Alex Constantine - November 28, 2007
Andres Soriano y Roxas was one of the most prominent businessmen, capitalists, entrepreneurs philanthropists and historical figures in 20th century Philippines. His father was Spanish engineer Don Eduardo Soriano and Doña Margarita Roxas de Ayala y Roxas. His maternal grandparents were the industrialist and primary capitalist of San Miguel Corporation Don Pedro Pablo Roxas and Doña Carmen Roxas de Ayala, who was the sister of Trinidad Roxas de Ayala who would later marry Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz. His uncle was Don Enrique Zobel de Ayala.
Under Don Andres' business leadership, San Miguel Corporation became the largest and most modern Philippine company. He was an outstanding entrepreneur by expanding into vertical and horizontal businesses. He was a leader in promoting business ownership by encouraging his employees and middle income families to take equity stakes in his companies. He established many philanthropies and encouraged good employee relations by sharing profits with his more than 16,000 employees.
Andres Soriano was born on February 8, 1898 in Manila. He was Spanish by birth. He went to Ateneo de Manila elementary and high schools. He was sent to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England. He completed his studies in Madrid, Spain at the Escuela Superior de Comercio, graduating with a degree of bachelor of commerce in 1917. In 1918 he joined San Miguel Brewery as a junior accountant when he was 21 years old, starting the multigenerational involvement of the Soriano family. In that year he had the foresight to cultivate good labor relations by establishing a pension plan that paid retired employees 25% of their salary, with guaranteed sick leaves and medical benefits. In 1919 he became its acting manager.
In 1922 he had San Miguel gather steam in 1920s when the company created the Royal Soft Drinks plant. In 1925 he entered the frozen food industry with the creation of Magnolia Ice Cream. In 1924 he became its general manager. He married tht year Carmen de Montemar. They had two sons, Jose Maria Soriano who was born on February 6, 1925, and Andres Soriano Jr. who was born on May 3, 1936.
In 1927 Soriano had the foresight to apply for the first non-US Coca-Cola bottler and distributor. By 1928 Don Andres had up to a 90% control of the Philippine beer industry. Funneling this huge source of capital, he expanded the diversification activities going into lucrative area of gold mining in Paracale, Camarines Norte, when gold prices surged from $30 to $45. These diversified companies were put under the umbress of his holding company Andres Soriano y Cia. He was also a partner of the Roxas family's other businesses incluing Sorox and Co. (established in 1939 and subsequently renamed A. Soriano y Cia), which had many companies distributed in United States, France (Ansor) and Spain, a country which he frequently visited.
Sorox was to be a management company to assist him the running of his many enterprises.
In 1941 upon the advice of close friend Philippine field marshal Douglas MacArthur Jr. he acquired the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company (PATCO) and transformed it into Philippine Airlines with the help of the National Development Agency to become the country's largest air carrier.
During the Commonwealth years he solicited the friendships of powerful Americans in the colonial government. Among them were Douglas MacArthur Jr., who appointed him as his aide-de-camp. He also cultivated the Hispano-Filipino community support to become their defacto spokesman. Through his many social and business connections he befriended the King of Spain Alfonso XIII and even accompanied King Alfonso to his exile on April 14, 1931 upon the ascendance of the Republican-led Spanish Republic.
Through his close diplomatic connections in Spain he was appointed the consul of Spain in the Philippines with Don Enrique Zobel de Ayala his first cousin as the vice-consul. During the initial stages of the vicious Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, he became the leading supporter of the Falange Movement in the Philippines. Because of his anticommunist views and liberal American capitalist bent, he feared the anticlerical and socialist forces of the Spanish Republican government. Later Don Andres, together with the more conservative members of the Filhispano community tried to distance themselves from General Francisco Franco.
The final break with Spain came upon the advice of General MacArthur when Don ANdres abandoned his Spanish citizenship to become an American. He was advised that in case that General Franco would have entered World War II on the side of the Axis powers that Spanish citizens' properties would be seized by the Allied powers. This would be a trend for many prominent Hispano Filipinos to ally themselves with the United States instead of Spain, especially after the postwar era when General Franco's country would be isolated internationally, a trend that signalled the colossal decline of Spain in the Philippines.
He initially applied for Philippine naturalization, a move which was opposed by the Civil Liberties Union of the Philippines. The Philippine Commonwealth quietly granted his application.
The War Years
After the Japanese invasion on December 8, 1941, he volunteered and became a captain in the Philippine army. He retreated to Bataan and Corregidor, together with the US troops. In February 1942 he was promoted to major and two months after to lieutenant colonel. One month later he accompanied President Quezon by PT boat and plane to Australia and then to the US.
He was appointed by President Manuel L. Quezon as the Secretary of Finance of the Philippine Commonwealth. He became a close friend of Major General Charles A. Willoughby, who was General MacArthur's chief of intelligence. Because Gen. Willoughby was a Hispanist and fellow sympathizer of the Falange movement, Don Andres soon became his best friend.
Harold Ickes, the then US Secretary of Interior, wrote in his diary of his discomfort with the presence of Don Andres and Elizalde in the Commonwealth's exile government in Washington D.C. He doubted their loyalties and reported that they had conveniently adopted US citizenship. Democratic Congressman John Coffee of Washington aired his displeasure at Don Andres' presence in the American capital, saying that it was inappropriate to have an open sympathizer of General Franco in the US administration, especially when Spain was courting the attentions of Adolf Hitler.
Because of this General MacArthur arranged for his transfer to his office in Australia, where he appointed him a colonel in his staff, despite the protestations of Harold Ickes. He came back to the Philippines with the advance invasion on the Battle of Leyte and quickly became the defacto and most important adviser of the General on Philippine politics and business.
 The Postwar Years
Even after the destruction of the Philippine after World War II, he accelerated San Miguel's growth by acquiring brewing facilities in Hong Kong in 1948. The 1950s a boom period for Don Andres. He was often seen attending diplomatic functions and society parties. He frequent the Riviera, which was then Manila's prestigious nightclub.
He was a close supporter of many Philippine presidents, including Elpidio Quirino. Internationally Don Andres maintained close ties with General Franco's government and was even awarded the Spanish Great Cross of Naval Merit. He became a bitter rival of Fr. Walter B. Hogan, a Jesuit priest who championed the masses and the creation of labor unions. Don Andres was notorious for opposing every organized means to organize unions in his businesses. Nevertheless he established the Philippine School of Social Work at the Philippine Women's University which he supported with a generous endowment.
He was involved in a bitter rivalry with Filipino tycoon Eugenio Lopez for the control of Philippine Airlines. . The postwar years saw the dizzying expansion into other vertical businesses such as a liquid carbon dioxide plant, glass bottling in Mandaue, Cebu, and packaging factory.
By 1962 Time Magazine estimated his personal fortune at US $80 million, with interests in 14 major companies ranging from radio and TV stations, breweries in Hong Kong and Spain, with his companies averaging 35% annual return on capital. He was the richest man in the Philippines.
In 1963 he had the business name changed to San Miguel Corporation. He died in 1963, whereupon his son Andres Soriano Jr. became the company's chief executive officer. Even though the Soriano family controlled only 7% of the shares of San Miguel Corporation (vis-avis the 20% share of the Zobel de Ayala family, the extended family would continue to run it into the 1990s, until Danding Cojuangco was able to acquire majority control with the support of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Rodao, Florentino: Franco y el imperio japonés, Plaza y Janes, Barcelona, 2002, pag. 226.
González Calleja, Eduardo: “La delegación nacional del servicio exterior de Falange Española en las islas filipinas (1936-1944)” en VVAA: España y el pacífico, Agencia española de cooperación internacional en colaboración con la Asociación Española de Estudios del Pacífico, Madrid, 1989, pag. 127.
Frank Kluckhohn, "Heidelberg to Madrid — The Story of General Willoughby" in The Reporter (New York Journal) August 19, 1952