Publisher, Journalist, Philanthropist

March 23, 1923 – November 28, 2020

Esther Asuncion Vibal was a successful entrepreneur and publisher. She was also a journalist and socio-civic worker who was known for her contribution to the educational field by publishing and mass distributing school textbooks to Filipino schools.

Born in Camiling, Tarlac, she lost her parents at a young age. She majored in English at the University of the Philippines (UP) and got her start in writing at the UP Collegian, the university’s weekly student publication.

While still a student in UP, attending her classes under a scholarship, she began working her way up in the field of writing and was offered a job by then-Manila Times owner Joaquin ‘Chino’ Roces to write for his paper. She wrote advertising copy and articles for the women’s section in the “A Little of Everything” column.

Esther married veteran journalist Hilarion Vibal in 1950, and they launched a printing business in 1953. They first published the supplementary school magazine, “Science in Schools” in 1957. Esther launched the Vibal textbook division, focusing on essential texts in mathematics, science, and English in 1961.

When her husband encountered major health issues in 1971, Esther continued her relentless work in the field of publishing, printing, and finance. Vibal Publishing house has since launched four branches — in Quezon City, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Iloilo — and published more than 100 million copies of school textbooks distributed to more than 23,000 schools around the Philippines.

Due to her zeal in the said field, Esther was recognized as an “enduring model of tenacity, perseverance, and innovation in the educational print and publishing industry.”

Esther was also in full support and control of Vibal’s shift from traditional printing to e-printing, adapting to technological advances in the 21st century. She also fostered the development of e-services such as cloud data management, system application, and data integrity.

As the prime mover of Vibal Foundation, she supported the foundation’s open knowledge initiatives: Filipiniana.net, a free digital library of public domain Filipiniana, and WikiPilipinas, a free online Philippine encyclopedia.

Mrs. Vibal also worked with the Department of Education on a project to deploy 50,000 computers to 5,760 schools nationwide. In addition, her company’s VSmart learning management system serves 842 schools with a combined enrollment of 400,000 students.

Ester Vibal won multiple awards during her lifetime, most notably the Gear Award. This was given by the Technological University of the Philippines in 1983 in recognition of her achievements in the printing industry.

She also won the Book Development Leadership Award from the National Book Development Board in 2001, the Outstanding Women Achievement Award in Entrepreneurship from the Filipino-Chinese Federation of Business and Professional Women in 2007, and, in 2010, the Inspiring Woman of the Year award from Go Negosyo and Philippine Commission on Women, and the Ernst & Young Women Entrepreneur Award “for blazing a trail in entrepreneurship, leadership and community development.”

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