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Remembering Roberto Kuan, an exemplary businessman

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Illustration by Tone Dañas

Amidst the gloomy weather last Sept. 15, businessman Roberto Fung Kuan, the founder of Chinese fast food chain Chowking Food Corp., found his resting place and everlasting peace. Although his incredible journey ended, he and his contributions to various fields will surely stay in the heart of many Filipinos.

Born in Manila on Aug. 6, 1948, Mr. Kuan graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1970. He obtained his master’s degree in business management from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in 1975, and took part in AIM’s Top Management Program for company presidents and chief executive officers in Bali, Indonesia in 1993.

He was married to Yvonne Yap, with whom he had four children: Robert Kelvin, Natalie Cherubim, Jeremy Giancarlo and Sherwin Spencer.

In his 70 years of existence, the visionary businessman had an amazing life filled with success and love.

In 1985, a time when Western-style burger joints were dominating the Philippine fast-food segment, Mr. Kuan founded Chowking. After only five years, the Chinese fast-food chain grew and became a major player in the industry. It expanded continuously across the country and into the United States and the Middle East.

In early 2000, Mr. Kuan sold his company to Jollibee Foods Corp. At the time, Chowking already had a wide network of around 150 stores.




Mr. Kuan was also able to demonstrate his exceptional leadership skills in the medical field when he was elected chairman of the board of trustees of St. Luke’s Medical Center in 1996. He managed the health care institution well while running a charity program worth over P300 million a year.

Under his leadership, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City in Taguig City opened in January 2010, bringing the hospital’s world-class service to more people. Mr. Kuan served as the chairman of the institution until September 2011 and remained on the board as a trustee in the years that followed.

Mr. Kuan also devoted his time to education. He served as the chairman of the board of St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial, Brent Schools, Inc., and Brent International School Baguio. He was also a trustee of Far Eastern University and Brent International School Subic, and a board and corporate secretary of Brent International School Manila.

Mr. Kuan had other important roles in the private sector: He joined China Banking Corp. and SeaOil Philippines as a member of their respective boards. At some point in his life, he also served as the chairman of Creative Dining, Inc., Goodview Seafood Restaurant and Hot Café.

Through the years, Mr. Kuan received several awards and citations for his pioneering business strategies and remarkable achievements. Among of these were the Triple A Award (Alumni Achievement Award), which is the highest honor bestowed on an outstanding alumnus of the Asian Institute of Management, in 1981; Agora Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Entrepreneurship from the Philippine Marketing Association in 1996; Business Achiever of the Decade from the Philippine Star in 1996; University-wide Most Outstanding Alumnus from UP in 1998; Most Outstanding Alumnus in the Field of Business Administration from the UP Alumni Association in 1999; Franchise Excellence Award as the Most Promising Filipino Franchisor for Chowking from the Philippine Franchise Association in 1999; The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award from JCI Senate Philippines and Insular Life in 2003; Business Leadership Award (Pillar Category) from the Aurelio Periquet, Jr. Foundation in 2004; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Business Administration of UP Diliman in 2007.

“Daddy accomplished much in his lifetime as a servant of God, being an exceptional leader and role model in the various fields he had devoted his life to — church ministry, business, medicine, education, sports, philanthropy and so much more,” Mr. Kuan’s son Robert Kelvin said in a Facebook post, announcing the death of his father.

In the same post, the younger Kuan described his father as a passionate entrepreneur with a visionary mind-set, tempered with humility and a thirst for life. He added that people knew his father as a warm soul — strong, principled and with a big heart.

“He led an extraordinarily remarkable life, filled with much love and great food, and had been a gifted mentor, loyal friend, devoted husband, brother, father and grandfather,” Mr. Kuan’s son said.

“We sincerely thank you for all of your prayers and outpouring of love and support for daddy and our family in this difficult time. We are grateful too that you have been a part of daddy’s life journey and have touched his life in one way or another. We encourage you to carry on the memory of his legacy, to not be afraid to dream big, to always have a vision to guide you, and to give our best back to society and humanity.”