A year ago, on December 16, 2016, Ricardo “Carding” Cruz Silverio (RCS), one of the pioneering industrialists of the Philippines (during the Marcos years), died quietly in Manila at age 87 of cardiac arrest, despite having led a colorful, tumultuous life.
Aside from having been one of the most successful, self-made industrialists who was just coming into his own as Ferdinand Marcos was establishing his own “crony” empire (more about that later) in the mid-1960s, one of the other “achievements” (for lack of a better word) of the clan started by RCS was marrying into the nearly pure-bred Hispanic stock of the premier Hispanic/mestizo family in the Philippines, the Zobel de Ayalas.
Kit-Kat Silverio is the daughter of Dante Silverio, who is both old man Carding’s nephew and step-son. Kit-Kat married Fernando Zobel de Ayala. This was an achievement unto itself—crashing into the closely-held strictures of Hispanic aristocracy in Manila since, like most of the leading “mestizo” families of Manila (or pretty much around the world), they tend to marry their own kind, i.e., more Caucasian than kayumanggi stock, and of some aristocratic background. Kit-Kat definitely comes from purer and humbler Filipino stock.
Previous to the entry of Toyota and other Japanese brands, the Philippine automotive scene was dominated by the Yutivo-Sycips (the General Motors franchise), and Ford Philippines (Manila Trading or Mantrade). Among the smaller franchises, Felix Ang held Mercedes-Benz; the Ysmaels sold the Fiat brand, and Domingo Guevara represented Volkswagen. In 1961, Silverio sold Toyota cars through Delta Motors.
Through the 1960s, and just as the new Marcos regime was entrenching itself into the fabric of Philippine life, Delta Motors did very well on its own.
Carding started out from humble beginnings. He was the ninth of ten children of what Silverio himself called a “peasant” family from Bulacan. RCS, however, was actually a small textile merchant of modest means until he developed a relationship with the rising Ferdinand Marcos. He then supposedly went into the black marketing of dollars, etc.
Hybrid, First Marriage
When Carding’s older brother, Edmundo, died, Carding married the widow and his ex-sister-in-law, Beatriz Sison. He also became stepfather to Edmundo and Beatriz’s two sons: Edmundo Jr. (Dante) and Edgardo. (Dante, who became a professional basketball coach and race car driver, among his many avocations, is the father of Kit-Kat Zobel de Ayala.)
As Mrs. Silverio the second time around, the former Beatriz vda. de Silverio, who before she became a Silverio was independently wealthy two times over, begat Family #1.5 – with three known offspring: Ricardo Jr. (hereinafter, Ricky or Ricky Jr.) and daughters Nelia and Ligaya. (So, the two sets of siblings (from Edmundo and then with RCS) were both cousins and half-siblings.)
(So private was Beatriz that there are very few known, if any, of pictures of her on the web. Thus, there are no images of Beatriz for this article.)
When Beatriz died in 1987, it was without leaving a will. In her dying days, she reportedly told Ricky Jr., “Anak, itong bahay ay para sa iyo (Son, this house is for you)”—referring to the main abode in Urdaneta Village. (Of course, verbal hereditary wishes and instructions are not valid anywhere in contemporary societies.)
The above-pictured residence at 21 Cruzada St. is where Ricky and his siblings were raised and which they considered their natural, original domicile. It was also the scene of many physical confrontations between RCS and his presumed crown prince, Ricky, but which upon the death of Beatriz, Carding wanted to bequeath to the last and future Mrs. Silverio, Lorna Cilla. (More about her later.)
We used to pass by this mansion often in the 1960s when we visited my cousins just down the street. Of course, numerous Toyota cars were parked on the street; what could only be bodyguards milled about, giving rise to the dark rumors that Ricky was manhandled by his own father’s bodyguards.)
The bad blood over that Urdaneta house all came to a head on January 7, 2006 when something short of an actual siege of the residence, took place. There were SWAT teams, armed security guards galore, tales of maids being held hostage, a Village Association official being sent in to mediate, etc. (Think “Dog Day Afternoon” without the transgender overtones.) It was another down-and-out confrontation between RCS and Ricky over possession of the property even though neither no longer resided there. Although the matter was resolved non-violently, it was just something not done in the genteel, guarded Ayala villages.
(In 2012, Ricky filed a grave coercion case against his old man and his two bodyguards, claiming that he was beaten up and forcibly dragged out of that Urdaneta Village house.)
The Early Silverio Empire
Asset-wise, RCS, at his zenith during those halcyon Marcos days, was right up there with the top eight richest men in the Philippines: Ferdinand Marcos, his relative Herminio Disini, cronies Roberto Benedicto and Danding Cojuangco, the Zobels and Lucio Tan. (And this was before the arrival of Henry Sy and the other taipans who sit at the zenith of wealth today.) But at the time, while he had to play the game with Marcos, RCS was mostly successful on his own, due to the popularity of the Toyota brand.
He expanded his empire to some 32 companies including Air Manila, Filman Bank, Komatsu Heavy Industries, Mariwasa International, Pilipinas Development Corp. and a slew of other financial and impressive-sounding businesses. Pilipinas Development Corp. (PDC) was a holding company that controlled the assets and management of the residential properties left behind by Beatriz.
Like many rich, alpha males in the Philippine-Marcos years of the 1970s, RCS had taken on more than one mistress; however, the most visible and favored was Carmen de Zuniga.
In the early 1970s when Beatriz was still the legal Mrs. Ricardo Silverio, RCS brazenly moved Carmen into the social spotlight by bringing her out to society. (Why is it always Carmen for the #1 mistress? Remember that Marcos’ first mistress was Carmen Ortega, an even more mestiza lady than Imelda was. Then there was the chanteuse Carmen Soriano who [with the coloration of Imelda] was also another rumored mistress of Marcos and with whom Imelda supposedly had a slapping match during a meeting in San Francisco. [Oh, for those heady days!] )
RCS’ house of cards started collapsing in the mid-1980s when the Marcos government did not bend over backward to save the Delta conglomerate when it was defaulting on its loans—as it did for the more favored cronies. Thus, it came as no surprise in that let-it-implode policy for the Marcos gang to move in and pick up the bones of Silverio’s empire at bargain prices, thereby fattening their already dubious portfolios even more.
RCS is known to have fathered three illegitimate children with Carmen de Zuniga: Rowena, Roxanne and another Ricardo (or Ricky III).
While RCS housed his legitimate, first family in Urdaneta Village, he picked up three properties in other Ayala villages for his offspring with Zuniga: high-value houses on Taurus St., Bel-Air Village; one on Intsia Street in old Forbes, and a third property in Cambridge Circle in North Forbes Park where Zuniga resided and which became the most controversial of the Carding-Carmen properties. RCS supposedly tried to place these three properties in the names of his three children with Carmen, although the purchases were backed by the considerable assets of Beatriz.
The tales of shopping and furnishing the mansard-roofed mansion on Cambridge Circle are legendary—rivaling even the shopping trips of the Supreme Conspicuous Filipina Shopper of All Time, Imelda Marcos.
On a very exclusive “Manila high society” blog where identities aren’t exactly spelled out but whose clues are as big as the billboards on EDSA, a senior Manila interior decorator related how in the mid-1970s, a chartered 747 jet trailed RCS and Carmen when they went on shopping trips abroad.
Two of the “gems” from those recollections:
• “We purchased art over several years shuttling between New York, London and Paris. The magnificent Picasso was purchased from a top dealer in Paris; its purchase necessitated a hefty withdrawal from one of the magnate’s Swiss bank accounts.”
• “The couple had decided that they wanted three immense chandeliers for their reception hall, three chandeliers of Bohemian crystal just like those in Malacañang’s Ceremonial Hall. So off to Vienna, Austria, we went. We ordered three “Marie-Theresa”-type chandeliers with crystal prisms 12″ inches long and 10″ inches wide, each costing $300,000. (So, a total of $900,000 for three).* When the chandeliers were ready for delivery, a 747 was dispatched to bring them back to Manila.”
*(Author’s comment: Plus the cost of the air charter, which would have been at least another $75,000 from Manila to Europe and back; so, nearly $1 million alone just for three chandeliers.)
While it was never articulated which partner of RCS it was, it was confirmed to me in confidence afterwards that it was Carmen Zuniga. Just as RCS brazenly placed the new properties in the names of his illegitimate children, he spent like there was no tomorrow, burning up conjugal assets in a jaw-dropping, in-your-face vendetta-like manner against Beatriz.
All these shenanigans took place when Zuniga wasn’t even the legal spouse or a name in the inner circle of the more public shopaholic of the time, Imelda Marcos. (Imelda, if she was aware, would have no “mistresses/no. 2’s” in her exclusive Blue Lady circles since she had already been burned badly by the very visible Dovie Beams affair of her husband.) All of Silverio’s clandestine jet-setting extravagance was possible only because of RCS’ Air Manila connections at the time, thus explaining his easy access to chartered jets of any size for the most flamboyant of reasons.
In 1987, a year after the Marcoses fell, so did RCS’ fortunes. Also, Beatriz passed away in October of that year and, surprisingly for a family of such means, died intestate, i.e., without a will. That set off a whole set of wheels in motion.
Due to overlapping occurrences and the turbulence in the personal and public spheres of RCS’ life, and the cover up of the dissolution and decline of same, it has been difficult to create an exact and coherent timeline on the rest of RCS’ life.
1988 – 1990s: The Inheritance Wars
The late 1980s to the early 1990s were a tumultuous period for the titan. Having already lost most of his fortune after Marcos’ fall, RCS had lawsuits coming out of his ears—not only those involving the conjugal properties with Beatriz, but also those involving other corporate entities in the Philippines and in the US.
Like many families of abundant assets (i.e., see the case of the Ilusorio family featured on PF on March 10, 2015), greed, avarice or holding on to tangible property, will eventually prevail even over blood ties. For more than a decade, the Silverio siblings fought their father left and right in the courts to reclaim properties listed under RCS’ illegitimate children, all of which were bought using Beatriz’s wealth, and to be named administrator of the intestate estate. These were in addition to the assault-and-battery cases that Ricky Jr. filed against his father.
The Disputed North Forbes Property and the Payanig ng Pasig Lot
1992 proved to be an especially busy year for RCS despite his personal and business turnarounds. There were two landmark real estate cases:
In September 2010, Ricky sold 82 Cambridge Circle to a Monica Ocampo who turned it around and sold it to ZEE2 Resources in February 2011 for some P200 million. ZEE2 Resources, it was rumored was a real estate company headed by Iñigo Zobel. (Iñigo is a second cousin of Fernando and Kit-Kat Zobel de Ayala. So once again, a member of the Zobel de Ayala family was entangled with a Silverio family matter.)
The possession, however, of 82 Cambridge Circle became even murkier with (1) RCS entering into and extending the lease of the then-occupant, the Embassy of Turkey; and (2) the claims of Iñigo Zobel. Litigation reached all the way to the Court of Appeals, which then threw out Zobel’s for certiorari petition, stating that Zobel was never a party in the pertinent case. So, even the Zobels lose sometimes.
The second major case in which RCS joined the fray in 1992 was the one involving the 18.5-hectare plot in the Ortigas Commercial Center called Payanig ng Pasig (the “Pride of Pasig”).
The Philippine Commission for Good Government (PCGG) had declared this prime piece of real estate as a “sequestered Marcos property” and was about to confiscate it. However, Ortigas and Co., the original owner, and Silverio—acting just like Iñigo Zobel in relation to the North Forbes mansion—joined Ortigas in disputing the would-be confiscation of the property.
In what was one of the more tantalizing, intrigue-filled vignettes of the Marcoses’ early acquisitive maneuvers, this was the tract of land which Imelda Marcos, sometime in 1967, barely two years in power, was rumored to have personally picked out with the patriarch of the Ortigas interests, no less than Don Francisco Ortigas himself. The story went that Imelda had Ortigas “invite” her on a “private” helicopter flight, and once aloft, Imelda simply pointed out to Don Paco with her finger what land she/they wanted to acquire from the still virgin Ortigas Commercial tracts of land, with not too many pesky questions asked.
(Due to space considerations, this story could not be included in my previous book, Thirty Years Later . . . Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes.) Makati was already mostly developed and spoken for, while the Greenhills/Ortigas areas in Mandaluyong and Pasig were the next areas poised to take off for incredible development. Old man Ortigas supposedly could not say “no” to the powerful occupants of Malacañang. A year after the much-gossiped-about helicopter flight, in May 1968, Ferdinand Marcos supposedly paid Php 6.4 million, a greatly under-valued amount, for the very strategic and lucrative 18.5-hectare plot.
When the Marcoses were booted out of power in 1986, Ortigas filed suit to reclaim the property in February 1990. Silverio, it seems, had first dibs to the tract, then filed his own case in August 1992. Ortigas and Silverio jointly claimed that Marcos coerced them into “selling” to him for a much-devalued price. Finally, RCS was getting back at the family of his former benefactor. The matter even became muddier when an erstwhile Marcos crony, Luis “Chavit” Singson, joined in the fray, similarly asserting his rights of ownership over the property.
Also, in 1992, RCS tried his hand at politics. RCS managed to get elected as representative of Bulacan’s third district.
Enter Woman #3
And then there appeared a third woman on the scene, a Lorna Cillan.
Lorna used to work as a Reservation and Ticketing Agent in Air Manila in 1968. She also briefly worked as a secretary at the Makati Stock Exchange and ultimately, as executive secretary to RCS when he was president of Delta Motors Corporation from 1969 to the company’s demise in the 1984. Putting together the dates, RCS was probably already involved with Lorna as far back as the 1970s, even though Cillan was already married to one Carlo Enrico Javier, a pilot at Air Manila, at that time.
Around 1990, RCS supposedly struck a deal with Javier wherein, in exchange for a sizeable sum of money, Javier would move to the US, leaving his wife behind in Manila. Since there is no divorce in the Philippines, after a considerable absence, Lorna would then declare abandonment and be free to marry once more.
This opportunity finally happened in 1998, and only after RCS and Zuniga did not formalize their relationship by marriage. But with Lorna, with whom he had no offsring, RCS tied the knot.
On the political front, in 2001, RCS, having served three terms in Congress, went local, and ran for mayor of his hometown, San Rafael, Bulacan. He easily won that year; as he did in 2004 and 2007.
In 2003, Ricky, Nelia and Ligaya, called a special stockholders’ meeting to put one of their companies’ -- Pilipinas Development Corp. -- affairs in order. At the meeting, the siblings agreed to collect cash dividends from PDC’s shares in Sharp Corporation, Inc. Much to their surprise, Sharp Philippines refused to recognize the Silverio siblings’ authority over PDC. The siblings eventually discovered that the new Mrs. RCS Sr., Lorna, had magically become the majority shareholder of their family corporation since 1988, per PDC’s 2003 GIS. Before his three legal children could act, RCS instantly filed another lawsuit against them, seeking to affirm his and Lorna’s ownership of PDC.
A story goes that when Beatriz was still alive, she and RCS shared the same attorney, one Mars Villanueva, for their conjugal business matters, including the all-important ownership of PDC stocks held mostly by family members. Shortly before Villanueva, who was terminally ill with cancer, passed away, he revealed to Ricky his father’s instructions that the attorney add Lorna to the list of PDC stockholders, bypassing legal channels.
So, since 1989, Lorna Cillan, despite her dubious “ownership” of PDC stocks, somehow became de facto administrator of PDC, which of course the younger Silverios disputed in court. RCS and Lorna, however, lost the case. The presiding judge decided in favor of Ricky, upholding the latter’s rights over the disputed shares. And on appeal, RCS and Lorna again lost.
The End of Delta Motors
Into the early 1980s, Delta Motors, the lynchpin of the Silverio empire, fell into financial difficulties: it lost US$2.5 million in 1980; $8 million in 1981; and by 1982, the once-successful auto dealer owed some $154 million to both the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Toyota Motors. Delta Motors was thus found to be one of the most delinquent corporations at that time. By March 1984, mother company Toyota of Japan severed its contract with Silverio. Delta dissolved in early 1988, although Toyota re-entered the Philippine market in August 1988 under a new structure, its wholly owned subsidiary.
During this time, RCS shuttled back and forth between the Philippines and the US, not only to avoid court cases on both sides of the Pacific, but also to be seriously hospitalized in the US for a time. But what RCS was really doing, like many rich Filipinos who salted away their funds abroad, was buying shopping malls and other property in California. (Addresses in Hillsdale and Lancaster were known Silverio properties in California.) Of course, the trail to that direction has now been heavily obscured by time, deceit and shell corporations.
What Happened to Carmen?
From the time Beatriz died intestate in 1987, through the financial fall of RCS, to his second marriage to Lorna in 1998, there was scant word on Carmen de Zuniga. It seems Carmen spent the final years quietly at the grand mansion at 82 Cambridge Circle, until she quietly passed away in 2009 at age 75, after which time Ricky tried to liquidate the property.
Building a Political Dynasty
In the meantime, RCS and Lorna tried starting a political dynasty. Since RCS could not run for a fourth time for Congress, Lorna was drafted in 2001 to succeed her husband in the 3rd Congressional district. Like RCS, she easily also held on to the seat for three terms (2001-2010). When she could no longer run for a fourth time in 2010, she and RCS simply traded horses once more: the wife would run for San Rafael mayor while her hubby attempted to run for Congress one more time.
This time in 2010, however, RCS had an unexpected challenger in his son and namesake, Ricky. In a bitter continuation of their internecine feud royale, father and son faced off against each other—thereby canceling each other out, and allowing a third candidate, Joselito “Jonjon” Mendoza,” to squeak by. But all was not lost for the older Silverio couple; Lorna at least became mayor of San Rafael once again, and she holds that post today.
Where Things Stand today...
Many court cases caught up with RCS in the last decade of his life. Through all this, he also survived prostate cancer, being hospitalized while in a coma in the US; surviving on one functioning kidney and having undergone multiple bypass heart surgeries,
In January 2012, another judicial blow was dealt him. The 9th Division of the Court of Appeals ruled that RCS must pay a PhP48 million-peso loan he took out on Manila Banking in 1982. With interest accrued from 1982, RCS was ordered to pay the sum of Php550 million. Of course, that went on appeal.
On the administratorship of the Beatriz Sison Silverio Estate and a final resolution on the sale of the two Forbes properties, the full Philippine Supreme Court adjudicated as late as August 2014. See full decision here: http://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2014augustdecisions.php?id=644
The curtain on the colorful, tumultuous life of Ricardo “Carding” Silverio, one-time Toyota King of the Philippines, finally fell on December 16, 2016.
(For this article, I also tried to reach out to members of the Silverio family, specifically, Roxanne Silverio, to confirm/deny/elaborate facts reported here. The outreach was unsuccessful.)
Some are Smarter than Others, Ricardo Manapat, Aletheia Publications, New York, 1991, pp. 267-273, 484
Supreme Court 2014 decision -- http://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2014julydecisions.php?id=544
SC decision re Guardianship, etc. - http://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2014augustdecisions.php?id=644
Myles A. Garcia is a Correspondent and regular contributor to www.positivelyfilipino.com. His newest book, “Of Adobe, Apple Pie, and Schnitzel With Noodles – An Anthology of Essays on the Filipino-American Experience and Some. . .”, features the best and brightest of the articles Myles has written thus far for this publication. The book is presently available on amazon.com (Australia, USA, Canada, Europe, and the UK).
Myles’ two other books are: Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies (latest edition, 2016); and Thirty Years Later . . . Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes published last year, also available from amazon.com.
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Finally, Myles has also completed his first full-length stage play, “23 Renoirs, 12 Picassos, . . . one Domenica”, which was given its first successful fully Staged Reading by the Playwright Center of San Francisco. The play is now available for professional production, and hopefully, a world premiere on the SF Bay Area stages.
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