Lechon diva

Talk about lechon, which is present in every important Filipino celebration, and the first name that comes to mind these days is Dedet dela Fuente Santos of Pepita's Kitchen. Read more

Puto pao queen

Young entrepreneur Tin Castaneda offers a twist to a Pinoy Favorite with her Puto Pao products. Read more

Her formula for success

Juggling between work and family isn't easy, but this seasoned hotelier, Melanie Siy-Pagkalinawan, has found a perfect balance. Read more

The icing on her cake

Who wouldn't know Chef Penk Ching? Anybody who's anybody covets a cake by Penk Ching for special occasions. Read more

How her sweet dreams came true

Mary Grace Dimacali of Mary Grace Cafe shares the secrets of her success. Read more

Instant football mummy

Documentary filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama never thought she'd undergo the toughest parenting drill while she chronicled the Little Azkals elite training in the UK. Read more

Beauty and her bands

Get to know Loom Princess Raissa Puno-Diaz, who is as endearing and versatile as the trinkets she makes. Read more

Hooked on crochet

Gantsilyo Guru Trey Ajusto makes her craft so cool. Read more

Balancing career and family

Elegant in her simplicity, Shangri-La Plaza general manager Lala Fojas has had her share of challenges in life as she looked for a good balance between career and family. Read more

Rising from the ranks

Dream big. Aim high. If you've got a goal, you've got to work for it and you'll achieve it. Follow the example of resort owner Simonette Gusi, who rose from the hotel ranks. Read more

First Filipina pastry chef

Talk about Filipino celebrity chefs, and the name of Chef Jessie Sincioco will surely be mentioned. Find out what makes her the success that she is. Read more

Cousin power!

South Palms Resort Panglao pulsates with the energy of the youthful cousins Hope and Lyn Uy at the helm. Read more

Multi-awarded pastry chef

That a woman can be successful in both career and family life is exemplified by Chef Jackie Ang Po. Read more

View all Workbook stories.


April 2, 2007

Vivienne Tan: More than meets the eye

Vivienne Tan

Vivienne K. Tan wears a pair of jeans and a light jacket over a simple geometric blouse to a photo shoot. She prefers earthy colors - the deep blue of the sky right before dawn; the soft, textured brown of dried leaves; and a green so bright it seems electrified. Apart from a classic, almost mannish type of watch, she has no other jewelry.

One doesn’t necessarily expect the daughter of a taipan to bedeck herself in ornate gold and glaring red, but the simplicity of the ensemble does take one aback, until one realizes how the well-cut lines and natural hues are a perfect frame for the wearer’s own pretty Chinese features. If elegance were a statement, then she delivers it quickly, efficiently, and with panache.

"I just came from a TV shoot, so I’m still wearing the makeup," she admitted. "I didn’t know what to expect, so I just put on what I usually wear." Apparently, it takes little effort for someone with a postgraduate degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles to be presentable, although that phase in her life is long past. Nowadays she sticks with no-fuss, classic pieces, rather than the latest fashion trends.

"When I was in the States, I was really into fashion. My sisters would ask what I was wearing, and I’d tell them it would arrive in the Philippines in three years. When I packed all my bags and came back here, I was still able to wear my [fashion-forward] clothing. But I was so busy working day and night. The only time I thought about shopping was when I saw my picture and I was wearing the same thing from two years before," she said.


Vivienne does not have the affectations of someone constantly in the public radar and overly conscious because of it. She doesn’t have a posse of bodyguards to guard her every move and block off unwanted elements. Her speech is a smattering of local slang with English only slightly accented by her extended stay in the United States, where she also finished a degree in math and computer science at the University of San Francisco.

She is a frequent traveler, on business and at her own leisure. She admits to being a little more interested in communes abroad, where she deems people to be more open and expressive in their interactions. She is also fond of documenting her travels, and doesn’t feel ill at ease in asking strangers for a photograph, or taking one on the sly.

"I was in Shanghai and it was a bit chilly. I saw this cute Chinese boy with a unique expression on his face that I couldn’t describe (in words) and so I felt compelled to take some pictures. Then in the same street, there was this smiling old lady wearing a Nike hat. When I saw that, I just had to take a picture," she recounted. "I just go on a roll sometimes. I like taking action shots. I especially love taking photos of parents and their kids."

One can surmise that Vivienne feels less constricted abroad, as she has never actually gotten used to being in the limelight in her own home country. Ironically, she doesn’t like her photo being taken. "I have very few pictures of myself when I was a kid because I hide from the camera. I grew up with a lot of memories but hardly any pictures that captured the moment. To make up for it... I became the 'official photographer' in parties, dinners and reunions, to the point that I am hardly in the pictures. But, at least I captured the memories," she said.

Vivienne doesn’t like taking self-portraits. Her participation in a scene is always as the person who envisioned it. Although her photography serves as a sort of personal journal, she remains hidden behind the lens, rather than at its focal point. Friends have to remind her that people would always be curious about her because she belongs to one of the most wealthy families in the Philippines and is considered "very good material" for her own sake.

Vivienne Tan If someone with a pedigree as patrician as hers would accompany Vivienne to an event, for example, the fact would be relayed speedily by a society magazine or periodical. Only lately has she used this overt - some would even say oppressive - interest in her life to the advantage of her most fervent cause: innovations in education.


In 2002, Vivienne co-founded the Entrepreneurs School of Asia (ESA), which she has headed since. To date, it is her foremost concern and occupation. With ESA, Vivienne and her business partner Joel Santos successfully launched the pioneering B.S. Entrepreneurship degree program and formalized entrepreneurship learning in the Philippines. Prior to this move, she had already introduced the maverick concept of enabling Filipino students to obtain foreign degrees through a unique "twinning concept" under the former Thames International Business School.

Vivienne is committed to making a difference by revitalizing the education industry. Her primary aim is to give young Filipinos a global mindset and competitiveness. With ESA, she has opened up opportunities for collaborative study abroad. The college has undertaken studies like the Youth Study and the Family Business Survey, recently as a partner for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of London Business School. Last year, it also became the first Philippine college to establish a satellite campus in China.

As a founding trustee of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, Vivienne has also promoted the GoNegosyo communities all over the country. For her efforts in this and her achievements in the field of entrepreneur-education, Vivienne was awarded as one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) 2006 Awardees in the field of Business Education and Entrepreneurship.

Most recently, she has striven to develop the inter-high school competition called "Teenpreneur Challenge," which is an incubation program for winning ideas and inputs to improve the business performance of livelihood projects of indigent Filipino communities.

"The youth programs of the GoNegosyo Movement have reached the young professionals and college students but there is still a gap in the high school level. This is what the Teenpreneur Program seeks to address. If we inculcate entrepreneurial values early on to the next generation, then we have bigger chances of finally creating a country of entrepreneurs," she said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

If there’s anything that characterizes Vivienne, it is her ability to find her passion and consistently strive to excel in it. She genuinely cares about her students, and would often be found in the thick of the action, her camera poised to document yet another moment that they can laugh about or remember with poignancy later on. Her proudest moment was when all her friends and students showed up for her birthday, to thank her for everything she’s done for them. All the smiles she’s captured in her photographs are a testament to all the lives she’s touched.
Vivienne Tan Photography

Photos taken by Vivienne Tan show her fascination with people.


EmailE-mail this to a friend

PrintPrinter-friendly version

Current Comments

0 comments so far (post your comment)

Leave a comment on the article


Email: (Required but will not be published)


Enter Security Code :

Note: Comments may be moderated/edited. It may take a while for them to show on the page.