Business tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. passes away at 93

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    Gokongwei makes his acceptance speech at the conferment ceremonies of the University of San Carlos in Oct. 18, 2018.
    Gokongwei makes his acceptance speech at the conferment ceremonies of the University of San Carlos in Oct. 18, 2018.

    Invest in education and be a pillar of learning to others. Don’t be ashamed to have dirt on your hands if it means sowing the seed for future success. And don’t be afraid to be the David in a pack of Goliaths.

    At the same time, take care of your family.

    These were some of the lessons that John Gokongwei Jr., the third richest man in the Philippines, imparted to his kin as he led by example in the days he built one of the awe-inspiring entrepreneurial story the country could ever have, as narrated by his son, Lance Gokongwei, in the book “Lessons from Dad, John Gokongwei Jr.,” when the taipan turned 90 three years ago.

    Gokongwei Jr. passed away on Saturday, November 9 , at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital at the age of 93.

    Born in Xiamen, Gokongwei was educated in primary and high school at the University of San Carlos, before trading school for business in his teenage years when the family lost all its fortune after his father’s death. Gokongwei would only later go back to school in the 1970s at the De La Salle University after he had secured the footing of his business empire.

    After the war, Gokongwei formed Amasia Trading to import flour, onions, fruits, used clothing, old newspapers and magazines from the US and later on cigarettes and whiskey.

    In the 1950s, Gokongwei ventured into manufacturing, setting up what would later on be the listed Universal Robina Corp., which would launch local coffee brand Blend 45.

    Today, the Gokongwei Group is one of the country’s largest and most diversified conglomerates with interests in air transportation, telecommunications, banking, food, power, property,  hospitality, retail, and petrochemicals.

    In his acceptance speech at the University of San Carlos where he received the Lifetime Achievement Award last year, Gokongwei told his audience to love what they are doing and to continuously learn.

    “I always tell my children, my grandchildren, and my colleagues: Love your work. Work hard for it. Love your family. Love your country. Never stop learning. And always look back and be grateful to where you came from,” he said.

    Gokongwei is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth, and his children Robina, Lance, Lisa, Faith, Hope, and Marcia; his in-laws and grandchildren; brothers Eddie and James Go, sister Lily; and his nieces and nephews.

    JG Summit Holdings Inc. in a statement said Gokongwei’s wake will be from today, November 11 to November 14 at Heritage Park, Taguig, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
    Daily masses will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Funeral mass will be on Friday, November 15 at 8 a.m. at the Heritage Park.

    “We, the 75,000-strong employees of JG Summit Holdings and Robinsons Retail Holdings, join the nation in paying tribute to the founder of the first Philippine multinational conglomerate, a philanthropist with a passion for education. Mr. John, as we fondly called him, was a visionary. He was an inspiration to entrepreneurs and businessmen around the nation, with his pioneering ideas, his strong work ethic, his passion, and perseverance,” it said.

    In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to your favorite charity.

    Malacanang yesterday said the country lost a “visionary” and a “pillar of the Philippine economy” following the passing of Gokongwei.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Gokongwei was an exceptional and ideal Filipino who exemplified the traits that everyone should live by like being ‘industrious, disciplined, indefatigable, creative, generous, always hungry for knowledge, grateful and never forgetting his origins, and most of all, a loving person to his family and his country.”