Carlos Chan’s friendship award

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Some friendships endure and even flourish despite the passing of time and the seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Filipino-Chinese taipan Carlos Chan, chairman of Oishi maker Liwayway Group, talked about one such friendship – that which exists between the Philippines and China – when he received the Chinese Government Friendship Award from the People’s Republic of China last month.

It may seem surreal to be talking about the friendship between the two nations in this time of geopolitical tensions but it’s also a fact that the relationship between the two countries goes beyond the territorial disputes. Just ask Filipino-Chinese taipans like Mr. Chan and Chinese entrepreneurs doing business in the Philippines.

Mr. Chan, the indefatigable businessman that he is, is a testament to this kind of business relationship. He has also been instrumental in nurturing the friendship between the Philippines and China.

Which is why it’s not surprising that he received such a prestigious award from the Chinese government, adding to the many recognitions he received in the past.

In his acceptance speech during a ceremony last April 22 in Beijing, Mr. Chan said he feels deeply humbled and grateful to receive such a prestigious award.

‘Special places’

Mr. Chan said that both the Philippines and China hold special places in his heart.

“I am a Filipino-Chinese and was born in the Philippines. Both the Philippines – my motherland, and China – my ancestral country, hold special places in my heart. These two countries are separated by a strip of water and have a brotherly relationship that has lasted for centuries. Oishi and I, together with my family, will always remember the teachings of our ancestors, the virtues of Chinese culture and the importance of repaying the kindness shown to us.

“Fujian is the cradle of my parents, while the Philippines has nurtured me. Therefore, Oishi Shanghaojia and my family have taken on the mission of promoting the friendship between the Philippines and China,” he said.

The ceremony was led by Minister Wang Xiaoping and Vice Minister Li Zhong of Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China and chairman Wan Lijun and vice chairman Cheng Hong of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.

From his group of Filipino friends, present were former Senate president Franklin Drilon, former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea, Cavite (fifth district) Rep. Roy Loyola, former Senate president Manny Villar and his wife, Senator Cynthia Villar, and former senator Panfilo Lacson, among others.

Liwayway’s humble beginnings

The story of Liwayway’s humble beginnings is well-known. The multinational snack foods giant is a continuation of the business that Mr. Chan’s father Chan Lib founded – selling gawgaw or cornstarch which is used for laundry or for cooking, and ground coffee.

His father is a native of Fujian province who moved to the Philippines in 1914.

“My father bought laundry starch in bulk from a local supplier, repackaged them into smaller packages, and ventured into reselling these products into public markets  stamped with the label ‘Liwayway Gawgaw,’ a Tagalog word for dawn. My mother also cooked and sold ‘ukoy’ or deep-fried shrimp patties at that time,” he said in 2021 when he was named Management Man of the Year by the Management Association of the Philippines.

Actually, I’m among the generations who grew up with gawgaw. My mother, perhaps like her mother before her, loved clean bed sheets washed with gawgaw. The sheets were somewhat stiff but comfortable and because I got used to this kind of bed sheets, I never liked fabric conditioners which made the sheets too soft for comfort.

From gawgaw, Liwayway flourished and was incorporated as Liwayway Marketing Corp. in 1966. The company soon ventured into the distribution of sweets, candies and sauces.

When the company bought a Japanese processing machine to make prawn crackers, it sold the snack food under the ”Oishi” brand, the Japanese word for “tasty or delicious.” The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1993, Oishi established itself in Shanghai, China, thanks to China’s reform and moves to open up.

“After more than 30 years of hard work, Oishi has become a famous brand and well-known trademark in China. The success of Oishi in China today is due to the integration of Filipino and Chinese wisdom. Oishi and I are honored to witness the outcome of China’s reform and opening up, and we are also proud to be participants and beneficiaries of it,” Mr. Chan said during the awarding ceremony.

Shared future

At the end of his speech, Mr. Chan said, he deeply understands and admires the concept of “community with a shared future for mankind.”

“This idea means that we are all together and can benefit mutually, regardless of each other’s differences. I hope that the people of the Philippines and China can unite and work together to create a better future. I wish everyone the best in the Year of the Dragon!”

Such an aspiration for a better relationship between the two countries exists somewhere between Mr. Chan’s heart and China and as a businessman, he constantly strives to achieve it in the many ways that he can.

I, too, hope to see a better relationship between our two countries that is rooted in mutual respect. Time will tell if this will happen.

In the meantime, I congratulate Mr. Chan for receiving a well-deserved award. I personally witnessed how he works to create a better future for both the Philippines and China.

Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook. 

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with