QUINTESSENTIAL entrepreneur and philanthropist Simplicio “Sammy” Palanca, the father of the port of Bacolod, is celebrating his 95th birthday today, March 12.

“The old man by the sea” is instrumental in transforming the economic landscape of Bacolod with the successful reclamation of 250 hectares of sea under the Comprehensive Revised Reclamation Agreement (CRRA) that led to the birth of the port of the city, the seven-storey pilgrimage site of Pope Saint John Paul II and many business firms that have erected in the bustling reclamation area.

Palanca opened countless job opportunities through the port that generated millions of pesos in revenues.

Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo Benitez, his grandson, said his grandfather has succeeded in transforming the sea into a very productive real estate property in the city of Bacolod.

“My lolo was very involved politics. He tutored all of us who ran for elective posts, giving us advises as well as the other candidates. He is very politically involved. He knows if you are the rightful candidate or not. His business acumen has also been proven. Before, many people were amused by him because many have viewed it impossible. But today, he proved it to the many that he had a right vision. My wish for him is to ‘never say no; never say die, continue following your dreams no matter how hard it is,’” Benitez said.

Palanca’s brother Ernesto once said the name Sammy is synonymous with Bacolod Real Estate Development Corporation (Bredco), his greatest legacy.

Sammy has painstakingly pursued and achieved his visions that many have given up.

During the World War II, when Palanca was 16, he built his first sailboat and sailed to Panay to sell the product of their farms and fill the boat with merchandise to sell it to the local market when he came home, said his niece Cynthia Bantug Regino, daughter of his sister the late Victorias mayor Remedios Bantug.

Among his first ventures was the Sampaguita Theater in Cadiz City, a partnership with good friends Dr. Jose Fernandez and Dr. Tomas de Leon. They then expanded to Bacolod City by establishing four theaters.

And although real estate eventually took him away from the theater business, Regino said he continued to be fascinated by the magic of entertainment.

Sammy is the seventh child of Lucio Chilianchin Palanca and Andrea Acuna. He grew up with a firm belief instilled by his parents that a good education is much better than mere inheritance.

Now, his top company Bredco is under the leadership of his nephew, Jose Antonio “John” Alonte.