Chinese drug rehab center donor was once a Binondo trader in 1986

Huang Rulun, a 65-year-old Chinese real estate billionaire, has donated a 10,000-bed drug treatment and rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province to be operational this November.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial announced recently that China’s donation of a 10,000-bed mega drug treatment and rehabilitation center (TRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province will be fully operational by the first week of November.

Secretary Ubial said that the donor is famous 65-year-old Chinese real estate billionaire Huang Rulun, who was ranked as China’s No. 1 philanthropist in 2012 and who “has no business interest in the Philippines. All his businesses are in China.” She added that Huang had previously met President Rodrigo Duterte three times.

However, that is an incomplete account of the Huang Rulun saga and his connection to the Philippines, where he first made a small fortune via trading. Huang’s philanthropic act epitomizes the ancient Chinese proverb “Yin suey shi yuan” or “When drinking water, remember its wellspring,” meaning uphold the virtue of eternal gratitude. This philanthropy is also helping repair, restore and normalize the age-old bond of friendship between the Philippines and China of over a thousand years.

Forbes magazine estimates Huang’s net worth at US$3.9 billion. He controls Century Golden Resources Group which has more than 20,000 employees, 20 luxury hotels and 10 shopping malls. He is part-owner of the new Fuzhou Airlines.

Among his many charities for health and social welfare, he has promised to donate an art museum to Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University (which is China’s equivalent to USA’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Stanford University).

One of Huang’s reported closest friends in the Philippines is Uni-Orient Travel Agency boss Stephen Techico, who my sources told me had helped the billionaire during his early days as a starting and struggling trader in Manila’s historic Chinatown area of Binondo/Divisoria area in 1986. He was already a small trader in Fujian province, but he attained a modest fortune in Manila; then in 1991 he went back to Fujian to start investing in real estate where he really struck gold on his way to becoming a billionaire.

On Jan. 29, 2007, during my trip to China, I met some of Huang’s executives and was amazed to discover his inspiring “rags-to-riches” saga which is linked to the Philippines. No wonder this businessman has upheld the Confucian virtues of gratitude and generosity towards the country which once briefly gave him refuge and a place to do some business.

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Like many of Asia’s greatest taipans, such as Genting Highlands founder Lim Goh Tong of Malaysia, Li Ka Shing of Hong Kong, Tan Kah Kee of Singapore, or Formosa Plastics Group founder Wang Yung Ching of Taiwan, Huang was born to a poor farming family in the rural part of Fujian province in Linjiang county. He couldn’t afford formal schooling, so he never forgot how hard life was as a poor person. He told media that he was motivated to be philanthropic due to the ancient Confucian teaching that “successful people should give.”

Huang Rulun is the legendary rags-to-riches taipan behind the Jinyuan Group or the Golden Resources realty and investment conglomerate. Even the New York Times and other foreign media outfits have reported about him in recent years for his mega-projects, like the world’s biggest mall in Beijing, and for being China’s top philanthropist from 2003 to 2005.

The Chinese media reported that the 2005 list of 50 top philanthropists in China, researched seperately by Westerner Rupert Hoogewerf and by Chinese scholar Hu Yun, showed that they donated about three percent of their private assets to charities focusing mainly on education and health care. Of all of China’s top 50 philanthropists, Huang Rulun has been the most magnanimous; he donated about $48 million from 2003 to 2004. What is more significant, while other good-hearted new tycoons of China averaged donations of three percent of their private assets, Huang’s philanthropic donations amounted to 19 percent of his private assets. His top charities were in education, poverty elimination and heath care.

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