The ABC's of John Gokongwei Jr's Entrepreneurial Journey

Today, November 9, we mark the first death anniversary of tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr., the founder of JG Summit and the Gokongwei group. We’ve put together an alphabet that celebrates his life’s work. 

Airline. One of the crown jewels of the conglomerate. Cebu Pacific is the nation’s leading airline which pioneered affordable fares. It has flown over 150 million passengers since it was established in 1996.


Life Lessons from John Gokongwei Jr.

John Gokongwei Jr.'s Life in Photos

Bicycle. The trademark of Gokongwei’s entrepreneurial career. When he was a teenager, he rode a bike to the Cebu market every day to sell soap, candles, and other wares.

Blend 45. Gokongwei’s first brand. The first locally manufactured coffee blend produced by Consolidated Foods Corp, founded in 1961.

Cebu. His hometown where he started as an entrepreneur at the age of 13, after his father passed away. He sold peanuts to his classmates.

Chippy. One of the pioneers of the snack industry in the Philippines under the Jack ‘n Jill brand of Universal Robina Corporation.

De La Salle University. Where Gokongwei completed his MBA at 51 years old, even if he had never finished college. The Gokongwei College of Engineering was named after him. Its rival, Ateneo de Manila University, is also a benificiary of Gokongwei's philanthropy, home to the John Gokongwei School of Management.

Dream big. Take bold steps. Get it done. These make up the entrepreneurial mindset core value of JG Summit.

Elizabeth. His wife of 61 years, who passed away exactly a week after him.


Family. One of the pillars of Gokongwei’s life; the other being work. He made it a point to be home for dinner with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Robina, Lance, Lisa, Faith, Hope, and Marcia, every evening.

Gokongwei Brothers Foundation. The family foundation established by Gokongwei brothers John, Johnson, Henry, and James. It aims to help improve the quality of education in the Philippines.

Handyman Do It Best. One of the most trusted hardware stores in the country. 

Iced Tea. C2 Cool and Clean is the pioneer in ready-to-drink tea in the Philippines, introduced in 2004.  

JG Summit. The mother ship. One of the largest and most diversified conglomerates in the Philippines. 

Juanita. His beloved mother, who raised six children after the death of her husband, John Gokongwei Sr. 

Kidnappers. Gokongwei said negotiating directly with the kidnappers of his daughter, Robina, in 1981, was the biggest and most dangerous risk he ever took his life. 

Knowledge. Gokongwei always believed in investing in knowledge and education. He loved books and all sorts of reading materials.

Lance. Gokongwei’s only son who is now President and CEO of JG Summit Holdings. 

Land. Robinsons Land is one of the nation’s leading property developers , with a range of property including office buildings, hotels, residential condiminiums, and housing subdivisions.

Manila Electric Company (MERALCO).  The largest private sector electric distribution utility company in the Philippines. JG Summit holds a 29.56% stake in MERALCO.

Nips. The multi-colored candy-coated chocolate buttons we all grew up with, produced by Jack ‘n Jill. A best-selling classic.

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Olefin. Raw materials ethylene and propylene are produced by JG Summit Olefins Corporation,  which operates the first and only naphtha cracker plant in the country.  Meanwhile, JG Summit Petrochemical Corporation is the largest manufacturer of polyolefins in the Philippines.

Peanuts. The first product Gokongwei sold as a 13 year old, after the death of his father. 

PLDT. The leading telecommunications service provider in the Philippines. JG Summit holds an 8% stake in the company.

Quality. Great products at affordable prices are central to the Gokongwei group’s strategy.

RBank. Robinsons Bank is one of the fastest growing commercial banks in the country in terms of capitalization and asset size. It recently partnered with the DSWD to help release ayuda safely and digitally.

Retail. Robinsons Retail is the second largest retailer in the Philippines, with six business segments: supermarkets; department stores; DIY stores; convenience stores; drug stores; and specialty stores. It has more than 28 retail brands and more than 1,200 stores.

Starch. The very first product Gokongwei manufactured was corn starch. He established Universal Corn Products in 1954.

Supermarket. Robinsons Supermarket is the second largest supermarket chain in the country. It’s the first major retailer to promote health and wellness,

Toys R Us. The go-to store for toy lovers, big and small.

True Value. The home and office improvement store, with unique and quirky finds.

Uncle John's Fried Chicken. One of the bestselling items at Ministop, one of the largest convenience store chains in Asia with close to 500 stores in the Philippines.

UIC. United Industrial Corporation (UIC) is a Singapore-listed company whose core business is property development and investment. JG Summit has a 37 percent stake in the company.


URC. One of the largest branded consumer food and beverage product companies in the Philippines founded in 1954.  Three of its brands have established markets elsewhere in Southeast Asia as well: Jack 'n Jill, C2, and Great Taste coffee.

Values. JG Summit’s three core values are entrepreneurial mindset, stewardship, and integrity.

Vietnam. One of URC's regional markets. URC was named one of the Top 100 Sustainable Businesses there, helping create a "Green, Clean, and Beautiful Vietnam."

Work. One of the pillars of Gokongwei’s life, the other being family.

Xavier School. One of the beneficiaries of Gokongwei’s philanthropy. Its Junior High School is named for him. Gokongwei was a big believer in education and donated to many schools around the country.


Life Lessons from John Gokongwei Jr. 

John Gokongwei Jr.'s Life in Photos

Yes!  The nation’s bestselling magazine was founded by Summit Media, the nation’s largest lifestyle publisher. The company went all-digital in 2018.

Zeitgeist. Gokongwei always had his finger on the pulse of the times. That’s how he continued to pioneer so many new concepts and ideas for over six decades.  We remember him fondly. is published by Summit Media which is part of the Gokongwei group of companies.

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Yvette Fernandez
Yvette Fernandez has written over a dozen books. Previously, she was editor in chief of Esquire Philippines and Town&Country Philippines.
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