John Gokongwei: 'Never stop learning'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2018 12:39 AM | Updated as of Oct 27 2018 01:05 PM

John Gokongwei Jr. delivers his acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of San Carlos. Handout

MANILA - "Never stop learning."

This is what billionaire John Gokongwei Jr. said as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater University of San Carlos in Cebu on Thursday.

In his speech, Gokongwei recalled waking up in the wee hours of the morning to sell "spools of thread, bars of soap, and candles" at the public market in his hometown, the namesake of his airline Cebu Pacific.

"I earned about P20 a day by working longer and harder than everybody else. But it didn’t matter since I really loved my work. I loved being an entrepreneur," he said.

"And so all through the years, I stayed as an entrepreneur, loving what I did and working hard. And always learning from the school of life."

Gokongwei, 92, is the country's third richest man with a net worth of $4.4 billion according to Forbes Magazine.

His conglomerate controls Cebu Pacific, the country's largest airline, snack food maker Universal Robina and Robinsons Malls, among others.

To this day, Gokongwei said he still loves what he's doing and is up to date with his corporation.

"I always tell my children, my grandchildren, and my colleagues: Love your work. Work hard for it. Love your family. Love your country. Never stop learning. And always look back and be grateful to where you came from," he said.

Aside from the award, the university also commissioned a portrait of the tycoon.

In 2004, Gokongwei also received an honorary doctorate in
Business and Enterprise Development from the university.

Officials of the University of San Carlos present the Lifetime Achievement Award to JG Summit Holdings founder and chairman emeritus John Gokongwei, Jr. Handout

Read Gokongwei's full speech below:

It’s always special to be back here in Cebu, my hometown.

And it is extra special to be here at my Alma Mater, University of San Carlos.

I flew here this morning on the airline I named after this city I love, Cebu Pacific.

I went to school here at the University of San Carlos for my primary school and my high school. I was valedictorian in grade school, and I was number one in my class in high school. Because of that, I received free tuition at school.

I remember Fr. GRIES who taught us English Literature, and Mr. Quibilan, the principal. I especially remember Fr. Smith, who was the disciplinarian, because one day he caught me running in front of his office, and I had to stand in the corner for one hour.

When I was 13 years old, my father died, leaving me to take care of my mother, my four brothers, and my sister. At the time, my youngest brother, James, was only nine months old. I took care of them all. Because the family has always been my priority.

It was here in Cebu that I first earned my first few pesos. I used to wake up way before dawn to ride my bicycle to the public market many kilometers away.

I set up a little table at the market to sell spools of thread, bars of soap, and candles. I earned about twenty pesos a day by working longer and harder than everybody else. But it didn’t matter since I really loved my work. I loved being an ENTREPRENEUR.

And so all through the years, I stayed as an entrepreneur, loving what I did and working hard. And always learning from the school of life.

Years later, when I was married to my lovely wife Bia, and had six children of my own, I finally had the means to go back to school. I went to De La Salle University to get my MBA. It took me four years since I was a working student. When I got my diploma it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Then I went to Harvard in 1972 for 14 weeks to take the advance management program.

Today, I am 92 years old. I still wake up early and I still love to do what I’m doing. I still know everything what is going on in my company. I still love to learn and am always reading books, and now, online stories in this new digital age. I always tell my children, my grandchildren, and my colleagues: Love your work. Work hard for it. Love your family. Love your country. Never stop learning.

And always look back and be grateful to where you came from. Thank you, University of San Carlos, for being a large part of who I am today. Thank you for this lifetime achievement award.