Categories: InspiringStories

From Rags to Riches: The Success Story of John Gokongwei

If his success story doesn't inspire you, then nothing else will.

Meet one of Philippines’ top billionaires, John Gokongwei, a man who used to belong to the marginalized sector, his ultimate climb to the top has proven once again that nothing is impossible if you have dreams and determination.

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 ForbesPark. A chauffeur drove me to school every day 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 pocket.” 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 (market). 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 goods. 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 clothes.

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. And so I continued to work.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

Bees Kill Penguins by Stinging Them in the Eyes

Swarm of bees stings the eyes of penguins in Cape town 60 penguins died from…

November 16, 2021

2000 Kilogram Sunfish Caught Off North African Coast

A massive ocean sunfish measuring 2,000 kilograms was caught on North African Coast It is named Mola alexandrini or…

November 16, 2021

Man Embezzles $57K in COVID-19 Relief to Buy Pokemon Cards

A businessman in Georgia utilized the Covid-19 relief to buy a limited edition Charizard Pokemon card He committed…

November 8, 2021

Florida Man Catches and “Recycles” Alligator in Driveway

Man captures an alligator in his neighbor's yard in FloridaHe uses a trash can to…

November 1, 2021

Man Shocks Reporter on How He’d Spend the Lottery Winnings

Man surprises the reporter with his answer on how he would use the money if…

November 1, 2021

Man Joins Search Operation Not Realizing He’s the One Missing

A man was lost in the forestA man joins a search party looking for himselfHe…

November 1, 2021

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.