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A 'snake,' chicharon bulaklak, and earning one’s keep in ‘After Six’ conversations with JAZA and Lance Gokongwei

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Dec 03, 2021 10:18 am

Based from his juicy scoops as of late, it seems that JAZA as a newshound of sorts is also as good as JAZA the newsmaker that many has been accustomed to for quite some time.

Ayala Corp chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who often goes by the shorthand JAZA, has been on a roll after he put on his new hat as a host quizzing business leaders in the YouTube series After Six launched by BPI last July. This comes after he stepped down from steering the day-to-day operations of the Ayala group as chief executive officer, passing on the reins to his younger brother Fernando Zobel de Ayala last April.

For After Six’s fourth episode titled “The Gokong-Way,” JAZA sat down with JG Summit Holdings president and CEO Lance Gokongwei, who talked about his philosophies, his favorite snacks and yes, even the legend of the Robinsons snake. 

Ayala Corp. chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala chats with JG Summit Holdings president and CEO Lance Gokongwei in After Six.

Gokongwei’s early life and lessons from tycoon father

In their exchange, JAZA’s gift of gab and charisma shone through the smooth conversation, while Gokongwei’s sense of humor and charm lit up the room. 

Gokongwei shared how he needed to earn his keep, like other employees, at their family business even though his father. the late John Gokongwei, was the owner. 

When he was a junior in college, Gokongwei said he spent the summer working in the warehouse of their department store. “Here I was, a high-flying Wharton student—and my job was to put the price tags on to underwear or jeans,” he told JAZA.

Gokongwei, the only son of the late tycoon, studied at Xavier School until his sophomore in high school. He finished his high school at the prestigious Anglo-Chinese Secondary School in Singapore.  Gokongwei also graduated summa cum laude from both University of Pennsylvania (with a degree in engineering) and its Wharton School (with a degree in finance). 

And while his friends were accepting jobs at top financial institutions in the US like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and McKinsey, Gokongwei had his first job in the family business that his father built from scratch. 

“I got a great job working for my father in Universal Robina Corp. I was a salesman there and I remember my first paycheck, it was P2,300,” recalled Gokongwei, who also said his father gave him a company car—not a flashy luxury vehicle or a sports car but a 20-year-old Datsun. 

Through his father, Gokongwei learned that “if there was any underlying theme of the narrative, he wanted to be a true Filipino business where the family would always be involved… He always said, if you want to make an impact, it’s better to be first. It’s better to take some risks.” 

JAZA asked Gokongwei about what career he might have pursued had he not joined their family’s business. The latter revealed that he enjoyed playing basketball when he was younger and he would have wanted to be a basketball player.

“Of course my skill set never was commensurate to my aspirations. But I have to say that in my older years, they always invited me to be part of the alumni school team. I was always the 12th man because they needed somebody to sponsor the team,” he said in jest.

As he has helped propel JG Summit to greater heights, Gokongwei’s advice to aspiring young leaders is this: “I think things that are worthwhile will always take a long time. They don’t really come that easy… The only thing we can do if we want to be successful is really just be patient, resilient and bounce back.” 

“Brain Food”

Also in After Six is a fun segment called “Brain Food,” where Gokongwei revealed his favorite snacks. He said he is the perfect guy to ask since “I’m the only person I know who has a supermarket stand full of snacks in his office.”

Gokongwei’s favorites include V-Cut barbecue flavor, Piattos cheese flavor, and Nova Multi-grain, plus the “not as healthy but delicious” chicharon bulaklak and nuts, which “goes very well with drinks.” 

In the series’ third episode with Stephanie Sy, it was through the Brain Food segment where JAZA revealed his favorite apps—the trip planner and GPS tracker app Rever, Instagram, Goodreads, Audible and the BPI mobile app.

“True or False”

In the show's “True or False” segment, Gokongwei also revealed it is true that he gets free airplane rides with Cebu Pacific, but only for business travel as he is the CEO of the company. However, he has to pay for his personal travels he said.

He also said it is true that he always visits his favorite Robinsons Mall incognito, with the mall sales staff indulging him as they and pretend they don’t recognize him.

JAZA and Lance Gokongwei answer 'True or False' questions in After Six.

Of course, JAZA asked Gokongwei the age-old question about the alleged snake in the Robinsons’ Mall bodega. Setting the record straight, Gokongwei said, “Definite falsehood. No snake. And if there would have been a snake, my sister Robina (Gokongwei-Pe) would have caught it and converted it into a handbag that she sold in Robinsons.”

For his part, JAZA also answered questions including does he get free phone credits from Globe, where he is a chairman and non-executive director? JAZA said he does not get free phone credits so he pays for his bills but he also said he gets a free phone. 

Gokongwei also asked JAZA if the rumors are true that he secretly visits Robinsons Malls to shop or check out the competition. JAZA laughed and said it is true. “I don’t think I’ve gone shopping there but it’s nice to look at what people are doing, what new ideas there are, so I have been to your mall, scouted out and see new things you guys are doing,” he said.

Other business leaders previously featured in the show include former Grab president Brian Cu, presidential adviser for COVID-19 response and former president and CEO of Bases Conversion and Development Authority Vince Dizon, and Thinking Machines founder and CEO Stephanie Sy.

Watch the After Six episode with JAZA and Lance Gokongwei below: