Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Pacific 25th Anniversary

Without Batting An Eyelash : Pacific-wide party for Asia-Pacific conglomerate

By Maurice Arcache

Posted date: June 22, 2006

THE hottest ticket of the year was definitely the supremely elegant, completely dazzling and meticulously planned First Pacific’s 25th Anniversary. The big event had jetsetters trooping to Hong Kong’s posh Four Seasons Hotel, palanggas.

First Pacific is, naturellement, the listed Hong Kong-based conglomerate which happens to be the parent company that created the Smart mobile juggernaut and turned PLDT into the most profitable company in the Philippines for the past three years. It is also the parent company of Indofood, the Indonesian version of San Miguel, which makes practically everything found in your kitchen cupboard. It is also the parent company of Metro Pacific, the Philippine conglomerate.

The Philippines’ business whiz kid, Manny V. Pangilinan, had founded First Pacific 25 years ago with a partner, with only US$500,000 in capital from the incredibly wealthy Salim famille of Indonesia, (among the most prominent and largest business families in all of Asia) and turned it into the corporate titan it is now that does over an awesome US$2 billion in turnover. It has nearly 50,000 employees across the region and its companies are the dominant players in their markets. So to celebrate its first 25 years, a grand party was the order of the day. And what a bash it was, palanggas!

The white Carrera marble staircase of the chi-chi Four Seasons Hong Kong was decorated in silver rose petals, while the mezzanine of the Grand Ballroom had tons of overflowing roses, and a giant silver-framed photo panel.

The hotshot namedroppables who jetted in from all over the globe were enough to make you snap to attention. Heading the Indonesian set was no less than First Pacific’s honorary chair, Liem Sioe Long, otherwise known as “Soedono Salim,” the patriarch of the Salim famille. He was accompanied by his son, Anthony Salim, First Pacific’s chair and Pangilinan’s partner for nearly 30 years.

The Hong Kong contingent had super socialites such as David Tang, founder of Shanghai Tang and board member of First Pacific; First Pacific director Edward Tortorici and his elegant wife, Anita, who jet-sets between Hong Kong and San Francisco; and Philippine Ambassador to Washington Albert del Rosario, also a First Pacific board member, who later presented an award from President Macapagal-Arroyo to Manny V. P.

Heading the Philippine hotshots were esteemed former President Corazon C. Aquino and Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. Together with them were President Aquino’s daughter, Balsy Cruz, and nephew, Rapa Lopa, and his glamorous wife, Didi.

The Inquirer’s beautiful Prieto famille were there, headed by la simpatica y elegante Marixi Rufino Prieto, PDI board chair, and her husband, businessman and golf whiz Alejandro “Alex” Prieto; their daughter, brilliant Sandy Prieto Romualdez, PDI’s president and CEO, who was looking chic in her black gown, accompanied by her tall, good-looking husband, Philip Romualdez, president of Benguet Corp.

Of course, my ever dearest Tessa Prieto Valdes dashed in late-ish. She had jetted into Hong Kong from San Francisco, and came bedecked in a gown that had all the Hong Kong crowd wondering, “Who was Tessa’s couturier?”

Loads of old money mixed with new, like, beautiful couple Pedro Roxas and wife, fashion plate Gina Tambunting R., who is on the board of PLDT, chatted with fellow board member, Tessie Sy-Coson, who was beaming with pride because of the hugely successful opening of her famille’s humongous SM Mall of Asia.

The rest of PLDT’s board were there in full force, including Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, Ateneo de Manila president; Shell chair Oscar Reyes (with wife Editha, sharing cocktails with Chari Lao and Amado Bagatsing); PLDT and Smart president Napoleon Nazareno (with petite wife Cecilia); and PLDT CEO Christopher Young (with wife Olivia).

Bert Romulo was with his super-fun wife, southern lady Olivia Montinola R.

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan was also there with megastar-wife Sharon Cuneta, who graciously acceded to sing (she was looking much slimmer). The indomitable Dolphy was there with daughter Zia. His wife, gorgeous Zsa Zsa Padilla, blew him kisses as she superbly performed on stage.

Moi doesn’t think a star-studded concert of this magnitude was ever attempted! Martin Nievera jetted in from Europe to perform, as well as the fabulous Lani Misalucha, who came to town from her headline show in Las Vegas. She got a standing ovation from the mega shakers from around the globe with her fantastic opera number, “Nessin Dorma.” Also wowing the audience were Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa, Christian Bautista and Mon David, who had won the London International Jazz Festival.

World-class musical director Louie Ocampo conducted a full orchestra, set against a fairy-tale stage directed by the dynamic Robby Carmona. The concept and execution of the concert were by Metro Pacific’s David Nugent and fabulous talent manager Joji Dingcong.

Champagne flowed, fois gras was served aplenty and the best the Philippines had to offer was there to show a world-class crowd that we are nothing but world-class, dahlings.

Adorable Kris Aquino was absolutely radiant as she hosted the pre-concert program with Boy Abunda.

Manny V. P. thanked First Pacific’s employees “for their years of long-service and dedication.” Each one received a gold ingot!

The concert repertoire included everything from the musical “Gypsy” to Madonna and even Barbra Streisand. The two encores had everyone on their feet, dahlings.

After the concert ended, everyone partied in different Hong Kong clubs until 5:30 a.m.—except Manny Pangilinan who reported to his waterfront office bright and early the next morning, ready to chart the next 25 years of First Pacific’s.

Here’s to greater years ahead for First Pacific and to Mr. Wonderful himself!


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