From Do'a Ysidra came the Cojuangco fortune



     MY wife's uncle Carlos Quirino certainly cut a handsome figure in his dapper uniform, as a Bataan veteran and aide to President Elpidio Quirino (no kin), and the Dream Boy of the women of his time. He was married three times and twice divorced, and the number of women who loved him can only be determined by a national census.
     When he married Liesl Commans, she fitted him with a chastity belt, and that was the end of his love life, and the beginning of a career as the most prolific and most respected historian of our time.
     He wrote 28 books -- on Rizal, young Aguinaldo, Vicente Madrigal, Earl Carroll, Chick Parsons, Amang Rodriguez -- mostly commissioned and well paid for. A 30 page story of Marites Pineda's rice mill cost her P20,000 and worth it.
     Five of Uncle Charlie's books are still unpublished including one on the Ayala Zobel family, and another on the Cojuangcos as commissioned by Danding. It is from the last-mentioned, as well from other sources, that we relate the story of how the massive fortune of Cory's Cojuangco family came into being.
     We know nothing about Martin, the first Cojuangco, except for a memorial built by his son Jose in the town of Paniqui which states that during the Manchu Dynasty he was the 19th generation of the Kho family in Hing-chiam, Fukien.
     Jose arrived at the age of 13 from Amoy in 1861, sent for by his father, studied in Binondo, moved to Malolos as a contratista in house-building, married Antera Estrella, and sired three children: Ysidra (1867), Melecio (1871), and Trinidad who died early.
     Melecio married wealthy Tecla Chichioco, and together with his father Jose who also had a wealthy wife, bought a fleet of carretones for hire to transport goods to Manila.
     Melecio sired four sons: Jose Jr. (father of President Cory, Pete and Peping), Juan, Antonio (father of Monching Cojuangco of the PLDT) and Eduardo (father of Danding, PACMAN).
     The family moved to Paniqui Tarlac on March 19, 1896, where they bought 1.33 hectares of rice land for P100 on September 1, 1909; 16.74 hectares. for P500, 3.73 hectares. for P200 and 11 hectares. for P900 on November 10, 1901; 8 hectares for P880.35 and 2 hectares for P119.65 on November 17, 1901.
     During the Philippine American War, General Arthur MacArthur, chasing Aguinaldo to Ilocos and Palanan, knocked at the door of Don Melecio and asked to be quartered. Melecio welcomed him as a guest and offered his capacious warehouses for the storing of US army supplies.
     To reciprocate, General MacArthur gave orders that the Cojuangco family could use free of charge the train to bring their rice to Manila, since the train went back empty after bringing the army supplies to Paniqui. With freight cost of P2.50 a sack saved, the Cojuangcos profited immensely by being nice to an enemy officer.
     Cory's father Jose and Douglas MacArthur, both young boys then, had almost a scuffle over a bicycle, not speaking each other’s language -- an incident they laughed about in later years.
     How did the Cojuangcos suddenly come upon their large fortune during those tumultuous years of the Philippine American War?
     One story was that when Aguinaldo fled from Malolos, he entrusted a sizeable sum of money in gold and silver to Melecio Cojuangco to be brought up north. But the US army caught up with Melecio who threw the treasure into a deep well. After the war, Cojuangco returned, retrieved the money, and with no one to give it to, kept it for himself. Captain Taylor, in his “The Philippine Insurgent Records,”' said that P27,000 of the rebel's money was never accounted for.
     Another story is that Gen. Antonio Luna, as chief of staff of the revolutionary army, had collected a sizeable sum from contributions with which to pay his soldiers. The person who collected for him was Tiburcio Hilario, Pampanga governor. Hilario's granddaughter, Ambassador Rafaelita Hilario Soriano, relates that her grandfather kept the gold and silver in sacks, including gold plates, chalices and other church treasures taken from Bacolor, San Fernando and Guagua.
     After losing an encounter at Sto. Tomas, Pampanga, Luna ordered Hilario to bring the valuables to Tarlac, where the revolutionary government planned to establish its capital.
     General Luna, so the story goes, then turned over the treasure to Ysidra Cojuangco, Melecio’s sister then an attractive 32 year old woman, for safe-keeping. The Luna proceed to Cabanatuan to meet with Aguinaldo, and was assassinated.
     Why did the Ilocano general entrust Ysidra with the treasure? Rumors had it that she was his sweetheart and lover, and trusted her to keep the treasure till he returned.
     Ysidra Cojuangco bore a child out of wedlock, and it was suspected that General Antonio Luna was the father. But the family insists that Ysidra fell in love with an unnamed Chinese mestizo who died before they could be married.
     Melecio was elected to the first Philippine Assembly, and died after an altercation with some bully-boy Americans on the train to Paniqui.
     With the death of the father Don Jose, Ysidra the spinster became the head of the family. The Cojuangco family owned some 12,000 hectares, controlled the rice trade of the province and lent so much money to planters and businessmen of Tarlac, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija that Justice Antonio G. Lucero, the family lawyer thought she practically owned Central Luzon.
     Ysidra was 93 when she died in the Makati Medical Center on July 13, 1960. She died intestate, and her four nephews, among them Cory's papa and those of Danding and Monching, inherited equally her belongings.
     In one trunk, they found IOU's of laborers and the poor, totaling P2 million -- which was written off as the last charitable act of their aunt.
     The uncles also found a trunk full of Japanese Replica watches Occupation money, which Ysidra thought might be validated after the war. It was the only mistake she ever made as a businesswoman.
     December 1, 1987, Philippines Daily Inquirer