A toast to Bobby Joseph

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
A toast to Bobby Joseph
Bobby would move mountains to get things done. From Bobby Joseph’s Facebook page.

I just finished reading The Inspiring Life of Robert Lim Joseph Jr., and it was just that ­— inspiring.

Bobby died last month after 20 years of battling cancer and winning over a bout with COVID-19 in 2021. Bobby was still able to read the draft of his biography, but unfortunately could not make it to its launching. The book was launched at his wake.

Bobby’s wake was just as he had wanted it, his son Robi said. It was a celebration of his life, with wine passed around in the patio adjacent to the chapel. The chapel was abloom with flowers and jampacked with his friends and former colleagues. Now, this man did not go quietly into the night. He did it with aplomb, with many people offering toasts to the man he was, and the memories he left behind.

Despite the scars and the pains, and to put it mildly, the inconveniences of cancer treatments for two decades, Bobby led a full and productive life.

As his good friend, former Press Undersecretary Deedee Siytangco, said, “He has had more than his share of physical and emotional pain and trials, but I have never known him to rant against his Maker.”

The late travel and tourism stalwart Bobby Joseph and wife, Ida.


Written in a very engaging manner by Rhea Vitto Tabora, The Inspiring Life of Robert Lim Joseph, Jr. is also like an epic tale of many immigrant families that settled and flourished in the Philippines. Bobby’s great-grandfather Thomas P. Joseph (originally Youssef) came from Iraq, his great-grandmother from Syria. While his mother’s forebears, the Lims of Xiamen, were reportedly all officials of the Ming Dynasty. The first few chapters regale us with this.

Thus, Bobby was quoted in the book as saying, “I am a fruit cocktail. But in my heart and soul, I am a Filipino. The Philippines is my birthplace. My family is here, everything about my life is here.”

Bobby worked with several airlines since he was a teenager, like Egypt Air, Korean Airlines, and Kuwait Airways; and several travel agencies. He knew the industry like the back of his hand.

Every day was a challenge, competition was tough, political and social unrest here (like the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983) and abroad, and automation made the industry seesaw from good to bad times. But when there were potential cancellations of milestone events that he had worked for, like the World Airlines Clubs Associations (WACA) general assembly slated in Manila in 1984, Bobby never gave up. One thousand delegates were originally expected. He moved heaven and earth just to convince WACA not to give up on the Philippines. And the eagle, so to speak, landed in Manila in 1984.

If there is one takeaway I have from Rhea Vitto Tabora’s telling of the life and times of Bobby, it is this: If there’s a will, there’s not only a way. There’s a winner.

‘A story of triumph over adversity.’


Bobby was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2002 when he was only 52, and had battled Stage 4 cancer since 2007, when he was given six months to live. Eighteen months at most. He lost his son Richard in 2017. In May 2021, at 71, he contracted the COVID-19 virus. After he had a seizure at home where he was self-isolating, he was picked up by an ambulance — but it could find no hospital to take him. After making sure he was stable, medical personnel in the ambulance brought Bobby back to his home, where he had to wait it out. Thankfully, within the day, one hospital called to say there was now a bed available. He made it through the night.

At 71 and with Stage 4 cancer and COVID-19, Bobby put up a fight perhaps only the legendary Achilles could have.

I once asked Bobby what gave him so much fortitude, and he said, “The secret to my survival is the miracle of hope from Mama Mary, the support and love of my family, living life one day at a time and doing my best in Jesus’ name.”

Whether in fighting illness, or anxiety due to the pandemic, Bobby had these pieces of advice: “Break down problems to solvable parts. One’s outlook should be focused on one’s goals. Discard self-created difficulties that have no basis for one’s concern. Work one step at a time to get things done with a projected timeline.”

He did not believe in avoiding responsibilities but had learned to delegate. “(I) accept the challenges, but pass them on to expert networks to relieve me of stress and tension.”

He attributed his “can-do” attitude to “optimism and positive thinking.” And to his beautiful ever-supportive wife, the former Ida Manalo, and their children.

Ida, whom Bobby courted at work and dated through karate lessons after work, is the sister of my husband’s good friend and Ateneo batchmate, SM Retail Inc. president Chito Manalo.

Bobby and Ida, who had been married for 43 years, have five children, Robi, Rea, Riza, River and Richard, who has gone to heaven and who surely welcomed his beloved father there, perhaps with a glass of wine.

Ida said of her late husband: “He is our genie in a bottle. Tell him what you dream of, and he will give it to you.”

(For inquiries about the book The Inspiring Life of Robert Lim Jr., please call the Wine Museum, tel. nos. 8286-8261 and 8853-5894. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to one of Bobby’s advocacies, supporting scholars at the Dualtech Training Center Foundation in Calamba, Laguna.)

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)


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