Joey and Marissa Concepcion make music on the piano. The young Joey once played the organ for church rites. Note Arturo Luz’s apt artwork.
Photos by Geremy Pintolo
Joey Concepcion’s top business: Love for family
LIFE AND STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil (The Philippine Star) - June 1, 2019 - 12:00am

The house of Joey Concepcion reflects exactly the kind of person he is: simple, modern, straightforward, open.

“I like open spaces, that’s my personality,” he says.

When Joey and his wife Marissa Orosa-Concepcion asked Ed Calma, in collaboration with Tina Periquet, to design their house 12 years ago, they envisioned a residence using a lot of natural materials like wood and stone.

The result is a welcoming house where areas are divided by huge sliding glass doors which, when opened, create one huge entertaining area that extends to the breezy garden. 

“We are both the eldest in our families,” explains Marissa, “and we knew we would be entertaining family get-togethers often.”

The couple’s portraits done by Madrid artist Adrian Torres, through the art gallery of Raul Francisco and Joanne Preysler-Francisco.

Little did they know that years later, “family” would include movers who share Joey’s burning passion as founder of Go Negosyo which provides livelihood opportunities to small entrepreneurs, mentors them and empowers them.

“Impatient” is another adjective that Joey uses to describe himself. He wants things to get done quickly. “I push things fast. Otherwise, there will come a point when one stagnates,” says Joey.

What people don’t read in the business pages is that Joey’s top business is his love for family. “Marissa and I focus on what is important, and that is family. Our children learn a lot in school, but their values are formed at home. The real measure of a successful life is having a happy family. We tell our kids: Be a proud Filipino and put family first. “

Joey chills with his books, while Marissa checks the living areas that open up into the garden where they love entertaining the family and friends.

Joey is happiest when enjoying meals and making music with his family, watching Netflix, traveling locally and abroad, diving and snorkeling. Joey is a sailor at heart. He has explored the depths of Philippine waters. I’ve seen practically all the islands, although I would like to see more of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.”

“Actually, Joey was more of the shy type when I first met him, and I found his shyness quite attractive,” recalls Marissa. “Then I saw that he was a fighter, a go-getter who won’t stop to achieve what he dreams of.” 

Years of seeing his elders fighting the Marcos dictatorship and rallying the people towards democracy surely transformed Joey into a fighter. “When martial law was declared, our house was being surrounded by the military. My dad (JoeCon) was arrested and imprisoned for eight months together with some senators. I was a teener then and during visits to my dad, I would carry letters I wrote, cursing Marcos. And the guards, upon screening my letters would tell me: ‘You know, you could also get imprisoned for these?’”

Standing by a folding mural that tells a slice of history

JoeCon later spearheaded NAMFREL (National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections), which was one of the “people power” forces leading to the EDSA Revolution.

“My father was really a people person. When there was a fire or flood in Pasay where we used to live, he would be there helping. He loved being a civic leader. He served as Secretary of Trade and Industry for President Cory Aquino. He ran for senator, perhaps at the wrong time, and lost. Still he served proudly with the last position he held — barangay captain of Forbes Park.”

Subliminally, Joey realized he was also being mentored by his elders to become a hardworking and creative entrepreneur as well. His grandfather, Jose Concepcion Sr., founder of Concepcion Industries, was an appliance industry leader. His maternal grandfather, Salvador Araneta, was an educator and constitutionalist who started Republic Flour Mills (RFM) in 1958 together with co-founders (including Jose Concepcion, Sr.). RFM became the first flourmill in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. At that time, the region had to import flour.

A dog on the sofa back table adds a touch of whimsy. A work of Brazilian artist Britto, the dog was Marissa’s birthday gift to Joey who was born in the year of the dog.

When JoeCon was asked by President Cory to join her Cabinet as DTI Secretary, he asked his eldest son Joey to run their family business and eventually grow it as RFM’s CEO and president. From a flour company, RFM diversified into meat products, baby food and juices, (at one point RFM bought and sold brands like Selecta and Cosmos), selling quality products at affordable prices.

At 18, Joey was a budding entrepreneur selling cotton candy at a mall. As a college student, he was selling encyclopedias. He started working at RFM from the lowest rank, riding and driving trucks to sell flour even in provinces. On his own, the young Joey also sold fire extinguishers, shaved ice and popcorn. Today, his family‘s Kettle Korn  is a top brand, a  favorite of popcorn lovers.

Aside from his grandfathers, father and mother (Victoria Lopez Araneta), Joey also idolized his father-in-law Jose Orosa who was a patriotic businessmen pushing for Filipino products. Beautiful wife Marissa remains his best business partner and inspiration.

The modern and minimal dining area in the Concepcion house designed by Ed Calma in collaboration with Tina Periquet.

In turn, Joey’s children Christian (married to Olivia Jacinto, and they have a son, Jose Alonzo Concepcion V), Margarita, Catherine (to be married soon to Roman Javier Puno), Monica and Isabella idolize their dad who tells them: “You have to try your own business first before working with the family.”

As a boy, Joey’s idol was Batman. “I had almost every Batman toy there was.”

During his 60th birthday, his daughter Monica told Joey: “I saw the love you have for the country, the passion and hope you have for our people and the values you chose to live by in your life. You’re living up to be the Batman for our country.”

Joey’s portait — a gift from the Go Negosyo family — with his children’s guitars

Right now, Batman is busy working in his cave as President Duterte’s adviser on entrepreneurship, and chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council-Philippines. He is also founder of the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs (AMEN), which is the ASEAN version of Go Negosyo. Joey was recently given the Padma Shri Award by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; it’s India’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, which is given to  achievers who serve the poor.

Joey actually nurtured his “partnering for change, creating prosperity” dream during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term under the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship. “Unfortunately,” he recalls, “during President Noynoy Aquino’s term, anybody who served under GMA was blacklisted.”

He was offered the position of Secretary of Trade and Industry by President Duterte but he turned it down, “because you will always be seen to be conflicted — even if it’s just a perception, it becomes reality in the eyes of the people.”

Marissa in sarong with her portrait done by Romulo Galicano

As we walk into their garden, we ask Joey: Will you run for public office? “I will never run, I have no interest in running for public office. Let’s leave lawmaking to senators like Migs Zubiri and Bam Aquino (who, incidentally, created the Go Negosyo Act).

Thousands nationwide have benefited from Go Negosyo and his aim is to mentor even more Filipinos who want to set up or grow their own business. And he does this hand in hand with DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez who is “the first trade secretary to pay attention to micro and small entrepreneurs.”

Helping eradicate poverty and promote prosperity by mentoring entrepreneurs is his legacy dream. “For what is life without substance and purpose?” Joey asks. And we know Joey has sincerity of purpose.

How to fulfill these dreams and more for the next three years?

Bahala na si Batman.

*   *   *

Follow the author on Instagram and Facebook@milletmartinezmananquil. Email her at mmmananquil@philstarmedia.com.

JOEY CONCEPCION MARISSA CONCEPCION
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