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Who are behind Trending News Portal?

Photos from Mark Hicban and Twinmark Media's Facebook page.

Photos from Mark Hicban and Twinmark Media's Facebook page.

The past few years have been great for Trending News Portal (TNP), a “digital news outfit” that specializes in viral content and entertainment stories.

By shifting focus to politics in 2016, and on President Rodrigo Duterte and his critics, the millennial-run publishing site has increased its Facebook engagement 5 times more in just one year. (READ: 'What is Mocha Uson's top source of news?')

Twinmark Media Enterprise, the company behind TNP and many other publishing websites, seems to be doing just as well: getting an office at the center of the bustling Ortigas central business district and even sending their employees on a trip abroad. (READ: 'The success, influence of Trending News Portal' )

But the company's rise to prominence, it seems, has paralleled the quick rise to success of its owners, 3 brothers often referred to by their relatives and employees as "the trio”. 

For people in their 20s, the brothers Fernando, Ken, and Mark Anthony Hicban seem to have achieved a lot already. Their social media posts mirror a luxurious lifestyle: posh parties, fancy dinners, and international travels.

Photo from Fernando Hicban Jr I's Facebook page.

Photo from Fernando Hicban Jr I's Facebook page.

This year, 2017, the brothers went on an almost month-long tour around Europe: going through 16 European cities in 5 countries.

They seem to be a generous lot, too. They are tagged by friends, relatives, and employees who thank them for their gifts like watches and jewelry.

Other than Twinmark, they also have an online shop for personalized apparel. It appears to be quite the popular shop, with almost 2.5 million followers on Facebook.

From networking to publishing

But it wasn't all glitz and glamor for them before, apparently.

Based on their posts on Facebook, the twins Fernando and Ken started out as networkers for the multi-level marketing company, Royale Busines Club.

In a 2014 post about his experience in joining Royale, Fernando said that he was a working student mired in debt, earning a minimum wage that was barely enough for his house and dorm bills.

"Sa edad na 21 years old, namulat na ako na sa buhay natin, hindi sapat masipag at matiyaga ka lang para umasenso," he wrote. (At the age of 21, I realized that it's not enough to be just hardworking and patient to be successful.)

Things became different when he joined the networking company. Fernando posted photos of the checks he got from Royale amounting to as much as P200,000. According to the Royale website, Fernando was also part of its executive circle, which made him one of the company's top earners. To be a part of this, one needs to have made at least a million pesos in match sales.

At a young age, he also claimed to have been able to buy a Montero GLS-V using the money he earned from Royale.

 Screenshot from Fernando Hicban Jr I's Facebook note.

Ken was also posting the same stories and photos of the same checks (also named after Fernando Hicban I), on his Facebook account.

It's unclear how Fernando and his brothers jumped from multi-level marketing to Twinmark, but he sure has come a long way from being a working student burdened by debt to owning a social media empire. – Rappler.com

Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.

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