How Sisters Charo Santos-Concio And Malou Santos Found Success Through Their Passion
There is no doubt that Charo Santos Concio and Malou Santos are inspiring leaders. They have both paved the way for women in entertainment and business with their individual achievements. Alongside being a veteran actress and creative force, Charo is also the former president of ABS-CBN Corporation (and the first woman to hold that position to boot!). She is the current ABS-CBN Chief Content Officer. Malou, on the other hand, is a talented producer and serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Star Creatives, ensuring the company continues to dominate the industry through the production of high-caliber Filipino entertainment.
While both women have an endless list of achievements and, to many others, would appear quite intimidating, together they are still, first and foremost, sisters who share a strong familial bond, and friends who are always there to support one another.
What are some of your favorite memories growing up together?
Malou: When we were growing up we’d always play together – piko, bahay-bahayan. We stayed together in one room so we would share stories every evening, or read comics, or listen to the radio. We spent so much time together and we learned together. Our mom had all our helpers leave when we were younger so that we, siblings, would learn to do housework. She wanted us to know how to do everything ourselves.
Charo: Our dad was really conservative. We weren’t allowed to leave the compound so we weren’t only siblings but we were each other’s playmates, too. We didn’t really have enough money to buy toys so we would make do with what we had, even the free toys that come with the kids’ meals at fast food restaurants. Those were our toys. It was a world where we were encouraged to imagine.
Though we, siblings, were close, it was Malou and I who were partners in crime. We played together and we’d get in trouble together, too. She was usually the instigator and I would follow. In our old home, my father used to tell us not to go out and over the window because it led straight to the roof and, of course, one time when he wasn’t home, we did just that. And we got caught. It did not end well.
Were your parents strict?
Charo: Oh yes, both of them. They were very clear about the boundaries.
Malou: At the same time, though, we are also very grateful because they taught us about limitations. We knew good and bad and we were very grounded. We were lucky to have them.
Charo: And we were always lucky to have each other.
Malou: Yes. I remember there was a time we were playing and Charo got hit right in the face and we were so worried she might be blinded. I remember thinking that I needed to protect her. That accident was like an eyeopener for me that I needed to protect my sister. And I did throughout our childhood all the way until now.
So you weren’t only sisters but best friends and confidantes growing up?
Malou: Yes, but actually all of us siblings confided in one another.
Charo: It wasn’t just the two of us. My father always encouraged all of us to be there for one another. He used to tell us to always celebrate one another. I remember he said that we wouldn’t all have moments of success at the same time in our lives. That we would all have our own individual journey. Sometimes up and sometimes down. You just have to be there for one another always. That’s the essence of family.
What do you think has been the most significant growth you have seen in each other throughout the years?
Malou: For me, it was seeing her grow and overcome her shyness.
Charo: I typically didn’t like to be the center of attention or relish being in the spotlight. I was always more shy of the two of us. She was fearless. She could face anything. She’s grown up to be incredibly hardworking and brave.
Being shy and being an actress and business leader seem like two very different things. How did you overcome your shyness?
Charo: By just pushing myself and just doing it. Malou was always there to provide reinforcement. And I never had to ask her for help either, she just knew. The thing is I’m extremely patient. I’m not a whiner so even if I was having a problem or facing difficulties, I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast it. But my family would know. They are very sensitive, and they are always there even without saying a word. We are present for one another, but we are also very respectful of one another’s space and privacy.
Malou: That’s something we learned from our mom and dad. To respect each other’s space and privacy. We may ask one another questions, but it’s the prerogative of the other if they want to speak or not.
Charo: This is the value that has always been truly at the forefront of our relationship with one another and with all our siblings. We are not casual about our boundaries.
“It wasn’t just the two of us. My father always encouraged all of us to be there for one another. He used to tell us to always celebrate one another. I remember he said that we wouldn’t all have moments of success at the same time in our lives. That we would all have our own individual journey. Sometimes up and sometimes down. You just have to be there for one another always. That’s the essence of family.”
—CHARO SANTOS CONCIO on being best friends and confidantes to each of their siblings
Growing up, it seems the people around you really made an impact in your lives. Who would you say were the most influential people?
Charo: Other than our parents, I would say the German nuns of the College of the Holy Spirit.
Malou: Yes, they were disciplinarians. And they taught us the importance of manners, too.
Charo: Social graces are always important and should be present in our lives. It’s about respect, too, in a way. The world is not all about you, and you need to be respectful of others. And part of being respectful is manners and having the right conduct. Another value that is very important to us is honesty. Word of honor. If you give your word, you need to keep it.
Malou: The sister of my dad, Tita Cora, is a very intelligent person, and even though we didn’t see each other very often, her words of wisdom always stuck with us, and the way she loved her children and family. She was one of our idols.
Charo: She is a very positive person. Even if bad things happen, she would always try to see the good; opportunities instead of difficulties. And, of course, we always remember the lessons from our parents. Our dad instilled in us a deep empathy for others. He was a government doctor and he really served the poor. It was his calling.
Malou: And he lived the value of forgiveness, too. Someone actually made an attempt on his life and we were all ready to file a case, but he told us to forgive. That was a big lesson for us. Now in our own lives we tend to be more forgiving and understanding, too.
I am a tough and demanding boss. My yardstick is that if I can figure it out, you should figure it out ahead of me. It is easy to teach people to supervise or manage, but it is a feat if you teach foresight and instinct, gut feel and courage. Those are the skills I try to hone in people. My people can always look back and say they have learned a lot from me.
—MALOU SANTOS on grooming future leaders of the company
Were you raised to be achievers and told to pursue your dreams?
Malou: We were dedicated, not because we were forced, but because we were inspired to be.
Charo: My father was the epitome of hard work, and the way he lived his life inspired us to do the same. He never had to really say it, he just showed it with his actions. We were told to do our best, but in the end the choices were always our own. He just wanted us to be happy. He never dictated. Our mom pushed us a little bit harder. She wanted us to be able to achieve our dreams.
What do you think are some of the leadership traits you learned from each other?
Charo: I learned a lot about taking risks and making a stand. No matter how unpopular something might be, you have to follow your heart. Even if the world tells you no, follow what you believe is right. We both have that quality. We aren’t afraid to fail, even if it’s painful.
Malou: Our father taught us early on that we would have to learn how to fend for ourselves, to be brave, and to speak our minds. He reminded us that he and my mom couldn’t always be around.
Charo: And the irony of it is that he died very young. He was only 49. He taught us we have to be self-smart. He told us that when we were just 11 years old.
The lessons most definitely worked and you are both exceptional leaders today. How do you groom leaders now and pay forward the lessons you learned as kids?
Malou: I am a tough and demanding boss. My yardstick is that if I can figure it out, you should figure it out ahead of me. It is easy to teach people to supervise or manage, but it is a feat if you teach foresight and instinct, gut feel and courage. Those are the skills I try to hone in people. My people can always look back and say they have learned a lot from me. Despite a wholesome discipline, I am a person who believes in second chances, and third chances, and so on. I always believe people can be better, and people eventually mature to their God-given peak excellence. I am honored if I can point them to that direction.
Charo: I groom leaders by empowering them, trusting them to be able to handle tasks and challenges. You can’t always be around, and you have to know that they can handle any situation. The world doesn’t stop because you are gone—it continues. In order to ensure a good transition of leadership, you have to empower others. And if they fall or fail—you are there to guide and teach them.
Malou: That is the best legacy of a good leader. To be cognizant of others and to think about them and teach them to carry on when you are gone.
Charo: You have to prepare your organization to go on without you. That is important. You have to realize that it’s not all about you. It’s a very arrogant attitude to think you are indispensable. It is the people around you who will suffer. Part of good leadership is knowing when to let go. It’s having self-awareness and discernment. You always have to handle your ego and check yourself. This is an important quality for all our future leaders. You can’t be sensitive to other people if you aren’t aware of who you are. Intangible qualities of a good leader are discernment and awareness. Of course, you also need the competencies of the job that make you a good leader, but it is having the intangible qualities as well that make great leaders.
*This article was originally published in Working Mom April-May 2017 Issue
Produced by Jane Kingsu-Cheng
Production styling by Justine Arcega-Bumanlag
Styling by Eric Pe Benito
Makeup by Juan Sarte,
Hairstyling by Jeff Aromin (for Charo)
Makeup and hairstyling by Jonathan Velasco of Aveda Hair Affiliate (for Malou)