John Gokongwei Jr. remembered as industry leader, 'colossus of generosity'
John Gokongwei, Jr. JG Summit Holdings Inc. president and CEO Lance Gokongwei
John Gokongwei Jr. remembered as industry leader, 'colossus of generosity'
Franco Luna ( - November 10, 2019 - 10:31am

MANILA, Philippines — The passing of John Gokongwei Jr—founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Inc., and the country's third wealthiest person—has prompted tributes for a man who "planted Filipino greatness in other lands and in the minds of his people that yes, a poor promdi like him can." 

De La Salle University-Manila said it "deeply mourns the passing of an exemplary industry leader, selfless philanthropist, and outstanding Lasallian." Gokongwei earned his MBA at DLSU before taking an advanced management program at Harvard University. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto called the celebrated industrialist "a national flag carrier who planted Filipino greatness in other lands and in the minds of his people that yes, a poor promdi like him can."

Recto said that "[Gokongwei] pushed the envelope and challenged convention in everything he did because this summa cum laude of the university of hard knocks believed that excellence can only be achieved by human talent pushed to the limit."

"This taipan was also a colossus of generosity. Sans fanfare, he funded schools and scholarships, so that poverty will not interrupt schooling the way it did his. He spoke softly but wrote large checks," he added. 

For his part, Sen. Panfilo Lacson recalled his time as a lieutenant colonel with the Philippine Constabulary's Metropolitan Command and his role in rescuing the businessman's daughter, Robina Gokongwei, now a tycoon herself. 

"In 1981, I instructed him not to sound intimidated while negotiating for Robina’s ransom, [so he instead] snapped at her kidnappers, '10M? Do you know how long it’ll take me to count that much money? You can have my daughter!'" Lacson said.

"I said, not too bold either Mr John. Rest In Peace, John Gokongwei Jr."

In a tweet, Sen. Sonny Angara said:  "RIP John Gokongwei, a man who always tried to provide value to Philippine consumers."

The late tycoon's son confirmed the tycoon's passing in a text message to the Gokongwei-owned Esquire Philippines that said,

"Our beloved husband, father and grandfather John Gokongwei, Jr. passed away peacefully 11:41 pm, November 9th, at the Manila Doctor's Hospital surrounded by his loved ones. Please pray for the repose of his soul."

As of May 2019, he had a listed net worth of $4.5 billion. In a commencement speech he delivered, Gokongwei was quoted as saying: "It is my belief that education is the only way to save this country. We need quality education to compete in this world." 

"The inspiration he gave our young was the most important bottomline that was hard to quantify," Recto said. "Everything about Mr. John was big—vision, dreams, kindness—yet he never tired of punching above his weight, and the obstacles he toppled paved the way for others."

"For leaving the world better than you found it, daghang salamat, Mr. John," Recto finished.

This is a developing story

- with reports from Paolo S. Romero

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