OHYET: Empowering Mothers and Youth through Positive Blog

 An excerpt:

  John Gokongwei , Jr.

  Ad Congress Speech

  Nov 21, 2007


  Before I begin, I want to say please bear with me, an

  81-year-old man who just flew in from San Francisco 36 hours ago and is 

  still suffering from jet lag. However, I hope I will be able to say what

  you want to hear.


  Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Thank you very much for

  having me here tonight to open the Ad Congress. I know how important 

  this event is for our marketing and advertising colleagues. My people

  get very excited and go into a panic, every other year, at this time.


  I would like to talk about my life, entrepreneurship, and 

  globalization. I would like to talk about how we can become a great



  You may wonder how one is connected to the other, but I promise

  that, as there is truth in advertising, the connection will come. 

Let me begin with a story I have told many times. My own.


  I was born to a rich Chinese-Filipino family. I spent my

  childhood in Cebu where my father owned a chain of movie houses, 

  including the first air-conditioned one outside Manila . I was the

  eldest of six children and lived in a big house in Cebu 's Forbes Park .


  A chauffeur drove me to school everyday as I went to San Carlos 

  University , then and still one of the country's top schools. I topped

  my classes and had many friends. I would bring them to watch movies for

  free at my father's movie houses.


  When I was 13, my father died suddenly of complications due to

  typhoid. Everything I enjoyed vanished instantly. My father's empire was

  built on credit. When he died, we lost everything-our big house, our 

  cars, our business-to the banks.


  I felt angry at the world for taking away my father, and for

  taking away all that I enjoyed before. When the free movies disappeared,

  I also lost half my friends. On the day I had to walk two miles to 

  school for the very first time, I cried to my mother, a widow at 32. But

  she said: "You should feel lucky. Some people have no shoes to walk to

  school. What can you do? Your father died with 10 centavos in his 



  So, what can I do? I worked.


  My mother sent my siblings to China where living standards were

  lower. She and I stayed in Cebu to work, and we sent them money 

  regularly. My mother sold her jewelry. When that ran out, we sold

  roasted peanuts in the backyard of our much-smaller home. When that

  wasn't enough, I opened a small stall in a palengke. I chose one among 

  several palengkes a few miles outside the city because there were fewer

  goods available for the people there. I woke up at five o'clock every

  morning for the long bicycle ride to the palengke with my basket of 



  There, I set up a table about three feet by two feet in size. I

  laid out my goods-soap, candles, and thread-and kept selling until

  everything was bought. Why these goods? Because these were hard times 

  and this was a poor village, so people wanted and needed the basics-soap

  to keep them clean, candles to light the night, and thread to sew their



  I was surrounded by other vendors, all of them much older. Many 

  of them could be my grandparents. And they knew the ways of the palengke

  far more than a boy of 15, especially one who had never worked before.


  But being young had its advantages. I did not tire as easily, 

  and I moved more quickly. I was also more aggressive. After each day, I

  would make about 20 pesos in profit! There was enough to feed my

  siblings and still enough to pour back into the business. The pesos I 

  made in the palengke were the pesos that went into building the business

  I have today.


  After this experience, I told myself, "If I can compete with

  people so much older than me, if I can support my whole family at 15, I 

  can do anything!"


  Looking back, I wonder, what would have happened if my father

  had not left my family with nothing? Would I have become the man I am?

  Who knows?


  The important thing to know is that life will always deal us a

  few bad cards. But we have to play those cards the best we can. And WE

  can play to win!


  This was one lesson I picked up when I was a teenager. It has 

  been my guiding principle ever since. And I have had 66 years to

  practice self-determination. When I wanted something, the best person to

  depend on was myself.