The Philippines’ third richest tycoon, John Gokongwei Jr., died on Saturday at the age of 93.
The founder of JG Summit Holdings Inc., one of the country’s top conglomerates, was the third richest Filipino according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $5.3 billion.
The Gokongwei Group is one of the country’s biggest and most diversified conglomerates, with interests in air transportation, telecommunications, banking, food, power, property and petrochemicals.
Thousands of employees of JG Summit and Robinson Retail Holdings mourned Gokongwei’s passing.
“Mr. John, as we fondly called him, was a visionary. He was an inspiration to entrepreneurs and businessmen, with his pioneering ideas, his strong work ethic, his passions and perseverance,” they said in a statement.
JG Summit ranked 9th in the 2019 issue of The Manila Times 500, a roster of the country’s top conglomerates and corporations, raking in P291.9 billion revenues last year.
Gokongwei transformed a cornstarch manufacturing plant in Pasig, Universal Robina Corp. (URC), into one of the Philippines’ leading food and beverage businesses.
URC produces a slew of products loved by generations like Chippy, Tortillos, Nova and C2. It also produces animal feeds and veterinary products.
Days before Gokongwei’s death, JG Summit Holdings’ subsidiary Cebu Pacific, which made air travel affordable to the masses, finalized its order for 16 brand-new Airbus A330neo jets.
Malacañang and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo on Sunday expressed their sympathies to the family of Gokongwei Jr.
“The Palace expresses its deep condolences to the family, the surviving wife Elizabeth, children Lance, Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia, friends and colleagues of Mr. John Gokongwei, Jr.,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Malacañang described Gokongwei as a “visionary” and “pillar of the Philippine economy.”
“Our people recognize Mr. Gokongwei’s amazing journey as a self-made industrialist, respected business leader, and generous philanthropist. A grateful nation respects the man for the indelible legacy he made in the fields of business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy,” it said.
Panelo noted that Filipinos should emulate certain values exhibited by the late business tycoon.
“Mr. Gokongwei was an exceptional and ideal Filipino. He exemplifies the traits that should endow us: 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Robredo sent her condolences in a tweet: “Our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr. John Gokongwei Jr. We will remember his many contributions not only to the business community, but to helping our fellow Filipinos in need.”
Senators also extended their condolences to the Gokongwei family.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson narrated on Twitter his interaction with the late billionaire when he helped solve the kidnapping of Gokongwei’s daughter, Robina, when the lawmaker was with the Philippine Constabulary (PC).
“In 1981, I instructed him not to sound intimidated while negotiating for Robina’s ransom. [He] snapped at her kidnappers, ‘10M (P10 million)? Do you know how long it will take me to count that much money? You can have my daughter!’ I said, ‘Not too bold either, Mr. John.’ Rest in peace, John Gokongwei Jr.,” Lacson tweeted.
When a netizen asked whether ransom was paid for Robina’s release, Lacson said, “We rescued Robina just before the ransom payment, so no ransom was paid.”
“Afterwards, John offered P400K (P400,000) as reward money, which I politely declined. He officially donated 10 mobile cars to the PC Metrocom instead thru then-chief PC [and former president] Fidel V. Ramos,” he added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Gokongwei’s “legendary zest for learning and his boldness in trying out new things and his love of work and creating — regardless of his age or appearance — have been a guidepost for how to live.”
“Thank you for these and also for — regardless of the political winds — keeping on investing in the Philippines, employing thousands of Filipinos, and producing useful and affordable products and services,” he added.
Sen. Ralph Recto said Gokongwei “planted Filipino greatness in other lands and in the minds of his people that yes, a poor promdi like him can.”
“We can tally the jobs his business created, the taxes paid and the earnings it generated, but the inspiration he gave our young was the most important bottomline that was hard to quantify,” he said.
Gokongwei left behind his wife Elizabeth; children Robina, Lance, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia; siblings; and grandchildren.
His wake will be held at the Heritage Park in Taguig City from Nov. 11 to 14, 2019.