A Decade of Helping the Poor Help Themselves

Speech of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the “Partners’ Night” to celebrate the10th Anniversary of the Jollibee Group Foundation held on May 4, 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Ballroom, Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City.



At the very start, let me congratulate everyone responsible for the success of the Jollibee Group Foundation, from its visionary chairman, Tony Tan Caktiong, its very gracious president, Grace Tan Caktiong, its hardworking vice-president, Belen Rillo, and its dedicated staff, to its partner institutions, the national and local government units and schools especially the principals, teachers and parents whom we are honoring tonight, for a decade of sharing joy (of the chicken and other varieties) and helping the poor help themselves.


Mystical Number

In this decade of partnership, all the participants, from the benefactors to the beneficiaries, from the young to the not-so-young, and from the private to the public sectors, are transformed into a nation reborn, reunited and renewed.


Ten is a mystical number. It is used 242 times in the Bible. Ten is the exact number of the Commandments in the Old Testament. Ten is the percentage the faithful are behoved to tithe to the Lord’s service. Ten is the number of beads in a decade of hailing the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Holy Rosary.


Ten, in ordinary parlance, signifies perfection. As people are wont to ask: in a range of one to ten, how do you rate yourself, or how do you measure your performance, or how do you rate your girl friend or your wife. And, of course, we gentlemen, always boast, “my wife (or my girlfriend) is a Perfect 10!”


In Chinese history, double ten celebrates the Wuchang uprising that overthrew the Qing Dynasty and led to the declaration of Chinese independence in 1911. In mathematics, we round up a figure to the nearest ten. For Pythagoras, the Greek math genius, ten is the symbol of the universe and ten expresses the whole of human knowledge.


Incidentally, ten is also the rank of the Jollibee Foods Corporation in market capitalization among all the quick service restaurant chains in the whole world! And the number one in Asia! Note that one is the first digit of ten!


Right Philanthropic Formula

Indeed, since in the ancient times to the present, in science and religion, in formal and casual conversations, the number ten connotes a magical moment of triumph that deserves congratulations and celebrations. The same triumphal moment is captured by the Jollibee Group Foundation as it joyfully proclaims the philanthropic formula of helping the poor help themselves.


It is easy to dole out goodies to the hungry, to contribute money to charity and to give alms to the poor. But it is not as easy to help them help themselves because this involves not just money and alms but passion, patience and personal devotion.


Truly, it is easy to give fish to a man, but as Confucius famously said, that would feed him for just a day. The wiser and more difficult way is to teach a man how to fish for that would feed him for a lifetime. And beyond feeding himself for a lifetime, the education he imbibes would, in turn, enable him to teach his own family and community; he would himself become another philanthropist-teacher. Prosperity earned through education is contagious because it naturally spreads to the community and, eventually, to the nation.


Indeed, the influence of a teacher is eternal. It is handed down from generation to generation, from age to age, from benefactor to beneficiary. What I learned from my elementary and high school teachers many decades ago I still treasure up to now and I still impart to my family and my friends, like all of you.


The good news is that this Confucian ethic of helping the poor help themselves is exemplified by the two signature projects of the JGF, the Busog. Lusog, Talino (BLT) School  Feeding Program and the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP). And the better news is that beyond merely exemplifying, the JGF improved on the Confucian formula by engaging the parents, teachers, principals, as well as the local and national leaders of our country as BLT partners.


In this way, the resources and rewards of philanthropy are spread far and wide. Ultimately, this multi-sectoral engagement and participation make the program sustainable over the long-term, and replicable in many communities, thereby inevitably transforming and renewing the whole nation. It has become the undertaking not just of JGF but also of the whole community, and eventually – in the next ten years – of the whole country.


Joyful Felicitations

Yes, tonight, we celebrate this multi-sectoral partnership that made the BLT and the FEP successful and sustainable. It is therefore truly fitting and proper that we should joyfully recognize JGF’s enthusiastic and hard working partners, especially the winners of the BLT Excellence Awards.


May I also felicitate the Jollibee Group of Companies for contributing the main fund of the Jollibee Group Foundation. Most conglomerates donate one percent of their net income to their corporate social responsibility programs, but in recognition of the excellent work being done by JGF, in furtherance of the partnership that has succeeded so well, and to propagate the sustainable partnership we are celebrating today, the Jollibee conglomerate recently increased its yearly contribution to JGF, from the normal one percent of net income to one and half percent. That is a 50 percent increase!


May I also exult the humble and low profile couple, the leaders of this Jollibee business conglomerate and this blessed Jollibee Group Foundation, who willingly gave their treasure, time and talent to philanthropy. And over and above these three “t’s” of treasure, talent and time, they ushered a fourth “t,” the truth that passion and patience are essential to real philanthropic success.


Early on, Mrs. Grace Tan Caktiong planned to stay as JGF president for only three years just to kick off the BLT and FEP projects. But passion and patience in helping the poor overwhelmed her completely. Thus, she decided to devote her full time and talent to the work of alleviating poverty. Her husband Tony has given up his CEO position in Jollibee Foods Corporation to devote more time and resources to philanthropy and to over-all policy-making.


They remind me of Bill and Melinda Gates, the world’s richest couple who recently visited our country and who, many years ago, quit their executive jobs in their Microsoft Corporation to focus fulltime on their multi-billion dollar charity work for the world’s poor . The Tan Cak Tiongs may not be as wealthy as the Gateses, but they are as driven by the same passion and patience to help the poor.


Three and a half months ago, the charismatic Pope Francis visited our country and pleaded for more Christian charity and dedication to the cause of the poor. The more I listened to him, the more I thought of Tony and Grace. That is why in my Inquirer column on January 18, 2015, I publicly applauded them for being the exemplars of Pope Francis’ call for sharing time, talent, treasure and truth with the least, the lost and the last.


To conclude this keynote address, may I ask all of you, ladies and gentlemen, to rise as we say cheers and mabuhay to all the partners of BLT and FEP, to the winners of the BLT Excellence Awards, to the Jollibee Group Foundation, to the Jollibee Group of Companies, to the government leaders who are here to join our celebration, and to Tony and Grace Tan Caktiong. May you always share the joy of giving, May you never tire of helping the poor help themselves. And may your tribe increase. Let us lift our voices and raise our hands as we cheer:


Hep! Hep!     Hurrah!


Hep! Hep!    Hurrah!


Hep! Hep!    Hurrah!


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