Fernando Tiong: The real taipan
One of the awardees as 2021 Outstanding Citizen of Baguio on its 112th Charter Anniversary representing the business sector is Fernando So Tiong, a Filipino born in Fujian, China (alternately romanticized as Fukien or Hokkien), half a century ago.
Fujian is a province near Xiamen, just across the strait from Taiwan. Legend has it that in 1861, a villager from the Fujian, sailed across South China Sea to start a new life in the Philippines. Settling in his adoptive home, Co Yu Hwan became Catholic, and adopted the name Jose Cojuangco, great-grandfather of Cory and Noynoy and one of the pioneers of Chinatown in Manila.
Born to a family of modest means, his mother So Yu Yan wanted him to get an education so he started his elementary days at Nanwan High School. He however followed the influence of his father, Juanito Peralta Tiong, to engage in trade, so he gave up schooling and in 1986 at age 15, went to Urdaneta, Pangasinan where his father lived.
His initial foray in Baguio City was as a laborer-machinist in 1991 at his uncle’s place “Top Ace” along Magsaysay Road. Along the way, he met his ‘forever’ – Rosemarie Gan (Yan Pian) and they sealed their love in marriage with two kids – Raphael and Rhenzo.
In 1998, the couple started an aluminum fabrication business and from then on expanded into merchandising (TCP, TG, & PIC Enterprises); leasing the 122 Dormitory, TG Home Apartelle and Pines Hill; real estate and condominium development particularly Megapines Realty & Dev’t.Corp. condo projects as of date and made his mark as a powerful “taipan” in the city.
I am actually in awe of him when during a discussion, he can compute profit and loss mentally and discuss viability of an endeavor like a master. Through all this, his deep faith in a Supreme Being never wavered in supporting churches, whether it was Catholic, Poh Toh Buddhist, or Bell.
In 2010, having established himself in the business arena, he started a personal quest to give back and share his blessings with the community as a tribute to his humble beginnings.
He coursed his philanthropic work by being an active member of the Red Cross, Creba, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Baguio Highlands, Lions Club, and the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, among others.
He donated a firetruck to the Bureau of Fire Protection, funded the maintenance of the Fil-Chinese Park at Botanical Garden, and donated a plasma freezer to Red Cross.
For a man who barely finished secondary school, he was elected president of the Baguio City Chinese Patriotic School. His pet project however was 911 On Call, Inc., a community-based radio communication group engaged primarily in emergency response as well as medical, rescue, technical, and other operations. He was not only the primary mover, but also the main financier providing four ambulances, uniforms, paraphernalia, and his own building as its main base.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, he initiated donations to the city of relief products, rice, food for frontliners, PPE, and other equipment.
He constructed the triage at the Baguio Convention Center complex and other government facilities at no cost to the city and together with a few businessmen and doctor friends setup the Parkway Molecular Laboratory and the forthcoming Parkway Hospital & Residences at Legarda Road.
Fernando may have many feathers in his hat but his most precious quality was how he dealt with others, no matter who he was or what he thinks he was. He treated people with kindness and respect worthy of humans, no matter how high or low their status in life was.
I have been around powers-that-be and people with more money than one could ever imagine but never saw arrogance or abuse in his collar.
Up close and personal, I saw how a few treat people and that matters most to me too.
Sadly, I once witnessed how a Chinoy son berated his father in a supermarket and treated him like trash in full public view or another bitching and cursing at people at his employ degrading every inch, not that of the employee but himself. Fernando was neither!
Every once in a while, we meet persons who have character, heart and the spirit of service in them and for the rest of our lives, they impress, affect us in a great way. He says in this life what is important is we treat others as good as we can and I agree. If only for this trait, in my eyes that makes him outstanding.