaurants he was delivering seafood that couldn’t pay him. He printed out ‘meal tickets’ and convinced the restaurant owner to honor them. He then went to sell these tickets at a reduced price to office workers. After one year, he was able to liquidate his receivables. He then went to work again this time at Private Development Corporation of the Philippines where he specialized in selling World Bank Loans.
His first real estate venture began in 1975 when he again resigned from his job at the age of 25. He started with a capital of P10,000 which he used to acquire two reconditioned trucks in hauling gravel and sand to construction sites for BF Homes. He then learned the business well enough to build houses on 80 lots sold to him by BF Homes. The project was a success and it made Manny a young millionaire at the age of 26. At this stage, he said to himself: “One day, I’ll be the biggest home-builder in the country”.
Manny then concentrated in this business and he decided to go for low-cost housing. His initial tactic was to buy odd shaped lots of big developers that they cannot sell. Manny bought these lots and built houses on them. Majority of his buyers were Overseas Filipino Workers who availed the financing terms of PAG-IBIG, a government institution subsidizing the acquisition of low cost houses. Eventually, he had sold more than 100,000 homes for the poor and middle class Filipino families.
He then entered politics in 1992 by becoming a Congressman in the districts of Las Pinas and Muntinlupa and continued by serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives and today as Senate President. He has received various awards and recognitions. These include Agora Award for Outstanding Achievement in Marketing Management in 1989, Most Outstanding Certified Public Accountant in 1990 given by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Most Outstanding UP Alumnus given by University of the Philippines in 1991.
Truly Manny Villar is another excellent example of a rags-to-riches story. He proved to us that his humble beginnings as a poor boy from Tondo was not a hindrance in achieving his dreams and ambitions as long as there is hard work, persistence, and perseverance coupled with determination. More power 'Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga'!