He is singular, in the very words of his daughter; the only one of his kind. Miguel G. Belmonte is indeed singular — but one who doubles, nay, quadruples, what is expected of him.
“There are many praises to sing of the wonderful man that is my father, the singular Miguel Belmonte,” says Miguel and his wife Milette’s firstborn “Regina.”
“However, I personally think his greatest achievement, and his quality of which I am most proud, is his great humanity,” she says.
Miguel, the guardian of the STAR galaxy, has not only steered The Philippine STAR to be the country’s leading newspaper, he has also made the other newspapers in the STAR group, like BusinessWorld, and Freeman in Cebu, robust and profitable. On his 60th year, he has built not just a media powerhouse, but two state-of-the-art buildings in Sucat, Parañaque to house the offices and printing press of the STAR, without a single loan.
His wife of 36 years, Milette, whom he met and fell in love with while they were in college at UP Diliman, is astounded by Miguel’s “Midas touch,” and is in awe of how his Midas touch has empowered others as well, enabling them to reach their own star.
“I have been the proudest of where he has brought the PhilSTAR Group of Companies in the 36 years he’s been at the job. He has steered the ship magnificently—I claim he has the Midas touch—while always looking after the employees’ welfare first,” Milette said when asked what she is proudest of about her husband.
“As kuya, I’m most proud that Miguel took the reins of the STAR after my mom died to turn into the powerhouse it has become. And he managed to do all this while remaining soft-spoken, mild-mannered, but highly competitive. Machiavelli said it was better to be feared than to be loved. In this regard, Miguel has failed because he remains loved by all who work with him and for him,” says his eldest brother Isaac, former chairman of the STAR editorial board.
Miguel, a Hotel and Restaurant Administration graduate of UP, was connected with a prestigious five-star hotel in Makati and was about to take up a post in Beijing when destiny intervened.
“I remember Miguel was very unhappy when his mom asked him to resign his job in a five-star hotel and help her run the newly established Philippine STAR. But he accepted his mom’s (the late founding chairman Betty Go-Belmonte’s) request, and quickly rose to the challenge. Miguel probably thought it would be a temporary job, but with his mom’s failing health, he became very involved in the STAR’s management. With her death, he continued to steer and grow the newspaper into its current position as the country’s top newspaper. I am confident that with Miguel at the top, the STAR will continue on its successful journey,” says his proud father, former House Speaker Sonny Belmonte.
And yet despite the weight of his responsibilities as CEO, member of the board of several companies and patron of charity, especially STAR’s “Operation Damayan,” Miguel’s family has never been wanting for his affection and attention.
Miguel and Milette’s eldest son Mikey, a Quezon City councilor, admires his father, for “his effort, not just as the head of STAR but as a father. Despite having much on his plate at all times, while I was growing up, until this present day, he has always made the effort to be a good father to me and our family and never leave us wanting.”
“I’m particularly proud of the presence he’s had in my life,” agrees his youngest son Santi. “He’s been there for me, even in my most personal moments. His support and love for me make me proud to have him as a father.”
Miguel’s older brother Kevin, president of philstar.com, says he is proudest of “Miguel’s leadership and passion for the STAR. How he grew the business to become number one. How he has taken care of our employees. How he fostered our mom’s legacy. I admire his integrity, his quick, practical thinking, and clear decision-making. And of course, his no-nonsense, hard-work ethic. Finally, he’s a loving and caring son, husband, father, brother and friend.”
For the youngest Belmonte child, Joy, Mayor of Quezon City, “Miguel is the world’s best brother, a steadfast force in my life and one of my pillars of strength.”
She adds: “I am proud of Miguel’s humility despite his accomplishments and stature.”
Miguel’s humility is not lost on the son who, like his siblings, looks up to him.
“I’m proud of the way Dad conducts himself, very respectful and gracious,” says Santi.
* * *
Miguel’s real name is “Jaime Miguel,” named after his grandfather Jimmy Go, on whose birthday, Nov. 27, he was born. Jimmy Go was founder and publisher of the pre-martial law newspaper The Fookien Times. Like Betty, he was a journalist. One of Miguel’s godfathers, his mother’s brother Andrew, also used to be a journalist.
Miguel and his brothers, and sister Joy, grew up in a sprawling compound in Quezon City where the Go family held traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve bonfires. According to his aunt Grace Glory Go, he was the least “pilyo” among his brothers.
Miguel studied at Xavier School in San Juan City before going to UP. He was an ace badminton player and a commercial model for a time.
One of his classmates in UP, and a common friend of his and his wife Milette, is Mary Mae Mayor. Mae remembers that in their class, Miguel would offer to help out his friends who were carrying heavy books.
Volvo president and CEO Albert Arcilla remembers how creative Miguel was in making presentations in their marketing class. They would present skits instead of reports.
“He was very diligent, always came to our practices knowing his lines, his script. Our group would… make a play, would make a talk show and we did something different to present our case and he was very creative and he was a trooper. I was the designated director, and there was a time—I’m sure he’d hate to remember this—when we had a case and we had to show four different solutions. So what we did, one of our friends became ‘Dorothy’ going through the Yellow Brick Road in costume and every one she would talk to would give a solution. Of course, Miguel was the Tin Man, he was buff and tall. He was giving the solution to the case. So that’s how game he was.”
Indeed, a precursor of things to come. As a leader, Miguel always seemed to have solutions to many problems. I have heard that there was a time even some staff would go to him for some marriage counseling!
* * *
During one Thanksgiving lunch with other publishers and editors, Miguel was asked what he was most thankful for. “That I have a wife who loves me,” was his immediate reply.
And his loving wife says, “The song I love singing to myself is from The Sound Of Music, entitled Something Good:
“For here you are, standing there, loving me, whether or not you should. So somewhere in my youth or childhood… I must have done something good.”
“This encapsulates how Miguel has totally endeared himself, not just to me, but to my entire family, with how extremely kind and generous he is, even to a fault. He is totally selfless and sees only the good in any person or situation.”
She believes Miguel is a gift from Above.
“There is a novena that I was praying even before I met him, and I always declare that he is Mama Mary’s answer to my prayers—my gift.”
Reggie, for her part, admires her father for leading with his heart.
“Most will know him for arguably his greatest accomplishment—his life’s work at the helm of the Philippine STAR, navigating it through the most difficult storms traditional media has ever faced, and guiding it into the Internet age (even though I still have to act as tech support when something goes wrong with his smart TV). My dad has always led with his heart, with an inherent goodness and generosity that everyone at the STAR will have experienced, from his editors to the maintenance staff. That’s just the kind of guy he’s always been: a man of the people,” says Reggie.
“In a world that can be so selfish and unkind, Dad has a gentleness about him that always reaches you and makes you feel heard, and a generosity—not just material, but also in spirit—that never fails to make you feel valued,” she adds.
So what makes the singular Miguel Belmonte unique in any equation?
“This might come off cheesy,” answers his youngest child, London-educated Santi. “Everybody is unique in his own way. There might be people who are kind like Dad. There might be people who are caring like Dad. They’re similar, but not the same. Many might be like him, but there’s only one person who IS him. That’s my father, truly one of a kind, because the only one who can be him is him.”