LEE KING YEK: A STORY OF HOPE
While most boys at fourteen were having the time of their lives playing and studying, Lee King Yek, with only his diploma clutched beneath his shirts, stowed away and found his way to the Philippines hoping to stumble on his dreams in a foreign land. He first set foot in a bike store in Binondo, Manila where he worked as a helper. He was practically a “stay-in” boy since he would be locked up together with the goods inside the store until the next day. With nothing but a sturdy ray of hope in his heart, he would stay close to the area where light from outside was passing through, looking at the world outside, certain that one day; Lady Luck would come opening the locked doors for him.
As if the angels were listening while he was praying, a Good Samaritan introduced himself to the young man, saw the kindness and determination in his eyes, and brought him along to Sorsogon where he would later make a name for himself.
A TALE OF THANKSGIVING
In Sorsogon where the Chinese businessman, Mr. Poe brought him, the young Lee King Yek, found a new home. On top of stacked Copra, the young man felt as if he were at the peak having enjoyed a new found freedom in yet another strange territory. Lee King Yek worked hard, bearing in mind the gratitude he had for the man who helped him find a new and better beginning. Still, in his heart was a fountain of hope that gave him the strength and the courage to move on.
Three years of hard work finally took its toll when the Chinese Community in Sorsogon founded a Chinese school where he applied as a Chinese teacher at the age of 17. Again, with nothing but sheer high school diploma and good intentions, Lee King Yek got the job and kept it for 25 long years. It was in the Chinese School that he grew and emerged as a respectable man, well-loved not only by the school populace but the community as well. It was thru his involvement in the academe also that he met his wife, who was another Chinese teacher.
A SAGA OF TRUST AND SELFLESSNESS
Like most responsible man, Lee King Yek, wanted a bright future for his family. His entrepreneurial skills shone when he spearheaded a buy and sell business together with his school associate. The business acumen in him prevailed and everything went well for 5 years. His trustfulness got the better of him, in a snap, the business he worked so hard for slipped thru his hands, the partnership was gone; his partner went away with the business and all the resources leaving him empty-handed. But Lee King Yek was not a bit torn – he had his wife and a son to draw strength and hope from and a combi van to start a new venture with.
His former business ally may have done him wrong but Lee King Yek’s trust and confidence in people was relentless. For him, righteousness and benevolence would always prevail in the end.
True enough, the business-in-a-van paved the way for Goodluck Commercial in 1978. The business, which started with a mere P4,000 capital that Lee King Yek’s wife unselfishly gave her husband flourished into Goodluck Department Store and later Goodluck Department Store and Supermarket. With the help of his son, Wilbert, the enterprise expanded, properties were acquired, a conglomerate was formed and was later called LKY Development Corporation during the 90’s.
Like most businesses in the Philippines, LKY was not spared from the global financial crisis. But Lee King Yek’s optimism had never been extinct. Father and son tandem saw the corporation struggling but full of hope, new projects, a bright future to look forward to.
A FATHER’S VISION REALIZED BY SON
Back to the 80’s, while his father was busy attending to the family businesses in Sorsogon and neighboring towns, Wilbert was attending school in Manila. While finishing his studies, Wilbert never had time discussing business with his Dad. Later, both would realize that they did have the same vision for the company.
Back in college during the early 90’s, Wilbert, perceived tourism industry as the next “in” thing in business. Inspired by his father’s optimism and an eye for business opportunities, he articulated his vision via his college thesis entitled, “Connecting The Island,” a research on Leisure Craft and Cruises. More than ten years before it became evident, no one believed a young student’s prophesy would turn into reality. But his father did. Soon, LKY Resorts and Hotels, Inc. was established – a group that would later redefine the hospitality industry.
A LEGACY OF LOVE LIVES ON
In 2006, Lee King Yek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Wilbert, did not stop looking for a cure for his father. They went to China and Singapore, leaving behind the businesses in the Philippines for something more important - the life and soul of the LKY Group, Lee King Yek himself.
Lee King Yek and Wilbert had a very close father-son relationship. The father was present in almost all the milestones in the Wilbert's life from the first day of school, towards manhood and his feat as a businessman, a husband and a father.
Lee King Yek, even in his weakest moments, had nothing but great love for his son and for others. Thinking what his son was doing was too big a sacrifice, he asked his wife to bring him back to the Philippines to rid his son from further expenditures. But Wilbert had only one thing in his mind – to prolong his father’s life at any cost.
However Lee King Yek must have served his purpose on earth and God must have wanted him to rest and enjoy heaven, so he had to go. It was the lowest point in Wilbert’s life but realizing that his father had touched so many lives gave him a renewed zest to continue his legacy – that of kindness, generosity, gratefulness, loyalty, and commitment to a greater cause. His father’s death had been a life-changing experience, a change that made him a better, more conscientious person.
KEEPING LKY TRADITION ALIVE
How Lee King Yek lived his life may not have been known to many but to those whose lives he had touched; it was a life lived fully and unselfishly. His love for Sorsogon, the land that treated him like one of its own, is so deeply rooted that he told his son, “I wanted to be buried in Sorsogon, so you will never forget to come back and give back."
Employees of the original Goodluck Commercial, to this day, are still working there. Now in their 50’s and 60’s, not one is planning to leave the company even after Lee King Yek died because they want to keep his memory alive in their hearts. The day to day operations remind them of how big their former boss’ heart was – helping those who would come and ask for help regardless of who he or she was, he would never say no to anyone.
This unique quality of Lee King Yek can be summed up into this quote, “There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”
Indeed, Lee King Yek’s gratefulness to the place and the people that adopted him had become the driving force that kept him as open and generous as he was – the very same intangible quality that he passed on to his son and to all the people he came to know in his lifetime.