Top 100 Cebuano Personalities - John L. Gokongwei, Jr.
(The Freeman) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Who doesn't recognize the man who named the airline company that he founded after the city he calls his home?

John Gokongwei Jr. is truly a pride of Cebu, where he started his humble entrepreneurial journey before he became one of the country’s richest businessmen today.

Gokongwei, now 92, started his humble beginnings in Cebu, working his way up to build one of the biggest business empires in the Philippines today.

JG Summit Holdings Inc., the conglomerate that he founded, now controls the biggest corporate names in the country: Cebu Pacific Air in the aviation industry; Universal Robina Corp. in food and beverage manufacturing; Robinsons Land Inc. in property; Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. in retail; and Robinsons Bank in banking; among others.

But looking back, Gokongwei had a fair share of life's challenges before he became the country’s second richest business tycoon.

Based on the 2019 Forbes annual list of billionaires in the Philippines, the JG Summit founder has a net worth of $5.1 billion, making him the 343rd richest in the world.

However, growing his empire wasn’t a walk in the park for Gokongwei, rather it was a riches-to-rags-to-riches-again kind of tale for the Cebuano billionaire.

He first earned his first few pesos in Cebu.

Gokongwei was born privileged but a variety of circumstances pushed his family to lose everything.

He was only 13 when his father died, forcing him to work to help his family get out of debt. He relied on his wits, intelligence, hard work and perseverance to pull himself and his family out of despair.

He started selling roasted peanuts to his classmates in Cebu. He also eventually sold soap, thread and candles in the public market.

But the struggles back then didn't really matter for the 92-year-old taipan, saying he loved being an entrepreneur.

Fast forward to today, the business tycoon still loves what he's doing and still knows everything what's going on in his company.

With so much hard work he put in his business through the years, he believes that money is earned and not given. 

More than a successful businessman, Gokongwei is a man of values and substance. He is a man that every aspiring entrepreneur or even anyone who aspires to be successful must follow: simple, hardworking, frugal, prudent, disciplined and bold.

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