Cravito Group founder Vincent Lua shares how his father changed his views of family responsibility.
In our Father’s Day series, Lifestyle Asia KL reaches out to entrepreneurs whose candour and generosity allows us to be the audience, as they recollect memories of their fathers. In honouring their lasting legacies, these entrepreneurs open up on confronting the pain of bereavement and share their own journey in overcoming grief.
“When I was young, he always brought me to the bowling centre,” opens up Vincent Lua about his father. In their household, both Vincent’s parents shared vastly different responsibilities in raising their children. His mum was tasked with education and tending to her family. To ensure Vincent didn’t slack in completing homework, she would go through it with him, supervising him.
His father was about work and when he clocked out in the evening, it was play time with his son.
“I spend time with my dad mostly around entertainment, holidays and dinners,” Vincent recalls, adding that play time customarily began when his dad returned from work. “My dad would always play computer games like ‘Command and Conquer’ with me after work.”
A chirpy person who found it easy to make new friends, the elder Lua grew up in Terengganu. It was the start of a rather colourful and somewhat nomadic episode. In search of a better living, the elder Lua like many Malaysians found a job in the neighbouring Singapore in his adolescence. While toiling away as a foreman, he was enlisted for the military. And if you know anything about Singapore, it is a land of plentiful repercussive laws.
Then still a young man, the elder Lua decided upon himself that it was better to evade – and to find jobs elsewhere – than to report for duty. The choice was apparent since he could no longer work in Singapore and having requested for the necessary sum from his friends to move to Brunei, the elder Lua left for Borneo to resume his vocation at a construction site. This happened in the early ‘80s.
The elder Lua arrived in Brunei without many pennies, but he wasn’t shy from putting in shifts. With some savings accumulated overtime and a nascent family to feed, he left the salaried job to strike out on his own. “We started from living in a flat,” recalls Vincent, “and when he did better, we moved to a bigger house which he built.”
According to Vincent, his father would regale all day about the grand vision he had prior to its completion – where the swimming pool would sit, which part of the house would be made of granite, where to erect the space to shoot some hoops, and so on.
“My dad loved singing karaoke at home,” says Vincent Lua of the quaint life after they moved in. “There were a lot of friends who swung by to play mahjong even when I was just a toddler.”
A ritual of Vincent was to ring his father in the evening. He had the same intention, but on one fateful day, he didn’t dial up. Having been cautioned by his mum not to be a bother to his father, Vincent waited quietly instead for his father to return home for their bonding over computer games. The clock had ticked past 7 by then and it was unbecoming of the elder Lua to not show up.
Something was amiss, it seemed. Soon followed was the sobbing godmother who turned up at their residence in a haste. His mum was devastated upon hearing from her family friend. She left home hurriedly without motioning at Vincent. Everything was a daze to him and Vincent didn’t yet know what had transpired nor was conversed between the two women. “I asked my aunt, she just told me something had happened to my dad,” he says, left on tenterhooks.
Vincent was only informed about the tragedy that took place at the construction site later that evening. “It changed my whole life,” he says, referring to the passing of his father who succumbed to the accident.
“When I was at a young age, my dad brought me to construction sites to help me understand the machinery and his job. He didn’t tell me explicitly to become a civil engineer, but from the way he patiently explained, it was as though he was preparing me to become an engineer.”
Envisioning that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, he took up engineering in university. But Vincent soon realised academically he wasn’t cut out to be an engineer and made the eventual switch to finance and management, paving the way for him to dabble in F&B and entrepreneurship. Vincent Lua’s famous venture is the ubiquitous MyeongDong Topokki.
“After he passed away, we didn’t have the financial means to live in the same house anymore, and so we downsized and moved out, into a terraced house,” says Vincent, with his mum becoming the pillar of their household.
Vincent explains that losing his father helped him become an independent and responsible individual, especially to his mum and sister. “I didn’t think far ahead because back then any mistake I had made, my dad would be there to support me. I felt he was always there to back me up,” he says, adding he learned from his father about the importance of providing for his family through hard work.
“He did his best to provide the best for his family.”
All images by Vincent Lua unless stated otherwise