Victoria Lopez Araneta
Victoria Lopez Araneta y Ledesma was a pioneering businesswoman, philanthropist, civic leader and educator.
She was born in Jaro, Iloilo on March 6, 1907. Her parents were Ana Ledesma and Eusebio Lopez of Iloilo. Until the age of 7 she was primarily raised by her uncle Congressman Salvador Laguda. She attended Assumption College, where her friend Esperanza Cu-Unjieng, a future Assumption nun, introduced her to one of the most eligible bachelors of that time Salvador Araneta.
On August 14, 1927 she was wed to the young Araneta at Manila Cathedral.
The Socio-Civic Life
During the pre-World War II era she considered the "First Lady of Philippine society," so highly regarded by both President Manuel Quezon and the creme de la creme of the nation. She believed strongly in her husband's advocacy of Filipino retail trade by serving as the president of the women’s chapter of National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA), which she founded in 1934.
When the president suggested that a preventorium be established for tuberculosis-stricken parents she founded White Cross Society in 1936, together with Mercedes Zobel McMicking. President Quezon inaugurated the facility. In 1938 she traveled to Europe and the United States to study preventoriums. To benefit White Cross she wrote "On Wings of Destiny,"a novel on the life and times of Jose Rizal.
When President Quezon first advocated the policy of social justice, she took it upon herself to establish the Victorieta Free School in 1939 for indigent neighbor kids in her own basement. In 1941 in recognition of her socio-civic work she was cited as one of the ten outstanding Philippine women by Kislap Graphics.
After the war she co-founded FEATI, the first postwar Philippine airline with her husband. It was subsequenty sold to Philippine Airlines. After the sale she co-founded FEATI Institute of Technology with her husband and the financial backing of FEATI investors. She became the first female president of a Philippine university in 1959.
In 1957 she cofounded RFM Corporation with her husband. THis was followed by a string of businesses as diverse as FEATI Industries (appliances), AIA Feed Mills, Premier Paper, and RIzal Lighterage.
In 1961 she founded FEATI Bank and Trust Company many years before any Filipina became president of a bank. She became its president when she was not able to find a suitable candidate for that position. In 1974 it was acquired by Citibank and renamed CityTrust Banking Corporation.
Father Fred Julien, a La Salette priest and friend of the Aranetas, described Doña Victoria as a female of many facets—fashionable, formidable and unforgettable. She came from money, married money and created additional affluence as a doer and thinker, a reflective and perceptive observer of the world around her. She was a shrewd and creative business woman, with millions of pesos to prove it."
She had five daughters: Lina Araneta-Santiago, Ana Maria, Carmen Araneta-Segovia, Maria Victoria, and Regina Araneta-Teodoro.
Awards and Distinctions
In 1947 she received the highest papal award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for her work for the Catholic church. In 1953 she was awarded the Cross of Merit from the Order of Malta in recognition of her works of charity. And in 1959 she conferred the a doctoral degree in business administration, honoris cause, by the Philippine Women's University.
Years in Exile
In 1972 she was traveling to the United States when Martial Law was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos She resolved never to return to the Philippines until after Martial Law was lifted. She became a Canadian resident and died in Vancouver on February 16, 1988.
In Her Own Words
- "The spring morning of Feati (University) cannot last forever. We shall pass on, but I pray that our good work will live after us."
- "Victoria meant someone great, successful, well-known, lucky. It connotes victory, determination, achievement--and I really am not of that stuff. I would rather be called Carmen or Rosa, although now I think I would not fit well with Rose."
- Manila Times article by Carmen Araneta-Santiago on her grandmother Ana Ledesma, the mother of Victoria