||Don Carlos, The Imagineer... He set sail to an unchartered territory and found his destiny.
The telling of Carlos A. Gothong and Co., Inc. history can never really commence without first acclaiming the hard work and perseverance of its founder, Don Carlos A. Gothong Sr., who from humble beginnings triumphantly steered the vessel of success to the port of reality.
Bearing the flair of Chinese culture, Don Carlos had remarkably created a place not just in the heart of the country's business industry but also in the heart of every Filipino. The fruition of which now makes manifest in a growing company that continues to bring his name at the forefront of business endeavors, still ever mindful of the varying market needs in the present and beyond.
One Thousand Miles from China
Hundreds of Chinese nationals came to the Philippines in the nineteenth century either to do business or look for job opportunities in this foreign land.
One of these migrants was Go Bon Tho. He was known as Don Carlos A. Go Thong, Sr. and was affectionately called Carlos. A maverick and a trailblazer, it was easy for him to leave his homeland, Fookien, China in 1910, in pursuit of his dream. He was the fourth sibling, the third son of Don Go Ki Bok and Doña Angolon. He took his first haven in Manila and later resettled in San Isidro, Leyte. The place was close to his heart because he was able to work immediately with Chinese residents who were always sympathetic and helpful to new arrivals.
He was still very young when he thought of seeking greener pastures in other lands – one unusual thought for a man at such an early age. It was the desire to improve the quality of life that became his guiding zeal, coupled with his dreams, compassion, strength, and struggle that later made him successful.
The early days…
During the early 1900's, migration to the Philippines was so easy. The country was dominated by different foreign nationals who were allowed to sponsor any of their foreign relatives as long as they were willing and capable enough of breeding and nurturing them in the country.
The eldest sister of Carlos named Go Kim, who had migrated earlier to the Philippines with her husband, Ang Guan Tin, sponsored him. Guan Tin already had an established business in the country, however, he referred Carlos to work with a certain Mr. Ang. The Chinese culture emphasized discipline so much that Carlos was tasked to work in a store under the supervision of others so as to prevent him from being coddled. The Chinese Don served as a salesman for a few years.
He was a self-made man who knew the virtues of humility, hardwork and integrity. His dedication was built upon the fate of his conviction that was channeled down to his descendants and toiled through the years.
Not surprisingly, Don Carlos never had any qualms about his vision for the future.
His business foundation
The employment he had, had provided him a steady income to support himself in the Philippines. It had also taught him the ropes in honing an entrepreneurial skill that became useful when he decided to start his own business.
It was a peculiarity of Don Carlos´ Chinese traditional upbringing that taught him the value of honesty, integrity and respect for fellow men. These values made him win many friends. Among them were Señores Genaro Liok and Chua Wan Sing who both started a business in a modest way and lived in Palompon, Leyte for quite sometime. The same people became his partners in a business venture of a sari-sari store in Palompon.
Alfredo Salazar Liok, one of the sons of Señor Genaro Liok, told the story on how the partnership came about. Their joining together was a natural bond between mutual friends. Such relationship had led into close symbiotic dependence among the partners. What made them tick was their common virtue of genuine honesty that reigned supreme in their partnership.
It was worthwhile to know that his investment came from the savings he had held while working with his Chinese friends during the early days of his arrival to the Philippines.
Don Carlos´ and Señor Genaro´s partnership fared well and remarkably showed positive results in terms of revenue. They also began to forge alliances with other traders. The partners witnessed a considerable increase in their connections that prompted them to think about trading abaca and copra. The decision was right in coming because of the universal acceptance of the commodity. It was this time that the network for abaca and copra business was beginning to be popular. With the incremental increase in trading, the partners were inspired to take a chance and took the challenge to effect their prior plans to try abaca and copra trading. The decision was a significant move initiated by the partners in part as well as to gauge their personal ability and maturity in handling the business. Thus, their trading in both general merchandise and abaca became the major bulk of their daily transactions and were the dominant cargoes in the inter-island runs. The commodities were loaded in a small vessel and were sold and delivered to the neighboring places.
The duo had proven their mettle in the pursuits. Their business activities dispersed from coast to coast and had made contributions in the local economic development. And Don Carlos established a dwelling in Kawayan, Leyte.
After years of organized efforts in the business activities of their trading, the partners decided to separate in 1915 to engage in business independently. Their common business maturity and motivation to move on to an independent business venture incited the duo's decision to end the joint venture.
Don Carlos did not speak the native Filipino language but this did not deter him from doing business. Nevertheless, he later decided to hire a tutor to teach him the native tongue and the Spanish language. He learned to read and write in order to communicate effectively with people and do business better.
His being a bona fide Chinese was an advantage for the reason that it made him able to mingle easily with other foreign Chinese nationals who also tried their luck in the Philippines.
The love that ruled his life
Don Carlos, who had "earned his spurs" after years of work and who had made much soul-searching, went home to China in 1924 to marry Dee He Chiok, later to be Christianized as Doña Rita Dee.
Their love story began through the effort of Camilo, Carlos' eldest brother. It was actually Camilo who did the courtship for him. He introduced Carlos to Rita imaginarily and both began to write letters for each other.
Right after the marriage rites, the couple decided to go back to the Philippines and planned to stay for good together in their newly found Jerusalem.
"His coming back to the Philippines I have returned!"
His wife Rita accompanied him when he came back to the Philippines in 1925. The couple decided to keep the old place in Kawayan, Leyte and started to acquaint and socialize with other Chinese businessmen in the place.
It was a presage in which energy and perseverance played more role than magic for the couple decided to move towards their own future.
As Don Carlos indulged and busied himself much in earning for a living, Doña Rita poured her efforts in making their home comfortable and well organized. She devoted her time to their children and taught them to live a responsible life full of Chinese values and traditions. She was a very obedient, devoted wife and a doting, loving mother of Alfredo, Alfonso, Alberto, Josefa and Albino. Don Carlos also begot Carlos Jr., Arsenio, Adelina, Angelito and Armando to comprise the brood of Gothong siblings.
Don Carlos inspired his children to do well in life as he had tremendous passion to live well. He persisted in learning and working. These values have been imbibed at the onset of the children´s growingup years and were inculcated and have remained ingrained in the system. Now it has been consequently taught to their children and grandchildren too.
To date, all showed strong signs of the indoctrinated family values and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Don Carlos´ devout affection in the trading and retailing business made him take risks with his own savings. Since it was his first solo entrepreneurial endeavor, he had to exert extra effort to get better income needed for his business to grow.
Such tenacity was a characteristic of Don Carlos.
His perseverance and industry never waned knowing that life could not possibly be only for those who inherited their riches. He also held tight to his faith believing that he cannot stir an inch without the push of heaven's finger. These were some of his traits that ably assisted and endeared him to reach his mission in life: to release himself from the shackles of poverty.
Don Carlos' exposure in trading heightened his entrepreneurial skill. In Palompon, Leyte, he officially instituted Carlos A. Go Thong as the name of his first independent enterprise following the end of the joint venture with Genaro Liok.
The enterprise engaged in trading numerous merchandising goods with the neighboring towns and were consigned and loaded on a small banca. The business activities dispersed throughout the area in the Visayas and Mindanao and made a tangible impact on the local economic development.
The first ship that steered Carlos to success
From the humble beginnings of operating as a general merchandise trader, he started to broaden the enterprise's market offering. He purchased a small vessel in 1937 and called it M/V Ramses. He began to develop it into other related shipping activities.
The purchase was just in time for his trading in Kawayan. Since the commodities and general goods were directly loaded on the vessel, he also acted as the "Jefe de Viaje" and had over-all control on the voyages. According to accounts of his expeditions, there were several instances wherein he almost drowned due to unpredictable changes of weather conditions while sailing. But it never kept him from his continuing search for better and wider opportunities.
Don´t waste your hour: The sun sets soon.
While staying in Kawayan, Leyte, Don Carlos petitioned for his 14-year old brother, Sulpicio, who was in China, to be allowed to come to the Philippines together with his nephews, Francisco and Jose. He asked them to join him in his business. His general merchandising store carried all kinds of merchandise like rice, sugar, canned goods (sardines), cooking oil, dried fish, tobacco, liquor, and textiles. These commodities were shipped to other places like Naval, Samar, Cebu and other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao Islands.
Don Carlos' reputation resulted in the expansion of his trade-from buying and selling general basic goods to the buying and selling of copra. In Leyte, he would buy copra and traded them in Cebu. From Cebu, he would also buy rice, corn, flour, sugar and other basic goods to be sold in Kawayan. He made money and netted quite satisfactorily in the business.
He lived simply with his family and worked hard in the merchandising shop.
As the trading business prospered, he found himself frequently coming to Cebu, which led him to meet other set of friends, mostly Chinese nationals. Among them were Don Cayetano Ludo, Don Paterno Luym and Don Cipriano Lu who were the renowned owners of LUDO and LUYM in Cebu City. The relationship between the families became strong and an enviable repute has been developed. Until this time, the bond still largely exists and is nurtured by their siblings and heirs.
What made his business prosper was his straight dealings transcended with his ability to deliver the goods as promised. He was much sought after and praised so lavishly by buyers and some traders too as word got around that he was a reliable man to do business with. His honest and reliable disposition made him highly distinctive from one trading place to another. This impressive certitude made him decide to acquire another boat so that the scope of his trading operations would increase and at the same time, make his trading activity much easier.
In 1935, their lives went into turmoil when the store was hit by a fire that turned everything to ashes. Carlos was mournful about this unforeseen circumstance, but it did not stop him in pursuing his dreams. It churned in him, instead, the confidence that the future will be that secure and financially rewarding. He cannot stir an inch without the push of heaven's finger.
Life became very difficult then considering the fact that Don Carlos and family was left with nothing to start with. Alfredo, the eldest son remembered the first three days after that event they had to ask for some leaves of the sweet yam (gabi) from a neighbor just to have something to nibble when hunger struck.
Palabra de Honor
Out from that dim of a tragic incident, Don Carlos was destined to bounce back amidst the losses he has encountered. He was set to start, and strive for more. Don Carlos even paid a visit to Cebu to personally deliver the bad news to his bankers and suppliers.
He borrowed money to start all over again and got the merchandise from his circle of friends who were ever willing to offer their help. They were Go Occo and Company, Popeng Bazaar, People´s Commercial, Hoc Chuan Lam, Ang Guan Hing and all other Chinese nationals doing business in Cebu City. Having earned their respect because of his “Palabra de Honor”, he was generously offered goods and merchandise to revive his business-all without collaterals and payable when able.
They were certain that Don Carlos would bounce back to prosperity considering his endearing qualities and the high esteem that he always has. The fact that he borrowed money from them worried them the least because Don Carlos was a man of good credit standing and integrity.
This absolute trust can also be attributed to the fact that during those times, his cheques were most sought after in the rural areas where banking facilities were not available. Businessmen preferred to hold on to his cheques rather than cash because they knew that his cheques will be honored.
Don Carlos then decided to proceed to Naval, Leyte and took the chance of opening another general merchandising store in the place. The business showed high returns, even more than enough to settle his debts from friends.
His unrelenting dynamism propelled his business to incredible improvements. Before long, with the initial marker in place, he developed and expounded his business to bakery and rice and corn milling.
It was in the midst of better opportunity that he acquired another vessel to support his flourishing business.
He named it "Lux." The vessel´s acquisition made a full complement for his trading in abaca, copra and general merchandising.
Don Carlos displayed the splendor of thriftiness. In 1939, Alfredo and his younger brother Alfonso, together with their cousin Enrique, the son of Sulpicio, were sent to school in Cebu by Don Carlos. Alfredo used to meet his father at Pier 3 to get his allowance amounting to 20 centavos a week. Both used to walk from Pier 3 to the downtown, now called Colon Street as Alfredo went to school while Don Carlos went to see Cayetano Ludo.
One day, Alfredo through his curiosity asked his father why he had to walk such a long way when Don Carlos was capable enough of giving himself a lift with a tartanilla from Pier 3 to the Ludo's for only 5 centavos. Fred pointed out to his father that the tartanilla was much faster and would even bring him to his desired place with less harm and less effort. The father answered with impact and pride, “Fred, if you earn one peso, you should at least save the 90 centavos and spend the 10 centavos only”. Such word uttered by his father created a mark in Alfredo's heart. He began to bring and inculcate the same words and passed the same principles to his succeeding generation.
In 1941, when the Japanese Government took the offensive attack, smoothly taking over the colonial possessions of the Philippine Archipelago, Don Carlos decided to suspend his business operation temporarily.
The family, together with his relatives secretly left Naval, Leyte to hide from the Japanese soldiers. The decision was necessary because the Japanese Government had sought Don Carlos for one reason: they would like to utilize his resources during the war against the Philippine Government.
Don Carlos was alarmed. He knew the harm it can do to the Filipino people. He decided to remove some of the major parts of his vessel's engine and then dumped “Lux” in the crocodile infested Leyte-leyte Lake before securing his family to Bantayan Island in Cebu.
The Japanese soldiers were prevented from using the boat to the detriment of the country. The Japanese invaded Cebu on April 10, 1942 as they anchored at the town of Talisay, in the south of Cebu City. Many of Cebu's citizens had fled and evacuated the area to the nearby provinces to stay away from the annoyance and severity of the Japanese soldiers.
Momentarily, Don Carlos and his family proceeded to Daan Bantayan to escape from the trickery of the Japanese. His two eldest children, Alfredo and Alfonso, grew up in the place at the midst of the disarray and witnessed their father's venerable works. They were taught to follow and live with Don Carlos' footprints.
Despite the occurrence of the war, Carlos A. Go Thong continued to do business in Daan Bantayan, Cebu. He started out with some savings and a friend named Mang Asang. He was doing good enough to allow the family to survive. While some of the business operations were at a halt, everyone tried to make a living as best as they could, through buy and sell. Wartime requirements for merchandise soared but the supply was very scarce thus prices skyrocketed.
Life during that time was filled with uncertainty yet Carlos never ceased to help civilians who were in direct need for food and clothing at the risk of his own family's life and well-being.
Sulpicio and Alfredo on the other hand, also worked hard to help Don Carlos. They peddled basic commodities such as sugar, rice and other staples to the barrio folks with Alfredo acting as the peddler and Sulpicio as the broker.
The family's hard-up scenario lasted for four years.
While the family was trying to start and establish a new life and good living, rumors of Japanese assaults and aggression pervaded all over Daan Bantayan. The rumors however remained to be just rumors for some time until Carlos natal day came. With utmost love, the family celebrated and shared their blessings with the entire barrio-they roasted 20 pigs! The people were celebrating and the fiesta atmosphere seemed to beset the entire setting. Woefully, the rumors on Japanese attacks became a reality and on that very day, the town was busted.
People were alarmed, hysterically running looking for refuge. They instinctively ran through unfamiliar trails heading towards the top of the mountain leaving all the roasted pigs behind.
Alfredo was about 13 years old then as he witnessed and plodded on the austerity of life. At such an early age, he had to exert physical labor to help and sustain the entire family. His jobs included gathering of firewood and fetching of water. Alfredo used to fetch water from a 200-ft-deep well using a long rope attached with a cap on both ends. As he would pull up the cap filled with water, the other cap fastened to the other end of the rope went down and bring in water for itself. To fill-up a single kerosene tin, Alfredo needed to do the same cycle for at least 20 times. How hard and strenuous it was for such a young boy! These he did for the use of the entire family members.
The young Alfredo also had to plant vegetables like cabbage, kingbeans, ampalaya and sikwa. His younger brother Alfonso was the Chief Cook for the whole family at that time. At such a tender age, they had learned almost all the necessary chores and basic step in making a sustainable living.
One admirable thing Alfredo did in his younger years was to literally carry his cousin Victoriano Go on his back. Victoriano was inflicted by polio at a tender age of 2 years old, and he had to regularly visit the clinic at the town proper. Alfredo, with all sympathy and eagerness to help, would carry Victoriano right on his back and walk barefooted down a cursing, steep, treacherous, rough road. Alfredo did this for almost a year.
However, the Japanese never left Don Carlos in peace. They kept on summoning him back to Naval, Leyte to answer the charges “that he was giving weapons to the guerillas.” Sulpicio, the youngest brother of Don Carlos, was unhappy about it and could not sleep with this accusation. He volunteered to go back to Naval to face the accusations. He was almost put to death by the Japanese soldiers. Fortunately, because of the help of the neighboring residents in Naval, the young Sulpicio was able to return unharmed to his family in Daan Bantayan.
The Filipinos' hope for peace and liberation from the bondage of the injustices and destruction of the Japanese regime came in time as McArthur led his troops at Leyte Gulf for the first Leyte landing in 1945. Surely, six months later, the American Navy landed in Talisay, Cebu. The Japanese soldiers had to flee. But before leaving, they took care of their “unfinished business”-collaborators were summarily shot and fire was set to thousands of homes, schools and businesses at the expense of Filipino lives and properties. The defeat of the Japanese was the celebration of victory to the Filipinos.
As war activities came to a halt, Don Carlos witnessed a considerable impact to his business endeavor especially now that he decided to reassemble and get the “Lux” back in business. It was almost a peak season for every second. His entrepreneurial spirit has hinged him constantly with new ventures and opportunities in the market. It was his vision to go global.
The war had uncovered the ultimate value of life for Don Carlos. He was set to continue on what he has started and hoped to build --- and that was to own a strong national chain of stores, as well as gradually expand into new markets.
The Island of Cebu
Cebu City is the country's oldest city, located at the center of the Visayas, jocked between Negros at the westside and Leyte and Bohol at the eastside. Known as the hub of local and international shipping, Cebu's economy enjoyed a considerable growth and became the center of commerce and trade in the Visayas region.
After the war in 1945, it was an area with more than 31,000 residents, with most of the business structures ran by foreigners that created interest among the local peddlers and traders in the region.
With the perking economy, prominent investors had come to offer their services. The International Banking Corporation had come in to provide banking facilities, the Visayan Electric Company, to provide power for the growing community.
Foreigners of different nationalities, among them, Chinese, British, Spanish and Italian then ran most of the businesses. They became the important factor in the settlement of the country.
One of the Chinese nationals who have had settled and dominated Cebu City, and had owned and operated retail outlets was Don Carlos.
He took Cebu as another better place for business opportunities. The place had become an intimate locale for the family because goodwill had been built with the prominent families like the LUDO's and LUYM's and some Chinese businessmen who had been around ahead of him.
In 1946, he decided to move out of Daan Bantayan to come to Cebu City and started rebuilding his company. The papers were completed and were approved by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry on 1946, thus, Carlos A. Go Thong & Company started its operation. Don Carlos was the General Manager, his brother, Sulpicio, was the Manager, and son, Alfredo, was the Treasurer.
The company formed was nothing really new. It was actually a culmination of many years of experiences in the general merchandise and trading created by Don Carlos in the early 30's. He immersed himself in the most important commercial activity--copra trading. In those years, it was the Philippines' single most important export trading aside from abaca.
Don Carlos took a deep personal interest in the management concerns and nursed Carlos A. Go Thong and Company. He said, “to have principles, one must have courage.” He steered the company toward other horizons and initiated tremendous profitable diversified moves. He proceeded to Iloilo to buy two vessels. The purchase was highly commendable since the primary plan of the company was to venture into domestic shipping and somehow try to go international. It was a good decision to buy the two vessels considering its purchase costs.
He named his vessels M/V Don Emilio and M/V Doña Josefa, with 200 and 60 tonner capacity, respectively. It was because of these ships that Don Carlos decided to tag most of his ships with a Don or Doña for a name.
The entrepreneurial spirit in him made him become more and more impassioned to drive the business to higher heights. He started to tee-off and did business in a one-storey building at the corner of Bonifacio and Sikatuna Streets. He employed a number of workers to assist him in the daily routine of the business. And his youngest brother, Sulpicio, his nephews, Francisco and Jose, and his eldest son, Alfredo were also there to help him. Alfredo was trained to learn the ropes of the business.
At those times, marriage between shipping business and trading abaca and copra was prevalent, and having owned vessels contributed favorable intent on the trading.
When aggressiveness is in, good luck strikes . . . .
After the acquisition of Don Emilio and Doña Josefa, Don Carlos immediately negotiated with a friend for the purchase of two freight ships for only P20,000. During that time, the cost of a freight ship will fall around P250,000 each. Don Carlos was so amazed at how cheap the ships were being sold. He bought the ships right away. Immediately after the signing of the sales contract, the seller told Don Carlos that the freight ships were not that good and were incapable of floating for business. He added that these ships were hit by a typhoon and all these did was to run around Cavite. The freight ships required four meters of water level before they can finally float, unfortunately, the highest tide only reached up to two meters. Also, each freight ship had only one engine--but both needed two engines to operate. These consequences became his problems out of a given economic grace.
However, the seller also presented an idea to Don Carlos. The idea of dismantling each freight ship and selling its parts for him to easily get back the returns of his investment and even make out a profit. Don Carlos pondered on the idea but he just could not convince himself to do it. He felt deep inside him that he could come up with a better and a more practical solution to his predicament.
He commissioned his nephews Samuel and Jose, Alfredo's cousins, to study possibilities on the usage of the newly acquired vessels. True enough, his nephews came up with a creative idea to solve their present situation. First, they took the engine of one ship and placed it to the other ship. The freight ships were now composed of one with two engines and one with no engine.
Then, they placed full water tanks on the sides of the two-engine freight ship to submerge it deep in the water. When the ship was submerged deep enough, they pumped out the water and alas, as the tank started to burst out its contents, air entered and gave the tanks the ability to restore itself, providing a force that pulled itself upward. It was a great success! Because of this idea, they were able to levitate one freight ship within the month the vessels were bought. On the following month, the ship started to run with full load of cargoes.
On the next month thereafter, the other freight ship was brought to the National Shipping Yard in Batangas for lengthening up to 40 feet. Another luck met them there. A vessel broker offered Don Carlos two units of engines for sale. Each engine had 900 horsepower, which was actually 80% larger than that of an ordinary engine, which had only 500-horse power. He immediately bought the engines and installed both into the ship. It came out running at 16 knots instead of the conventional 11 knots.
Don Carlos and Alfredo christened the newly completed vessel MV Doña Conchita, after the name of Alfredo's wife. The freight ship then became so popular for inter island shipping in the Philippines during that time. She was considered the fastest because it can navigate Cebu-Manila in just 24 hours.
A bad luck has turned into a good luck!
In the midst of inter island trading, Don Carlos bought 200 tons of copra from Chua Yu Say, the father of Esteban Yau in Dapa, Surigao at 6 centavos per kilo. After the purchase was made, the price went up to 25 centavos. He immediately dispatched M/V Don Emilio to proceed to Dapa, Surigao to load the 200 tons. On her way back to Cebu, she ran aground in the vicinity of Dapa, Surigao. Don Carlos received a telegram from the Captain of the ship informing him about the incident. He lamented and uttered words of disappointments that he kept to himself because he could have disposed the commodity at a higher price. He said, “money comes like sand scooped with a needle…”
After three days the vessel refloated and arrived safely at the bustling seaport of Cebu. He watched in silence, as the commodity was unloaded. An uproar news came along surprisingly to Don Carlos--the price of copra went up to 60 centavos. He was gladdened about what happened and said again, “money goes like sand washed by…”
He had proven the viability of the company and paid his debtors, in full, all the while expanding the company investments.
Don Carlos' link with the past experiences had provided a sense of place, an anchor on his diverse background in the shipping industry. Such had grown throughout the years, and is one that continues to flourish on their family commitment, involvement and consensus. He displayed the attitude of relentless pursuits, this time to concentrate on both cargo and passenger shipping.
He acquired more boats and conventional ships to ply in the coastal places near the island of Cebu, and some in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.
His brother Sulpicio, who has been with him, shared the responsibility in managing the business. He took care of the paper works, tracing and recording of debts or simply followed-up on the myriad details of company documentation. The first building was located at F. Gonzales Street in 1950 with 100 office personnel and another 500 on board and at the waterfront.
Carlos A. Gothong and Co. reached the heights of the local shipping venture in the late 1950's as it increased the number of vessels to more than thirty (30) ships with 10,000 and 6,000 tonnage capacities. They penetrated both the minor and the major ports of the Philippines in an island-wide cargo shipping of abaca, copra, corn and general merchandise from all over the archipelago. It became a byword in the local shipping industry.
The company used to buy vessels locally. With the lucrative economic condition, it decided to buy more vessels from abroad. There were several communications made for canvassing. Prospective countries include America, Australia, Europe and Japan, and after a few agreements and exchanges of lights, the company decided to buy from Europe. Due to language barriers, Carlos and Sulpicio deliberately agreed to send Jose Go to go to Amsterdam and meet with the agent by the name of Vangildirle. After a few trips and transactions, finally came the purchase of M/V Gothong, followed by around ten more vessels for domestic use.
QUANTUM LEAP (Getting global)
The company continued to grow until it decided to enter the international market and became part of global shipping. It was in the 1960's that the company spread its sails as it embarked on foreign cargo shipping and gave birth to “UNIVERSAL SHIPPING LINES.” It covered the ports of Amsterdam, France, Italy, Singapore, Hongkong, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Taiwan, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, and the Philippine Islands among others.
The thought of becoming a global shipping lines cross the threshold of the Gothongs through the closer tie up with the Ludo and Luym's Corp. Ludo and Luym Corp. was the sole producer of oil in Cebu. Part of their products was the copra cake. About 10,000 tons of these copra cakes were exported to Europe. Thus, the Gothongs tied up with the Ludo and Luym to do the distribution. The payment made by Ludo and Luym Corp sufficed the entire two-way distribution expenses. On its return trips, that company gained much more because other businessmen exploited the same international service offered to the oil company.
||Ports of Call
M/V Dingalan Bay
M/V Iligan Bay
M/V Dingalan Bay
M/V Manila Bay
M/V Subic Bay
M/V Tayabas Bay
7. Other Phil. Ports
||Ports of Call
|1. Don Alberto
2. Don Albino
3. Don Alfonso
4. Don Alfredo
5. Don Camilo
6. Don Carlos
6. Don Carlos Gothong
8. Don Dominador
9. Don Emilio
10. Don Enrique
11. Don Eusebio
12. Don Francisco
13. Don Jose
14. Don Lorenzo
15. Don Ricardo
16. Don Sulpicio
17. Don Victoriano
18. Doña Angelina
19. Doña Anita
20. Doña Conchita
21. Doña Helen
22. Doña Inocencia
23. Dova Irene
24. Doña Josefa
25. Doña Pacita
26. Doña Rita
2. Cagayan de Oro
The first vessel to cross and sail the international ocean was M/V Tayabas Bay. The company decided to let it run from the Philippines to Taiwan and Japan. The owners and the managers thought of appointing an agent in these two newly entered market. Carlos and Sulpicio therefore sent Alfredo to Taiwan and Japan, primarily to look for that trusted agent and to initiate the establishment of clients in those places.
In Taiwan, Universal Shipping was handled by Taiwan Sea Transport Corporation, which was owned and managed by Mr. Lee Kok Liong. In Japan, Universal Shipping was handled by Nanyongbo San Company, which was owned by Higashishima while it was being managed by Kukobo Sang who was based in Tokyo.
Alfredo's first few days in those foreign lands were not that good. As far as he can remember, his first forty days were tiring since everyday, he has to see and be with Kuikobo Sang in search for prospective shipments and for prospective clients. Everyday, both of them have to see several business heads. What Alfredo hated much is the Japanese culture of seeing and passing through several secretaries before getting to see the company head. In seeing and passing through each of the secretaries, Alfredo had to bow down several times to show respect. When he got back to Cebu, Alfredo realized that he had lost three inches of his waistline!
Finally, after much hardwork and much searching for shipments, the first trip came home with 4000 tons full load of cargoes.
Soon enough, they were able to buy a big vessel to accommodate not just the demands of Ludo and Luym Company but at the same time, expanded to accommodate the demands of others.
In the first few months of operation, Alfredo used to visit both Taiwan and Japan every month for monitoring. Later, a visit in every two months was more than just enough.
Be emphasized through a graph:
Despite his being an intrepid and successful businessperson, Don Carlos has never forgotten to look back on his early years of hardship and struggle. He shared his blessings to the less fortunate because he was a kind and generous man.
His growing social awareness made him realize that there were very few schools, too little to cater to the needs of the Filipino people. He had observed that a vast majority was uneducated, unlettered, and uninformed that led them to exploitative ends from the businessmen. It was also his observation that the western powers that colonized our country seemed to have made it their policy to educate only the elite in the society, who numbered very few.
Thus, he decided to address his major charity works and philanthropic contribution to schools for school buildings either in part or in whole to different cities and provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. He believed that education is the only wealth that cannot be held up from any one by just any body.
The death of the founder
During the establishment of markets for the global shipping business, Alfredo was sent to Japan. It was five o'clock in the dim afternoon on March 21, 1966 in Cebu City, when the venerable founder, Don Carlos A. Gothong rested in eternal peace.
Immediately, the family summoned Alfredo back home through a telegram. Alfredo, at that time, was with a group of Japanese friends in the Southern part of Tokyo, Japan enjoying the hot spring breeze at Hakuni Hot Spring Resort. They were enjoying so much that instead of going back to Tokyo on the same day, they decided to extend the fun for one more day. Alfredo went back to Cokok Sai Cang Co Hotel in Tokyo in the afternoon of the 22nd of March. The Japanese receptionist handed him the keys to his room together with the telegram that was received in the morning. The telegram contained only very brief yet strong words, which said, “Come home immediately.”
Without wasting much time, Alfredo went home early the day after. He went to Haneda Airport and was lucky enough to take an SAS (Scandinavian) Airlines to Manila and was able to book a connecting flight to Cebu. Alfredo finally reached Cebu City in the late afternoon of March 23, 1966. When he came out from the airplane, he was surprised to see Cipriano Du (Lu) and their family doctor, Dr. Jose Borromeo standing at the tarmac near the plane. He could not just catch the reason why they were there. When he was almost at the tarmac and started to extend his hand for a shake hand, Dr. Borromeo without hesitation, injected his left upper arm with a substance, which he later learned to be a tranquilizer. The injection made him feel dizzy yet exceptionally calm. They proceeded to the waiting car and they brought him to the function room of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce which was only a block away from their residence at J. Llorente Street. It was only then that Alfredo realized that his father had died.
Alfredo remembered how he looked and felt that very day. “I was so calm probably because of the tranquilizer. I was brought directly to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to see my father that day. I can still see glimpses of him while he was in the coffin even to this day. I remembered shaking the hands of the people who condoled with me. I never had a single tear coming and falling out from my eyes, not until after the manager of ESSO Oil Company at that time named Roberto Zamora hugged me to give me comfort. I was touched by the comfort and the pain of loosing my father struck me then. I felt so grieved and so guilty because of what had happened, that my father was dying while I was enjoying in Tokyo. Remorse and blunder of that past have been constantly attacking me”.
The death of Don Carlos had proven that the family has many great friends. Top country leaders and business tycoons were present during the wake. The family received numerous telegrams, flowers, Chinese streamers, notes and beneficence. The family had found out later that there were about 5,000 families and friends who condoled and were one with them during their saddest moment. They had visitors like the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, senators, cabinet members and also the local government officials. Their most prominent sympathizer was the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos who sent the family a heart-warming telegram in the midst of their grief.
Don Carlos was buried at the Chinese Cemetery on the 24th day of March. According to statistical data, there were about 3,000 people who came and joined the family with their sorrows on that day.
The death of Don Carlos left a great challenge for the family. The challenge to meet the continuing demands of the country through efficient and effective service and the challenge to sustain the business which the Don had handed down.
Doña Rita, their mother joined Don Carlos on the eve of November 16, 1984.
A little change of direction
In 1971, Alfredo searched for a place that would ensure good care for his family. It was during this time that drug addiction was an epidemic in the Philippines. Youngsters were hooked on marijuana. In order to secure the future of his children, Alfredo went to see the world looking for a prospective place to live. He loved his children so much that he would not expose them to any chances that would enslave them to drugs. He went to survey several countries until he finally reached Canada. As he stepped down the stairs of the airplane, he felt that Canada was just a perfect place for his family. It was so developed and people seemed to live simple yet happy lives.
Alfredo immediately applied for the migration of his entire family, and the process took him only one month. The migration officer was so kind to him that upon knowing he was into the shipping business, he automatically approved Alfredo's application.
The family finally settled in Vancouver Canada from 1971 to 1984 nurturing a new breed of dynamic and business-minded children. Travelling then became a part of Alfredo's life. He had to look after his business in the Philippines and he also had to look after his children in Canada.
The company has epitomized the Filipino way of an enterpreneurial spirit that made contribution in the improvement of sea travel. It took twenty years for Carlos A. Gothong and Co. to develop and expound an enduring image for shipping. However, such blissful days did not last long and came to a halt in 1972.
The brothers decided to organize their own business in shipping lines. Don Carlos held the majority of the company's ownership among the partners, yet, he decided that the holdings should be equally divided among themselves: Sulpicio, Lorenzo, Camilo and Carlos. These were the words of legacy he left before he died on March 21, 1966.
The company shares were therefore divided to the four heirs. Alfredo and Sulpicio got 32.5% each of the company's shares, Lorenzo got 22.5% share and Camilo got 12.5%.
In 1972, Sulpicio pulled out of Carlos A. Gothong & Co. and founded his own “Sulpicio Shipping Lines” for a completely independent operation, while Lorenzo also established his own “Lorenzo Shipping Lines” but maintained a joint operation with the mother company. On September 1, 1972, Carlos A. Gothong & Co. was left with only six vessels to embark on an operation without the Great Don Carlos and his brother, Sulpicio.
Building the future
Don Carlos' contributions did not die with him. His son, Alfredo Gothong went on to carve for himself a reputation as one of the shipping magnates in the Philippines. Being trained as the forerunner of his father's footprints, and who has been trained in the business with flair and acumen to know the pitfalls of haste and flamboyance of the industry, he incorporated the mother company on April 6, 1973. The company was now named “Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Incorporated,” honoring the great memory of his father. He has streamlined its operation under one roof.
Under the new corporate name, Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc., business operations underwent great change. It has brought a new-sprung pace of foundation in the region of Cebu.
In this island, Don Carlos A. Gothong, Sr. planted the banner of a strong edifice what was then a dream, blooming into an unmistakable reality that has survived through generations of change unto leaps of success for Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. The business core started here.
The Cebu shipping lines at that time maintained a fleet of conventional ships only.
In 1974 to 1979 an economic crises plagued the country. Petroleum and oil prices went to a hike. Indeed, destiny and foresight had thrust Alfredo to continue.
In the midst of the seventies, the company experienced so much hardship to the extent that it could no longer pay loans on time. In 1978, Lorenzo Shipping Lines fully separated its operation and partnership from the company. Alfredo was now left on his own to wholly manage Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. Millions of revenue was lost. In that year, gross revenue amounted only to 25 million.
Another misfortune came when Irene Gothong, the widow of the late Alfonso Gothong, withdrew her 20% share of the company's asset.
Josefa Lao, Alfredo's sister, followed suit and withdrew her 20% company share plus interest.
Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. was really placed in a very perplexing situation. Everything seemed so dim and helpless. Moreover, the corporate scenario shedded more shadows of threats, when the other half of the Gothong siblings headed by Carlos, Jr., who comprised 17% of the company's assets also decided to withdraw. Black blank space seemed to cover the company. They had just lost 57% of the company's assets!
The RORO discovery
Bouncing from the verge of near-stagnation, God sent a blessing that ignited a new drive for the company to survive.
In his search for a new hearth, Alfredo often boarded a ship named Princess of Vancouver or Princess of Victoria on his way to visit either Victoria or Vancouver, both in Canada. Both ships were of the Roll-on Roll-off type carrying people, trucks and other vehicles. In Canada, he witnessed many different ferries with such a design. He then thought of bringing this concept to the Philippines.
Alfredo was so amused that he wanted to have something like it. The first time he saw the vessel type, he immediately calculated that this type should facilitate faster logistics. He remembered one time during a Freight ship operation when he had to hire 60 people to carry and load 200 sacks of rice per hour. What was more difficult was the mandate that he should supervise the operation, which oftentimes would end up in the wee hours of dawn. Worse, Alfredo discovered one time that his employed men were sleeping at 3:00 o'clock in the morning in the middle of the operation. He recalled shouting with rage, “Did I hire you here to sleep?” and his men bravely retorted, “Sir, what if you were in our place?” Alfredo was greatly disappointed, he understood his people very much but he was pressed by a more practical reason. He thought, “These people can actually just go home and sleep, rather than work late requiring me to pay them overtime.”
Alfredo then was so definite and decisive to come up with a RORO type of operation so that in 1978, Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. introduced the first Roll-on Roll-off vessel in the country.
With the first bought RORO vessel, efficiency was greatly manifested. Whereas before, it took 60 people to carry and load 200 sacks of rice per hour, with the RORO, operations needed only a forklift with a driver and 6 people to facilitate the loading of 2,000 thousand sacks of rice in just one hour!
With the help of the first three RORO vessels namely M/V Doña Josefina, M/V Don Calvino and M/V Doña Lili, the company took off and started to climb up the stairs of progress.
Its discovery had greatly developed efficiency. Operation pertaining to movement of cargoes and container vans to or from the piers to or unto the vessel never came that hard and never became a problem for the operators and waterfront personnel anymore.
In order to boost its passenger and cargo services after the acquisition of the three RORO ships in 1978-1979, two more of this type were purchased in 1982 -- Doña Cassandra and Don Benjamin. M/V Don Benjamin was awarded in 1982 as “Ship of the Year” and in 1983 it got an award for Firefighting by the Philippine Coast Guard.
Then, in 1985, the sons of Alfredo D. Gothong took the reigns of the business unto their trained hands.
The Flock of Sheep
In the 1970's, Alfredo's eldest son named Bowen graduated and finished Commerce from Canada. He went back home to help his father in manning the shipping business in the country. Bowen's first job was to take good care of the waterfront operations. He was later promoted as a Shipping Manager in 1975. Years later, Bob, the second son also graduated from Canada with a degree specializing in Sea Transportation. He went back home to finally take part in their shipping business. His first major job was simply to prepare bills of lading and also handled several office and paper works.
Bowen was later accelerated and promoted to become the over-all manager while Bob took the Shipping Manager position. In 1978, Benjamin, the third son finally finished from school with the degree of Mechanical Engineering. He was then appointed as the Head of the Machinery shop. Ben would personally take out all the machines of the vessels for repair and maintenance.
The company has always strove to improve customer service by innovative means so that the seed of their undying commitment now bear witness to its fruition as they proudly mark decades in the Philippine Archipelago with the distinguished Gothong colors cloaked by the assurance of total quality service. The company also published several primers to inform the Filipino people of how it prospered from a mere wooden boat operator to one operating a ship of luxury and life!
The launching of M/V Our Lady of Akita in 1993 transformed sea travel from a mere transport of people into a unique fun-filled and comfort-laden experience. Passengers and guests would say, “M/V Our lady of Akita is the most lavish lady.” A phrase that states, “ we truly place real importance of sailing your way” has become the official slogan of the company way back then.
“ To lead in the domestic shipping industry through continuous improvement to achieve TOTAL CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.”
“To strive for utmost quality and safety standard by way of dynamic management, employee commitment and team effort, supported by leading edge technology, reliable and affordable facilities.”
“To assert our involvement in promoting public interest with a sense of social responsibility towards the economic growth of our country.”
Carlos A. Gothong Lines consistently belonged to the Top 500 Corporations of the Philippines. The company also received awards from several honorable award-giving bodies in Cebu recognizing its flame of excellence in helping shape Cebu's economy.
All these things happened because once upon a time, a lone, honorable Chinese named Carlos A. Gothong, came to the Philippines loaded with dreams and visions of a better world not only for himself but for humanity as well.
On November 7, 1993, Sun.Star Daily, Cebu's prime newspaper featured Don Carlos A. Gothong as one of the Great Cebuano Awardees. A prose on thriftiness and hard work believed to be the propellers of becoming a big shipping firm.
On November 12 of the same year, the Cebu Provincial Government and the Sugbuanong Mga Komentaristang Nagpakabana (SUKNA) spearheaded the conferment of the First Great Cebuano Awards that included Don Carlos A. Gothong among its awardees together with sixteen (16) other Cebuanos.
Though the years, this Chinese migrant and his descendants have made significant contributions to the cultural, political and economic life of the city and its province and had been so “Cebuanized” that it had become easy to forget that they had their roots elsewhere.
Sun.Star Daily, in its January 29, 2000 issue, tagged Carlos A. Gothong as the Shipping Magnate.
On February 17, 2000, Carlos A. Gothong was noted to be one of the 100 Most Notable Cebuanos of the Century.
The Bold Move . . . .
The underlying economic conditions in the mid 1990's made Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. steer towards a new direction as it merged with William Lines, Inc. and Aboitiz Shipping, Inc. to form the mega-corporation, WG&A, Inc. in 1996.
With all their powers combined, the shipping business tie-up proved to be a very good move as it had flourished more in its quality service to the growing public both for the passengers and for the shippers alike.
With the merger, Carlos A. Gothong Lines, Inc. had to retire its corporate name and purpose. Thus, on January 8, 1998, the company reverted to its original name, Carlos A. Gothong & Company, changing its primary purpose from shipping to that of a holding company. Carlos A. Gothong & Co. has again emerged to the new era of its business world that was characterized by diversification and expansion.
Gothong Southern: A Passion to deliver and inform
The creation of Gothong Southern Business Development Team in 1997 has propelled the company with the start-up of new business activities. The new company continued along the line of core-competencies such as the forwarding, trucking, hauling business and other business ventures that compliment the logistics industries like container and chassis repairs.
Gothong Southern has evolved into an international freight forwarding and domestic logistics support and transport solutions to the third party logistics (3PL) needs of the country today.
Driven with a passion to deliver and inform, the company invested in various tools and equipments to meet the demand of the market for an accurate and timely delivery of goods and services. Today, the company boast of a wide array of prime movers, trailers, delivery vans and cargo containers among others.
The company operates out of every major port of the Philippines namely, Manila, Cebu, Butuan, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Roxas, Aklan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Zamboanga, Ozamiz, Iligan, Palawan and Surigao.
In 2005, under the umbrella of its holding company, One Wilson Place Holdings Inc., Gothong Southern Shipping Lines Inc. was born and boasted of Don Carlos A. Gothong Sr. (DCAG), a cargo vessel plying Cebu-Manila-Cebu. It is a precious addition to the company for it has made full circle the battle cry of Gothong Southern which is to provide a well-rounded and complete chain of cargo movement for its valuable customers.
Gothong Southern believes in developing leaders who develop people, who develop business. It takes pride in its values of spiritual discipline, 4Es + P people, balanced lifestyle, bayanihan teamwork, active social responsibility, accountability and palabra de honor.
There are a lot of exciting things ahead for Gothong Southern, for its people and for its clientele. We can't wait to share it with you!