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Thanksgiving, Trust and Selflessness

While most 14-year old boys were enjoying their adolescent years, Lee King Yek, with only his diploma clutched under his shirts, stowed away from China and found his way to the country in search for greener pastures. He first worked at a bicycle store in Binondo, Manila as a helper—a “stay-in” boy since he would be locked up with the goods inside the store until the next day. With nothing but a gleaming ray of hope in his heart, he would stay close where light from outside was piercing through, looking at the world outside, certain that one day, Lady Luck will open the doors for him.

Noticing the kindness and determination in his eyes, a Chinese businessman named Mr. Poe brought him to Sorsogon for work. At his new-found home, Lee felt he was at the peak with a new life in yet another strange territory. He worked hard, bearing in mind the gratitude for the man who helped him find a new direction. At 17, he became a Chinese teacher at the Chinese Community in Sorsogon, a job he will keep for 25 years. It was here that he emerged as a respected man who is well-loved by the school and the community. It was also here where he met his future wife, who was another Chinese teacher.

After his stint in school, his entrepreneurial skills shone when he started a buy-and-sell business with his school associate, who would later swindle him. This bitter experience did not affect Lee’s trust and confidence on people, because he believed righteousness would always prevail in the end.

True enough, the business-in-a-van paved the way for the Goodluck Commercial in 1978, which started with a P4,000 capital that his wife unselfishly gave, into the Goodluck Department Store and later Goodluck Department Store and Supermarket. With the help of his son, Wilbert Lee, the enterprise expanded, properties were acquired, and the LKY Development Corporation conglomerate, was born.

Like most businesses in the Philippines, LKY was not spared from the global financial crisis. But Lee King Yek’s exceptional optimism saw him weathering the storm. The father and son tandem saw the corporation struggling but full of hope for a brighter future.

In the early 90’s, Wilbert predicted tourism industry as the next trend in business. Inspired by his father’s optimism and business acumen, he articulated his vision in his college thesis titled, “Connecting The Island,” a research on leisure craft and cruises. More than 10 years before it became evident, no one believed a young student’s vision would turn into reality. But his father did. Soon, LKY Resorts and Hotels was established – a group that would later redefine the hospitality industry.

A Legacy of Love

When Lee was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, Wilbert temporarily withdrew from their businesses and brought his father overseas to seek medical cure. Lee King Yek and Wilbert had a very close father-son relationship because of the father’s presence in the milestones of the son’s life. Even in his weakest moments, Lee 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 home to spare his son from further expenditures. But Wilbert had only one thing in his mind—to prolong his father’s life at any cost.

In God’s proper time, Lee was granted eternal rest after having accomplished his mission on earth. 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 and more conscientious person in business and the community.