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Tycoons Pay Tribute to John Gokongwei on His First Death Anniversary

'He was a true game-changer.'
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When John Gokongwei Jr died one year ago, the country lost a true trailblazer. The founder of JG Summit was one of the richest men in the country, having built a conglomerate from the ground up that extends to multiple facets of the everyday Filipino’s life, including food, travel, housing, retail, media, and many more. But beyond material wealth, Gokongwei was a philanthropist, educator, and most important of all, a family man.

On the first anniversary of his death, we asked some of the country's most influential tycoons and businessmen what he meant to them and what his impact was not just to the business community, but to the Philippines as a whole.

Robert Coyiuto Jr. 

Chairman and CEO, Prudential Guarantee and Assurance

"Uncle John and I were good friends for 37 years. Like Lee Kuan Yew, whom he idolized to a point that he spoke like him, Uncle John had great vision and was also unshakeable in his beliefs—the only person who could tell him what to do was his mother.

"I knew him to be inquisitive, always curious and willing to learn new things. When my father passed away in 1982, I took over the insurance company he established less than a year before. I approached Uncle John to solicit insurance requirement for his group. He asked about a lot of details. One day, he even dropped by unannounced in our office in Escolta, most probably checking out how I ran my operations.

"Some months later, we met up in London. Since I came in ahead of him, I picked him up at Heathrow. It was early in the morning, around 5 a.m. When we were in the car, I asked him which hotel he was booked at. He replied: “I’m staying at your hotel, in your room.” And so we shared a room together. This shows how thrifty Uncle John was.

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"Still, he was also generous with his wisdom and wealth, donating half his fortune to various charities in 2006, when he celebrated his 80th birthday. And despite his many achievements, he remained humble throughout his life, even insisting to people that he be addressed simply as 'Mr. John.'"

Ramon S. Ang

President and COO, San Miguel Corporation 

“It has been a year since he passed and yet, his story of overcoming poverty and adversity through perseverance, hard work, and resilience is one that we can all look to. Today, we take a moment to remember the amazing life, and the legacy, of John Gokongwei Jr.

“Throughout his life, I personally admired and looked up to him. Today, I am still inspired by his example, not just as an entrepreneur and business leader, but as a human being. While he achieved so much success, he also encountered many challenges in life. Through it all, he remained kind, humble, and steadfast in his values. 

“You will always be in our thoughts and hearts. Thank you for the memories, the friendship, all that you have done for so many Filipinos.”

Dr. Andrew L. Tan

Chairman, Alliance Global Group, Inc. 

“I have always looked at Mr. Gokongwei very fondly and with great respect. He has transformed and reinvented the many industries his various companies were actively involved in.

"As a true game-changer and philanthropist, his legacy will continue to inspire the many generations and lives that he and his organizations have helped improve through the years.”

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Edgar “Injap” Sia

Chairman, DoubleDragon Properties Inc.

“Mr. John Gokongwei is a rare kind of entrepreneur as over the decades, he successfully took on various highly competitive business industries many times over. His extraordinary grit and ability resulted in a business empire that now serves as one of the major pillars of our economy.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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