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Lance on dad John Gokongwei: Why he always had food in his pocket and loved to fly cheap

16.11.2019

Lance on dad John Gokongwei : Why he always had food in his pocket and loved to fly cheap

He must’ve hated the idea of just lying there, not being able to read his piles of books, not being able to eat the food he had worked so hard to pay for. As we all know, one of his classic lines was, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And boy, did he have a lifetime of eating. It came from a lifetime of hard work.

Another thing I remember about traveling with Dad during my younger days is having to share a hotel room with him. The problem is Dad snored really LOUD (I must say Mom is really a saint to have put up with THAT SNORING for 61 years). In my case, I didn’t put up with it. So I walked out… out of the bedroom and into the bathroom where I spent the night sleeping in the bathtub.

Dad also always flew economy, until he got too big to fit in the seats. My sisters and their families still try to fly economy whenever we take family trips together. I think it’s also for them to prove they are still skinny enough to fit in economy class seats. That’s why we set up Cebu Pacific, a low-cost carrier, because we’re all used to riding economy.

This past week we started the wake at lunch because my sisters and I still squeezed in all our meetings in the mornings. The only day we cancelled meetings were for today because we have a funeral to attend. That’s how Dad would’ve wanted it. Business as usual.

When Dad turned 90, I wrote a book called Lessons from Dad. I shared nuggets of wisdom I had learned from him. I was very surprised by how many people have told me they have read the book, and have been inspired. To me, he was Dad, and I had written stories about family. But to others, he was Big John, larger than life, and they loved reading those stories about him.

Till today, I think Dad was most successful with businesses that catered to the every man, the common man, because that’s who he was himself.

But he was an every man who had a vision. He loved his family, he loved his employees, he loved his country.

Dad stopped being active in management when he was 90, but he still was very visible in the business till the very end. He would show up unannounced in a factory or a new building. Earlier this year, he attended the inauguration (and official unveiling of the marker) of the John Gokongwei School of Innovation at De La Salle University in Laguna. In August, he attended the re-dedication of the Gokongwei Jr. High School at Xavier. His last public event was when we launched our Bridgetown township back in September.

I promised Dad I would always take care of the company. There is a greater purpose than ourselves. We share all of our successes with our employees, the communities in this country we love, our business partners, and our customers. They are all part of our family story.

I accept it humbly, gratefully, with open hands, heart, and mind. And I am running with it.

Read more: ABS-CBN News Channel

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