Cover Story

Remembering Bobby, A Man For Others

Special Feature | May 3, 2017

If there should be only one thing all who knew Bobby Aboitiz can emulate from the man, it is the AEV Director and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI) President’s  bugsay philosophy of using one’s own capabilities towards achieving a better life and, more importantly, making the most of it in order to create a positive difference for the greater good. Indeed, throughout his life, REA was a man for others, devoting boundless time and energy to causes that brought better opportunities — whether for family, friends, team members in the Aboitiz Group, his beloved Cebu, and fellow Filipinos.


Mrs. Marian Aboitiz


In the last few days I have received countless messages, emails, read articles, Facebook posts, met people and heard stories about how Bobby touched their lives.

Bobby was many things to many people.

In the office, he was a mentor, a teacher, a guide, a listener, a believer in people’s potential. People were inspired and motivated by his brand of leadership. He often used the bugsay as a symbol of each person’s ability to steer their own life or that of a team. I saw an anecdote on facebook, where an Aboitiz employee asked him, “Sir Bob, if everybody already rows the boat, what is left for the leader to do?” Bobby simply said, “He rows harder than everyone else.” And paddle hard he did.

Bobby was a man for others. A supportive brother, a loyal son, a wonderful husband and father.

The kids remember their father as someone who spent time exposing them to many simple yet wonderful things that this world has to offer. When they were young, he taught them how to ride a motorbike. He taught them how wonderful a Sunday spent out on the ocean could be. He taught them how to tie knots, fish with a bamboo pole and a line of string. He taught them to enjoy his music—the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Everly Brothers…



As they got older, he would tell them that we as parents had given them roots, and now it was time to spread their wings and make their mark in the world. He was also the first person to remind them that not everyone had the same privileges that they did… “to whom much is given, much is expected.” He encouraged them to always look at the big picture, to be fair and to be engaged. He ingrained in them the value of family—of living and passing on the values and history of the Aboitiz family.



His cousins remember Bobby as the young man who used to take them out on his boat, ‘The Jake’, and then makes them carry it up to the beach as a form of payment for that ride. They remember him as the cousin who always had a smile on his face. The one who always engaged in conversation, not because he had to, but because he genuinely cared to reach out. His wisdom, perspective, and humanity earned him a quiet and deep respect.

Bobby enjoyed being with his friends, many of whom he considered family. They shared different passions and interests—music, motorbikes, cars, fishing. His life was richer because of you.



Finally, Bobby loved Cebu. He truly believed that there was no better place. He also truly believed in the Cebuano’s ability to envision and work towards a better Cebu for everyone. Upon retirement, he dedicated himself fully to this vision. He was guided by the belief that progress could only come about if everyone was involved if everyone worked together towards creating a better place for all of us. Even at the very end, this idea gave him the courage to continue to fight and the belief that he would overcome his illness.

I could go on about who Bobby was and the ways he touched people’s lives, but to be honest, I don’t believe he would want that. He would want me to thank everyone for being here. He would want me to ask you to take whatever is meaningful from his life and use it to better your own. He would want me to ask you to pick up your bugsay today and every day; to work towards your own life goals and to work together to make this place we call home a better one.




Jon Ramon Aboitiz


Bobby was a good man. We grew up together in Cebu playing cowboys and Indians with our cousins and watching The Three Stooges, his favorite show!

Going to Liloan Beach was our favorite place, our first speedboat, ‘The Jakes’ — 12 feet long, 17 HP engine — it was a great fun with family and friends growing up in Cebu and, later on, working together.

Bob was kind, compassionate, a great brother, good husband, father, and grandfather — he was low-keyed and humble. He was focused and passionate about many things among them his vintage car collection, the motorcycles and of course fishing where many times he came back empty handed.



He demonstrated his skills at work and in the areas of philanthropy where he headed RAFI after our father passed away.

Bobby transformed RAFI from a small foundation when he took over to what it is today a vibrant organization with over 500 RAFInian team members. He initiated many new areas of development in expanding RAFI and one of his very special projects was the RAFI Kool Adventure Camp in Balamban where thousands of young public school students, teachers, and the private sector can develop skills in teamwork, collaboration, and leadership.

Bobby also had a strong feeling for the development of Cebu and championed the Mega Cebu project to transform greater Cebu to a better place for people to live in- His dream was to unite government, civil society and the private sector to enable well-planned projects to benefit Cebuanos — a master plan that could make Cebu a better place to live in.

Bobby also developed the bugsay philosophy of believing in one’s self, a rudder for one’s life, a Right Attitude and chartering a course with your bugsay to make a difference not only for yourself but for the community at large.


REA rafi triennial 2

His legacy as a community leader will live on. He never gave up. He will not be forgotten by the many who’s lives he has touched and we will continue with his work, his dreams, and aspirations to help others and improve the quality of life in the community

On behalf of my family, thank you all for coming to honor Bobby.

Bob, I leave you with only one thought: we love you very much and until we meet again, watch over us, you will never be forgotten.



Erramon I. Aboitiz
President & CEO, Aboitiz Equity Ventures


As I contemplated what to write in this tribute to Bobby, what came to mind was our Group Purpose (driving change for a better world) and our brand position (advancing business and communities). As I reflected on these statements, it was clear that Bobby embodied in every way our purpose and brand.

Bobby was a simple man with many interests. In his earlier years, he loved to smoke his pipe; he loved music; he loved motorcycles and old cars; he loved to sail; he loved to fish.

What we will probably remember him most is his love of people, family, and his hometown, Cebu. This is clearly demonstrated by his dedication to RAFI, his commitment to Mega Cebu, his involvement in the many civic and social organizations, and his many contributions to the Aboitiz family. Truly a man for others.

Bobby was also a philosopher, a big thinker, and an optimist — qualities that resonated in his numerous contributions and achievements throughout his life, things that will impact us all and transcend his time on earth.

A man of purpose, so intertwined and aligned with the Aboitiz Group’s inspiring purpose of driving change for a better world.

We are very proud of Bobby and so appreciative of the value he has added to our family and firm.

Bobby will be missed but never forgotten.


AEV Board 2009



Ms. Domi Chua
Chief Operating Officer, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation


Mr. Bobby Aboitiz champions the Mega Cebu Initiative that brings together the public, private and civil society to make a livable Cebu. He is passionate with his programs for the young people preparing them to become leaders of change through his Bugsay Philosophy. After the demise of his father in 1985, he took over the presidency of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. Under his leadership, he strengthened RAFI’s role in community development through partnership and collaboration with local and international social development institutions. With its dedicated full-time staff of more than 600, RAFI has expanded its programs and services to more areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.


REA pink



Akihiko Mishima
President, Tsuneishi Heavy Industries (Cebu)


To Bobby-san — you have inscribed your name in the hearts of not only a few, not only me, not only to the forerunners of Tsuneishi Group but also to all of our team members, most especially those who are with us in our businesses in Cebu. For giving us the chance to know you not only by name but beyond and oftentimes, for running with us on the same track, we remain grateful to you for we value it so much. You will never be forgotten for you have sealed your name in our company’s (Tsuneishi Group) history. Bobby-san, domo arigato gozaimashita!



Jaime Jose Aboitiz
Chairman, Aboitiz Construction


Bobby Aboitiz is and will always be synonymous with Metaphil. He was there from the very start and it was Bobby who guided and molded Metaphil into what it is today Aboitiz Construction. He started the Kauban and Bugsay teamwork concept in Metaphil, which today is still a very strong part of Aboitiz Construction’s culture. His legacy at Metaphil will live on.





Andoni F. Aboitiz
CEO, AboitizLand


Bobby was the quintessential Aboitiz Leader. He dedicated his whole working life to the group and lived our values fully and unhesitatingly. As I reflect on my many years working with him, I count myself fortunate to have spent so much time with him. I know there will be many AboitizLanders, past and present, who share this sentiment with me. I learned a great many things creating AboitizLand with Bobby. Certainly, we picked up so much technical information and the ins and outs of the real estate business. However, the most valuable lesson he imparted to me was that first and foremost we must all learn to be Human. Success, happiness, and true fulfillment will, thereafter, simply follow.








rea mega cebu


He was a Cebuano at heart. He reached out to those who had less in life and helped (them).

–Hilario Davide III, Governor, Province of Cebu


He was a man of vision. He believed that it was not yet too late to shift to a new paradigm for the full development of Cebu. I take my hat off with high esteem to the great man who had made a difference for Cebu and the Cebuanos.

–Agnes Magpale, Vice Governor, Province of Cebu


Bobby was Cebuano through and through. He cared deeply about our home. I will miss him. I’m sure the countless others whose lives he touched will say the same. Thank you Bobby, you’ve done far more than one man should be expected to.

–Tomas Osmeña, Mayor, Cebu City


I can tell you that Sir Bob was a visionary. He was an exemplary business leader, a dear friend, and a family man. But more than that, he was a great man who transformed lives. His legacy will remain in the hearts of all the lives he had touched

–Joel Garganera, City Councilor, Cebu City


He showed me and the rest of the Bantayanons the way to lead, to have a vision and stay true and committed and steadfast to that vision. Sir Bobby was not only a mentor, a guide, a partner, a friend.

– Christopher Escario, Former Mayor, Bantayan, Cebu


rea pilmico


Bobby was a great friend and confidant. Under his leadership, the Aboitiz Group has grown by leaps and bounds and when he retired he took the leadership of RAFI where he took on the political establishment with Mega Cebu where the private sector and political leadership get to sit down together to make things better for Cebu. In our meetings with Bobby in RAFI, you can see that his concern was always for Cebu. It’s been a great honor to have walked and ridden our big bikes with this great Cebuano! He will be sadly missed.

–Bobit Avila, The Freeman


I came across Bobby, a down-to-earth executive whose amiable personality kept everyone around him at ease. He empowered women in the entities that he led, appointing them to managerial and executive functions. But I guess, it was in his work in the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. that he touched the lives of many people. The foundation became the channel for foreign aids during calamities; established programs that promoted education and livelihood; and recognized institutions and individuals that contributed to the betterment of society. I believe good and humble gentlemen like Bobby Aboitiz fulfilled their life-purpose and should be in the company of God forever and ever.

–Atty. Mel Libre, SunStar Cebu


The late Bobby Aboitiz was one of the most down-to-earth tycoons I have ever encountered and he had a good sense of humor. Once during a trip years ago to Cebu on a weekend, I texted if I could visit him; I was surprised when Bobby Aboitiz said he could meet me at his office that Sunday morning. He was wearing jeans, and we spoke at length and shared many ideas about business; then, afterward, I was even more surprised to see him drive off on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Due to good leaders like [him], the century-old Aboitiz Group has flourished as one of the country’s most progressive, enduring, family-owned and controlled conglomerates.

–Wilson Lee Flores, Philippine Star


There were many lessons I learned from Bobby in envisioning projects. Our friend Consul Bobby was truly a Man of Honor, a role model in integrity and respectability. We all join wife Marian and family, in praying for his eternal peace with the Lord.

–Mila Espina, SunStar Cebu



rea with quote