Esther A. Vibal

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Esther Vibal, founder and chairperson of Vibal Group of Companies. (Photo from Vibal Group)

Esther Asuncion Vibal was a Filipino writer, publisher, businesswoman, socio-civic worker, and philanthropist known for being the founder and chairperson of Vibal Group of Companies. She was the first Asian and Filipino president of International Inner Wheel, a socio-civic organization formed by wives and daughters of Rotary Club International members.

Early Life and Education

Esther Asuncion was born in Camiling, Tarlac. A high school scholar at Colegio de Santa Rosa (which was then located in front of the old Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros, Manila), she became the editor of the high school organ in 1940. Her contemporaries at the time included Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Virginia Moreno, and the Macasaet girls. As a promising young student, she received a full scholarship in the University of the Philippines, which was then located in Padre Faura, Manila.

Ms. Asuncion was active in extracurricular activities. She was a member of the UP Women's Club, together with Charo Roxas-Moran, Prof. Ursula Uichangco (dean of women), and Fely Bengzon Gonzales (future ambassador). One of the club's highlights was its annual Rigodon de Honor, where club members were presented to the deans of the university, among them were Dr. Valenzuela, Dr. Salcedo, Dean Abad Santos of the College of Law, Dr. Teofilo Sison, Dr. Espiritu and President Bienvenido Gonzales, and Mrs. Concepcion Rafols-Gonzales.

Ms. Asuncion began her literary career at UP Collegian, then considered the most prestigious university student organ, where her contemporaries were future ambassador Armando Manalo, Armando Ampil, Leonardo Perez (later of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC)), Tagalog writer Dionisio Salazar, and poet Fred Bunao. She became the secretary of the UP Student Council under president Troadio Quiason; with whom she had an opportunity to meet Philippine president Manuel Roxas at Malacañang in 1946.

After the war years, the UP campus was moved to Diliman, Quezon City; Ms. Asuncion was among those in the first batch to graduate from the campus, together with Gerardo Roxas, Jr. Roxas, who was with Upsilon Sigma Phi of the UP College of Law and was considered the kingmaker in campus politics—his father being the current Philippine president at the time.

Her newspaper career began rather serendipitously in 1946 when she was sent by the Manila Post to borrow a "cliche" from The Manila Times. There she met the young publisher Joaquin "Chino" Roces, who interviewed and offered her a job in The Manila Times's women's section. Although hesitant in the beginning as she was a full-time UP scholar, she eventually joined literary great Estrella Alfon and Cita Trinidad. They focused on servicing women's needs at home, in the garden, and in cuisine. She wrote a column titled "A Little of Everything" and was responsible for reviving the bridal issue.

Among the big names in the chain of the Roces Publications were American newspaper pioneer David T. Boguslav, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Amadeo Dacanay, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, Jose Luna Castro, and D.H. Soriano. While having her articles composed on the second floor of the neighboring Pacifican building, she met Hilarion P. Vibal, the business editor of the Roces' sister newspaper The Evening News. They were wed on April 30, 1950.

Mr. Vibal's exposure to business reporting and central banking through Miguel Cuaderno, Sr. and Alfonso Calalang inspired him to go on his own and establish the Insurance and Finance Publishing Co. in 1953, the progenitor of today's Vibal Publishing House, Inc.. Its maiden publication was Insurance and Finance Magazine. Mr. Vibal had been the special consultant of the newly organized Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) and he had assisted Cuaderno in writing a book on its early stages.

Vibal Publishing House

Mrs. Vibal would join her husband in 1957 as a part-time publisher upon the launch of the supplementary school magazine, Science in Schools. It would be one of the pioneer science magazines of the country, with science being introduced as a core curricular subject in schools at the time. After leaving The Manila Times, she launched Vibal's texbook publishing division in 1961. In 1963, she published Vibal's first textbook in science called Science and Health for Everyone, Grade IV and Science and Health for Better Living, Grade V, both authored by Trinidad Mariño. In 1964, she established the mathematics and social studies departments with the publication of New Adventures in Arithmetic and School Time, a supplementary school magazine.

In 1977, Mrs. Vibal published English Reader, the initial textbook in the publishing house's first English series which, as early as then, integrated math, science, and values content in one book. On the occasion of its 25th year, she inaugurated VPHI's brand new four-story complex at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue. In 1979, she launched the private school division and by 1980, the first branch office in Cebu was established. In the same year, Mrs. Vibal started publishing Student's Digest, a supplementary social studies periodical.

To further address its expansion requirements, VPHI moved in 2002 to its new Rogelio Villarosa-designed headquarters—a two-story complex at the corner of Gregorio Araneta Ave. and Maria Clara St. in Quezon City. The building did not suit its rapidly-growing requirements, so it was torn down in 2004 to make way for a much bigger and better designed four-story complex.

Mrs. Vibal established other VPHI branches in Davao (1992), Cagayan de Oro (2005), and Iloilo (2006).

In 2007, she launched the Vibal Foundation to focus on giving to the fields of education, women, and community outreach. To date, the foundation has established giant knowledge-sharing initiatives including Filipiniana.net, a digital library; Wikipilipinas.org, the Philippines' biggest online encyclopedia; and E-Turo.org, an educational portal which uses the Internet as a means to provide learning as part of the foundation's advocacy of democratic and free access to learning.


Socio-civic Work

Mrs. Vibal was active in many socio-civic organizations. In the 1960s she belonged to a core group of Rotary Club wives, who helped bring about the rapid growth of Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines, Inc. She was one of the founders of the Inner Wheel Club of Quezon City, Inc. She became its president from 1970-71. She founded the Inner Wheel Club of the Philippines, Inc., which became the umbrella organization of Rotary Anns. She then became its national president in 1980.

She worked for seven years as the editor in chief of International Inner Wheel Newsletter. From 1978 to 1982 she was named the international representative of Inner Wheel Philippines to its world body. In 1982, she was voted to become the vice-president of the world organization. Subsequently, Mrs. Vibal was proclaimed at the Palais de Congress in Paris as International Inner Wheel's first Asian world president. Mrs. Vibal succeeded Brit J. Fjellander of Malmo, Sweden. In 1983-84, she undertook a hectic world spanning many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, United States, Norway, Sweden, France, Philippines, and India, where she was presented to its president Giani Zail Singh. After her term, she was succeeded by Ragnhild Oglaend, of Sandnes, Norway.

From 1994 to 1997, Mrs. Vibal served as national treasurer of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She was appointed a commissioner of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women. She also represented Filipino women at the United Nations Conference of Women in New York and Beijing. In 1990 she became the president of the National Council of Women of the Philippines. She was named a Paul Harris fellow by Rotary Club of Quezon City, Inc.. Sponsored by Justice Leonor Luciano, she took her perpetual vow as a tertiary of the Order of Preachers in 1980.

She was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies Foundation.

Awards

  • Lifetime Awardee, 7th Filipina Summit, Go Negosyo, 2015
  • MVP Bossings 2015, Go Negosyo
  • Awardee, Quezon City's Most Outstanding Citizens, 2012
  • Ernst & Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2010
  • Inspiring Woman of the Year, Go Negosyo and Philippine Commission on Women, March 8, 2010
  • BPI Family Savings Bank Business Excellence Awardee, March 8, 2010
  • Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award, Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, 2010
  • Outstanding Women Achievement Award in Entrepreneurship, Filipino-Chinese Federation of Business and Professional Women, March 29, 2007
  • Presidential Award, Zonta Club of Manila Foundation, July 2006
  • National President's Award for Loyalty and Recognition, Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines, Inc., 2006
  • Book Development Leadership Award from the National Book Development Board, 2001
  • Golden Scroll Award for Business and Industry, awarded during the Parangal ng Bayan 1999, 14th Annual People's Choice, presented by Pres. Joseph Estrada
  • 1991 Outstanding Manila Award for Community Service, from the City of Manila, presented by Mayor Gemiliano Lopez
  • Gear Award in recognition of achievements in the printing industry, 1983, presented by Technological University of the Philippines

Death and Legacy

Esther Vibal passed away on November 28, 2020 at the age of 97. She has left a publishing company that was able to expand into offering online courses and synchronous virtual classrooms as well as other technology solutions.

References

  • “Ms. Esther Asuncion Vibal”.Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.(Accessed on 13 June 2013).
  • Torrevillas, Domini M.“Esther Vibal's secret for success”.philSTAR.com.(Accessed on 13 June 2013).
  • Arceo-Dumlao, Tina.“‘Entrepreneur can’t afford to stay where he or she is’”.Inquirer Business.(Accessed on 13 June 2013).
  • Villavicencio, Boysie.“A tribute to Esther A. Vibal”.Malaya Business Insight.(Accessed on 13 June 2013).
  • Lendio, Christine Joy N.“Esther A. Vibal feted among 'Most Outstanding Citizens of QC'”.Vibal Publishing House Inc..(Accessed on 13 June 2013).
  • Concepcion, Joey.“Go Negosyo’s inspiring Filipina entrepreneurs”.philSTAR.com.(Accessed on 9 March 2015).
  • “Go Negosyo’s Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs”.Go Negosyo.(Accessed on 9 March 2015).
  • “2015 Go Negosyo Inspiring Filipina Awardees”.Go Negosyo.(Accessed on 9 March 2015).
  • "In Memoriam: Esther Vibal, trailblazer in Philippine textbook publishing". ANCX. (Accessed on 10 December 2020).

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