RJ Jacinto II was born when the glory that his forebears enjoyed in their time had already passed. This is not to say that he has less of what his parents enjoyed. RJJ, a businessman, is the son of Ramon Jacinto of Philippine rock and roll fame and Frannie Jacinto, a former Karilagan model who today writes about the social goings-on among Manila’s 400.
It is the same good life, of course, although the breadth and intensity of the influence his ancestors exerted on the Filipino people and their way of life may well be a thing of the past, given what modernization and inflation would allow.
What remains though is the sense of family pride and honor which, like it or not, is embedded in the heart of a true scion.
RJJ, a businessman like his father Ramon or RJ, descends from two great names of Philippine commerce and industry. Don Fernando Jacinto, his paternal grandfather, an agriculturist, lawyer and doctor, pioneered in banking. Along with the Cojuangcos of Malolos and Paniqui, and the Rufinos of Pagsanjan, he established the first all-Filipino commercial bank, the Philippine Bank of Commerce. He was also the man who started the Iligan Integrated Steel Mills.
His maternal great grandfather, Don Leopoldo Aguinaldo, established the premier department store of a long bygone era, originally named LR Aguinaldo’s Emporium later popularly shortened to Aguinaldo Department Store, which saw its heyday in the 1930s all the way to the immediate postwar years.
Vision for nation-building
What he knows of the histories of both sides of his family, RJJ began picking up from his childhood when he would hear “little bits here and there from my parents,” he shares. “I actually still learn about them up to now. If there was one instance that stuck out, it was during a school project in high school where I had to make a family tree. It forced me to sit my parents down and ask them about my ancestors, which I’m thankful for and recommend people do.”
Proud of his forebears for pioneering what are standard industries today, RJJ is “most impressed with their vision for nation-building and aim to leave the country in a better place than their generation.
“My grandfather Don Fernando risked it all. He could have just had a very comfortable lifestyle but instead chose to risk it all in the 60s and put all his fortune in something he believed the nation needed at the time and set out to put up the second integrated steel mill in Asia after Japan. Recently, I learned of how we were even ahead of then war-torn South Korea to whom we sent Filipino engineers to help Posco set up their first steel mill, one of the first facilities they built after the war to push the country’s progress.
RJJ points out, though, “Unfortunately, Don Fernando’s dream never came into fruition as Iligan Integrated Steel Mills was forcefully taken over by the ruling regime, milked, never finished and never returned. South Korea finished their steel mill because they understood how key it was to nation building and essential to a country’s independence (virtually all first world countries have their own mill).
He muses, “Look at South Korea now and look at the Philippines now. People my age can’t imagine the Philippines being as advanced as South Korea. Instead, we never really became a real industrial country and just skipped over and are just stuck as a consumer society. Its a shame Don Fernando was prevented from realizing his dream or we very well could be living in a different Philippines now. His audacity to dream something that grand and risk it all is something I truly admire.”
Heroes in the family
The latter generations of the two families, the Jacintos and the Aguinaldos, may not have ended up as the inheritors of great fortunes which the founding fathers could have built had they not been interrupted by fate, but RJJ is not disappointed. Instead, he is grateful because “their achievements instilled a great sense of pride and honor in me and made me want to be more responsible in the life I lead. They spent their lives building something and I feel responsible not only to myself, but to their memory.”
He even became more inspired when, in the conduct of research for a school project, he discovered that there were also heroes in his family.
On his maternal side (Osorio,) two of the thirteen martyrs in Cavite were Frannie’s grand uncle Francisco Osorio (brother of her maternal grandfather Leonardo Osorio) and their brother in law Luis Aguado . On his Aguinaldo side, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar is a first cousin of Frannie’s grandma Andrea R. Aguinaldo. Their mothers were the Sempio sisters.
“They lived in an era when it was an honor to fight and die for one’s country,” he stresses.
“I suppose right-founded pride and honor are the two most important things you can have as a person and kind of guide how you live your life moving forward. They gave me that and I am thankful for it. I suppose if I can give that same thing to my future generations, then I would have been satisfied with my life.”
But what if his ancestors lived today, what would be their roles in society? RJJ maintains, “Obviously, they would have likely pioneered an industry today. I would like to think they would have identified some sector that would have had profound benefits to society.”
RJJ thinks that, inspired by the pioneers and heroes of yesteryears, “the young should develop pride and honor as a person and in what you do so that you can leave the world to the next generation in a better place than when you got it. I actually think the youth are even more idealistic than when we were young, which is good. I believe they are very idealistic and given the opportunity, they would choose to uplift others and build the nation to leave it in a better place for the next generation.”