By (Ret.) Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban
After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual search for the “RVR Award for Nation Building” was recently resumed by its sponsors: the PHINMA Corp., the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the Manila Jaycees. To honor the pioneering spirit and pro-poor programs started by the late Ambassador Ramon V. Del Rosario, the search recognizes topnotch Filipino entrepreneurs with a genuine heart for, and a track record of, helping the marginalized and underprivileged.
This year’s sole awardee is Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong, a truly world-class Filipino entrepreneur. His official title is “Founder, Chairman and CTO (or Chief Taste Officer)” of Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). Started in 1978 by the awardee and his equally hardworking wife Grace as a mom-and-pop store selling the now iconic Chickenjoy, JFC has grown exponentially with over 6,000 stores and with 18 international brands sold in 34 countries – from the Philippines’ Mang Inasal, Chow King, Red Ribbon, Greenwich Pizza and other well-liked tradenames, to Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan, to China’s Yonghe King, to America’s Smashburger and to the world’s Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
In 1993, JFC was listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange at P9 per share. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its share price peaked at P325, meaning the share price has multiplied 36 times in less than 30 years. At the height of the pandemic, it dropped to as low as P100. Now, it has doubled to about P200 along with the recovery of the world economy.
Indeed, prior to the pandemic, JFC had become one of the top ten publicly-listed quick service restaurants (QSRs) in the world. In eight years, it aims to be among the top five, and to double its store count, its worldwide sales revenue and net income. If the awardee visited and ate a meal in one of his QSRs daily, he would not be able to visit all of them during his lifetime because they will be increasing at a pace faster than his visits.
And yet, he has remained humble, friendly, generous and patriotic. Together with his wife, he organized and heads the Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) that encourages, assists and funds farmers and poultry raisers to produce consistently high-quality products that JFC and its subsidiaries purchase directly thereby assuring a reasonable mark-up for the producers and high-quality ingredients for his customers.
Under its “FoodAID” program, JGF and its partners served over 8.4 million meals for pandemic and disaster-affected communities across 358 cities and 60 provinces from 2020 to 2022. Its “Busog, Lusog, Talino” program or “BLT Kitchens” have fed more than 240,000 pupils since 2007 and trained more than 400 parent-volunteers to help in cooking the meals.
In accepting his award at the Manila Polo Club, Tan speechified, “Since we started Jollibee in 1978, we’ve so far had only three visions for the company. First was when we wanted to be Number 1 in the Philippines; second was when we wanted to be Number 1 in Asia, and a few years ago, we said we needed to dream even bigger, and want to become one of the top 5 best restaurant companies in the world.
“When we set this vision, we never intended to become big just for the sake of becoming big. We set this imbued with a sense of purpose — including that it be something we, our people, and our country can all be proud of… This award you have given me is an affirmation that we are all capable of doing great things for our country and our people. It will continue to inspire me and all of us in Jollibee Foods Corporation.”
Tan finished high school at Chiang Kai Shek College and chemical engineering at the University of Santo Tomas which granted an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration a few years ago. The elite AIM conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Management, honoris causa. He also received a TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) Award for Entrepreneurship.
The Board of Judges composed of former finance secretary Ramon R. Del Rosario Jr., mega business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan, former ambassador to Great Britain Jesus P. Tambunting, former ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia Jr., AIM President and Dean Jikyeong Kang, Phinma Chair Emeritus Oscar Hilado, Manila Jaycee President Richard Lim and yours truly as chairman unanimously chose Dr. Tan for proving the Filipino can do what the best entrepreneurs in the world can. It believes the late Ambassador Del Rosario – in whose honor the RVR Awards are granted – would surely be proud that his dream for global Filipino ingenuity and pioneering spirit is fulfilled to the hilt by the awardee.
Moreover, the past awardees during the last 12 years including Pangilinan, Tambunting, Jaime Aristotle Alip, Senen Bacani, Diosdado Banatao, Oscar M. Lopez, Vicente Paterno, Henry Sy, Washington SyCip, George S. K. Ty and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala will surely welcome him in the pantheon of heroes of entrepreneurship and philanthropy.