Tony Tang Caktiong
Doctor of Entrepreneurship
His Excellency Former President and Current Mayor of the City of Manila, Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Mr. Vincent Perez, Jr., former Secretary of the Department of Energy; Dr. Benjamin I. Espiritu, Chair of the Board of Regents; Dr. Ma. Leonora V. de Jesus, University President; Members of the Board of Regents, Regent Teresa Aquino Oreta, Regent Jenilyn Rose B. Corpuz, Regent Wilma V. Galvante, Regent Bienvenido E. Laguesma, Regent Ramon S. Bagatsing, Jr.; Engr. Jose A. Silerio, Executive Vice-President, Architect Gil Evasco, Vice-President for Academic Affairs; Mr. Carmelo dela Cruz, Vice-President for Administration, Atty. Rufino Abuda, Vice-President for Legal Affairs, Mr. Fernando Nuñez, Vice-President for Finance and Management; Ms. Kelly Vergel de Dios, Vice-President for Public Affairs, Engr. Garry Erwin de Gracia, Vice-President for Information and Communications Technology.
Before anything else, I'd like to thank the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila for this distinction. I am truly humbled.
Graduates of the class 2017-2018 – my heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you, for making it to this day, a result of what most definitely was a lot of hard work, determination, and a few sleepless nights. Without exception – all of you have every reason to be proud!
Soon after you celebrate tonight, I hope you would take a moment to step back and ask yourselves, "What were your most important learnings that would be invaluable as you leave the four walls of the Pamantasan, to hopefully begin chasing your dreams?"
Beyond all the lessons you were taught from your different fields of study, be it Engineering, Mathematics, Finance, the Sciences and the Arts, which are no doubt important, I hope you also take with you and continue to strengthen the good habits that are equally, if not even more important. These particularly include those that relate to character – perseverance, discipline, integrity, resilience, and excellence, just to name a few.
They would be invaluable for essentially everything that may come your way, and are sure to serve you well especially in difficult moments and seemingly insurmountable challenges.
I can imagine many of you may have mixed emotions right now – happiness, sadness, eagerness, excitement, and natural fear of the unknown. I would also not be surprised if some of you are still not sure of what you really want to do with your life after school. If you are one of those – It's OK. Take your time. When in doubt – remember that time and again, history has proven that many of the most successful people took years and even decades, not to mention numerous setbacks and strokes of bad luck – before they eventually hit their stride and achieve continuous breakthroughs and extraordinary success in life.
In fact, I think it matters less what you choose to do or become, as long as you give it your very best and do it very, very well. It also doesn't matter where you begin, as long as you incessantly improve and get better over time. But through it all, I urge you to always dream big especially in the face of challenges and difficulties. Dreaming big prevents you from getting discouraged and will enable you to never lose sight of your goal.
When Grace, my wife, and I opened our first Jollibee store in 1978, we already aspired to make Jollibee the largest restaurant company in the Philippines. I can still remember back then when with only a few Jollibee stores, the news broke that the largest fast food company who was number 1 in each and every country in the world was about to enter the Philippines. A few of our friends advised us to try and sell Jollibee while there was still some value that could be had. When we decided to continue on, the very same friends thought we were not very smart and a little bit crazy. It was our dream that prevented us from giving up.
By no means am I saying that achieving your dreams is easy. Which is why you also have to make choices. One cannot have dozens and hundreds of dreams. If you chase too many, you'll almost certainly achieve none of them. Choose 1 or 2, and give it your best. In our case in Jollibee Foods Corporation, we made the deliberate choice of creating joy and happiness through food, through great tasting food at superior value for money – our mission to this very day. Since we opened our first store to our over 4,000 stores around the world today, running restaurants has pretty much been the only business we've known.
Have opportunities to diversify and get into new, exciting and even potentially more profitable business opportunities come our way? Thousands of times. Could we have succeeded in at least some of them? Maybe.
But In hindsight, doing so would probably have meant less success in the restaurant business. Making that strategic choice to operate restaurants, only restaurants, and run them well, to a large extent, helped us to become the number 1 restaurant company in Asia.
And through whichever journey you choose to take, you need to make sure of two things. First, you have to find meaning and joy in what you are doing each and every step of the way. We tend to say "I'll be happy when I achieve this or if I'm able to get that". The problem with that is: If you don't love what you do each day, it may prevent you from actually reaching your goal.
Second, I can assure you that you cannot do it alone. Surround yourself with people who share the same dream and passion. In my case, one of my best decisions began with choosing my wife, who I married after we graduated from college, and with whom I founded the two Magnolia ice-cream franchises in 1975 and the first Jollibee in 1978. Grace has been my partner in business and the best partner I could ever have in life. I don't think Jollibee would ever have come to be without her. I have also been very fortunate with my siblings, Ato, Joseph, and William who continue to assume leadership roles within the company to this very day. As we continued to open more stores however, there was only so much that the family can do ourselves. You need to build a team, and then an organization with a strong people culture as its foundation. And I could not be prouder of the men and women who make up Jollibee Foods Corporation. Time and again, they exceed even our boldest aspirations. Over time, it has been they, our people, who really showed us how the Filipino can compete against the very best in the world, against all odds.
For the aspiring entrepreneurs among you – Don't be afraid to fail. Not only have I made countless of mistakes – I can say with humility that my greatest learnings have come from them. Mistakes or failures can be the best teacher. And yes, learning doesn't and should not stop in school. Never stop learning – it's one simple and practical way to ensure you are able to always remain relevant especially in a world where the rate of change and disruption is getting faster.
For everyone here – never forget to give back. Don't wait until you become big or successful. There is no right time. Personally, I have always been of the belief that the greatest form of charity is through growing a successful business. It creates more employment and can improve the lives not only of more people but your people's families as well. Related businesses are also able to thrive and grow from our suppliers to our partners.
So much so that it has allowed us to help make a difference in a much more organized way when we founded the Jollibee Group Foundation, led by my wife Grace, some 14 years ago. With our two core programs, the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program and Busog, Lusog, Talino Program, it enabled us to fulfill our responsibility of doing more than our fair share in nation building.
Finally, I'd like to end with gratitude. We often say thank you, but not nearly enough, myself included. I'd like to thank my parents, my family, all our people in Jollibee Foods Corporation, and all our loyal customers whose support over the years has been deeply humbling. If I may, I also urge you to thank your own parents and your loved ones, who have sacrificed much, to have raised you to be who you are today. And please do thank the Pamantasan and your teachers, for the education and opportunity to learn in a distinguished institution. Saying thank you and meaning it wholeheartedly is not hard at all. And think of it, just like dreaming big, it doesn't cost anything, it's free, so why not do it more often. I hope in some way, that you would find at least 1 or 2 things I've shared tonight helpful – if not now, then maybe down the road as you contemplate your future.
The future and the rest of your very promising lives start tomorrow. Believe in yourselves. Always take care and I wish you all the very best! Thank you!