Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How come this billionaire lives modestly?

ONE terse report datelined Beijing that saw print yesterday reads: “China’s richest man lives in a small apartment and shuns high life and expensive hobbies.”

That chap has reportedly amassed a fortune of about $2 billion.

That’s well over P100 billion equivalent in these parts. Having millions in the bank hereabouts is equated with (1) having a string of paramours and plush lovenests to exercise usual legal tenderness, (2) a fleet of flashy cars each worth a four- or five-year take-home pay of an average wage earner, (3) a retinue of uniformed maids at one’s beck and call, (4) memberships in exclusive clubs—usually golf, yacth, and night clubs, (5) yearly trips abroad, (6) extensive landholdings plus ritzy rest houses in Baguio, Tagaytay, Boracay or Davao, (7) a jeweltry collection worth millions, plus (8) a standing army of hired thugs as insurance against kidnap-for-ransom attempts or outright ambuscades.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it—that’s the mantra in this neck of the woods. Show money speaks too loud, gains respect hereabouts. Why, every mien in our money bills wear long, glum faces—each a sorry hero ruing how we put value over money. That speaks volumes about the Filipino’s cherished values in pesos and centavos.

We may be dead-wrong in judging character but that Chinese multi-billionaire must be a miser. How can he not wallow in the affluence he so deserves while a gentleman from our god-forsaken islands can muster the gall to whoop it up in a $20,000 a night hotel suite prior to watching a Manny Pacquiao fight?

Why, the report has it that Chinaman has raked up his billions since he arrived in Beijing 20 years ago as a dirt-broke 16-year old. But he was an enterprising young man, the report duly noted.

He took the same route every Chinaman does in Divisoria. He got his start peddling electronic appliances from a stall.

A senior analyst for a Beijing-based research group is stumped at the ways and wiles of such working rich folks: “We have so many mysterious rich people. Others admire their money but they question the morality of it.”

Adds he in chagrin: “You’ve got to be rich silently.”

How come that billionaire still follows the teaching of Kung Fu-tse, that 5th century Chinese thinker who advocated modesty as a virtue?

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