One of the Philippines’ industry game changer, philanthropist, and nation-builder, John L. GokongweiJr. died on Saturday night of November 9, 2019 at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital at the age of 93. He is one of the greatest business leaders of the Philippines who built a multi-national conglomerate not only in the country but across the Asia-Pacific region. He was the founder and chair emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, making him the third wealthiest man in the Philippines with a net worth of $5.3 billion according to Forbes magazine.
Here are 10 Things you didn’t know about John Gokongwei Jr.
- He donated half of his wealth to charity
In 1992, John together with his brothers, Johnson, Henry, and James, donated a significant portion of their shares from JG Summit to their very own foundation, Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) which aims to create lasting impact on education in the Philippines. When we reached the age of 80 in 2006, he donated half of his accumulated wealth to the charity through the foundation. This was used in providing STEM education and scholarships to underprivileged students. At present, GBF gives generous donations through Ateneo de Manila Unversity’s John Gokongwei School of Management, De La Salle University’s John Gokongwei School of Engineering, and the John Gokongwei Innovation Center at De La Salle University Laguna Campus.
- He was a man who was much ahead of his time
Despite living through Philippines’ tough times – American colonization and Japanese occupation – and getting along the country’s erratic economic and political cycles, Gokongweiwas never afraid of venturing into different business undertaking even if it would require hard work and slow gains. In an interview of his son, Lance, he shared that his father was a strong believer that “having the courage of your convictions is one of the most important qualities of a strong businessman” making him a true entrepreneur, a visionary, and trailblazer. It can be remembered that a lot of people questioned his decisions when he set up the country’s first low-cost carrier – Cebu Pacific – and the very first integrated petrochemical business plant which is now operating in Batangas.
- He made unlimited call and text services available for the people
Because of Gokongwei’s entry to the telecommunication business, the incumbent players in the market were forced to lower their prices and began providing unlimited services for calls and texts. DigiTel (Digital Telecommunications) was then sold in October 2011 for a stake in PLDT.
- He grew up in Cebu
Though he was born in China, he came to the Philippines along with his parents at an early age. He is the great-grandson of Pedro Gotiaoco – one of the richest men in Philippines in the 19th century and the ancestor of the Gaisano and Gotianuy families. However, because his father died during the colonial years of the Philippines, he was forced to become the breadwinner of the family. Growing up in Cebu, he began trading goods on a bicycle.
- He made the first multinational Philippine corporation
It was early 1957 when Gokongwei began the corn milling plant which main purpose is to produce cornstarch and glucose – the Universal Corn Products. This is the now Universal Robina Corporation which is known to produce the classic favorite brands like Chippy, Nova, and C2. Because of this success, Gokongwei decided to bring URC overseas – to nine other ASEAN countries and Oceania. And this is even before the AEAS was founded! As of present, JG Summit Holdings is one of the biggest food manufacturers in Asia.
- He created traveling available to every Filipino
Gokongweieradicated the concept that traveling is only for the rich. After losing the bidding for Philippine Airlines in 1990, Gokongwei came up with a budget-friendly airline that made air travel more accessible to every Filipino. The airline was named Cebu Pacific to give tribute to the home province of Gokongwei.
- He founded Robinsons Malls in every corner of the country
The first Robinsons Galleria was built in 1990 and was located in the corner of EDSA and Ortigas – the very site of the EDSA Revolution. Because of the success of this mall, he opened more of this malls, department stores, and supermarkets all over the country. As of today, there are more than 50 Robinson’s malls in the Philippines.
- He envisioned to help Filipinos to earn more
To help the Filipinos manage their finances and stabilize their income, Gokongwei expanded his business into real estate and finance by opening the Robinsons Land Corporation and Robinsons Bank Corporation.
- He made thousands of jobs for the Filipinos
Because of the many business ventures of Gokongwei, he was able to employ more than 75,000 people not only in the country but all over the world. This makes Gokongwei Group as one of the biggest employers in the Philippines.
- He encourages people to never stop learning
Despite his achievements, Gokongwei never forgets his origins and his love for his family and country. His favorite advice whenever asked to give speeches or during interviews is “to never stop learning”. He shared that the ultimate secret of his success is his love for what he does: “Love your work. Work hard for it. Love your family. Love your country. Never stop learning. And always look back and be grateful where you came from.”