Gokongwei daughter, in playful eulogy, says dad taunted her kidnappers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2019 12:53 PM

Tycoon John Gokongwei is shown in this handout photo from his holding company, JG Summit

MANILA -- The late tycoon John Gokongwei's eldest daughter recalled how her kidnappers complained that he was willing to give her away because he has 6 other children, one of many stories in a eulogy for her "mentor-father."

Gokongwei, of course, was following the advice of then-police colonel Panfilo Lacson who led her rescue without a ransom payoff. Robina Gokongwei-Pe was a senior at the University of the Philippines in 1981 when she was kidnapped with her cousin, Celina Chua.

"Anim pala kayong magkakapatid! Akala ko nag-iisa ka. Sabi ng tatay mo, pwede ka na ipamigay kasi mayroon pa siyang limang anak. Ano ba ‘yan!" Gokongwei-Pe said.

(There's 6 of you. I thought you are an only child. Your father said he can give you away because he has 5 other children. What's up with that?)

The eulogy was published in full by Esquire Philippines' website, part of the Gokongweis' publishing arm, Summit Media.

Robinsons Retail Holdings president and CEO Robina Gokongwei-Pe attends a retailers' gala night in Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

Gokongwei, whose JG Summit Holdings controls Robinsons Retail, Universal Robina and Cebu Pacific, "was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll hear," Gokongwei-Pe said.

Bedridden for 6 weeks and unable to speak due to a feeding tube, Gokongwei insisted on reading financial reports, Gokongwei-Pe said. He also told his 24-year-old grandson: "You have to play around!"

Gokongwei-Pe said her father made sure she started in the storage rooms of Robinsons Department Store, without air-condition and with no set time in and time out to teach her the value of hard work.

The same was true for her brother, Lance Gokongwei, she said.

"The thing is, when Lance was on summer vacation, he also put Lance in the Robinsons Department Store bodega, where he learned how to tag bras and where he learned how to read the alphabet in bra sizes, which came in handy later in life," she said.

Frustrated that she was a bench-sitter or "bangko" of the UP swimming team, Gokongwei-Pe said her father told her to "never give up."

"He said that I should be happy that I even qualified for the team. He also said that he lost his father when he was 13—what could be worse than that?" she said.

Gokongwei-Pe said her dad was so happy to give her away that during her wedding, the then 67-year-old patriarch walked too fast as she walked her down the aisle, angering her mother.

"Please wait for the bride!" Gokongwei-Pe recalled her mother as saying.

Her wedding was also one of the rare times Gokongwei got a tuxedo, a rented one, only because he heard that a wedding sponsor, Lopez family patriarch Eugenio "Geny" Lopez Jr., was going to wear one.

"My dad was always known to be a sloppy dresser and cheap when it comes to dressing up. His tie always had a stain from ice cream or coffee," she said.

When he retired at 90, Gokongwei-Pe recalled fellow shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy telling her father: "John, you are going to face three problems when you retire. One is what you are going to do after working for 50 years. Two is who is going to succeed you. Three is the worst problem of all—how to deal with five sons-in-law."

Gokongwei-Pe said her father congratulated her most recently for her work with the UP Fighting Maroons men's basketball team, which made the final 4 for the second straight year.

"He knew what his daughter really loved the most. That’s why I loved him for that," she said.

Ending her eulogy, Gokongwei-Pe said: "By the way, we did not rent his outfit for today. Somewhere along the way, he decided to buy himself an expensive suit, and we made sure that the tie did not have a stain."