A birthday party that moved me to tears


I had never seen a bigger birthday party. Ever. And the crazy thing is it wasn’t a birthday party. Ho Eun, the guy who created Core Tech International three decades ago, and runs it today, threw a party for all his workers on his birthday. And no where in the program did it mention anything about him.

But there he was, Friday night at the Dusit convention center (the entire convention center – every single room – was packed with 1,300 CTI employees), and the whole night was about those workers.

I was moved to tears by everything I saw. I worked for CTI for a few months in 2015, after a grueling first term of the Eddie Calvo administration. Chit Bathan was my boss, and it was so nice to see her along with all my old co-workers from CTI. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about any of them. In fact, I love them all.

Nearly all of them from the corporate office were there: Chit, Johann, Juno, Jun, Richard, Abby, and so many more. My favorite co-worker was Arcy Procolla, who since retired and I’m told moved to the Philippines to be with her family. Henry Taitano, who was a longtime CTI employee, was on separate business in Saipan. Jong was visiting his family off island. In 2015, there were only 400 CTI employees, and the brand Core Tech was mainly a construction, affordable housing, finance, and newly-minted media conglomerate.

Friday night was a showcase of only half the CTI empire. And that’s because, not only did its development wing grow with the military buildup, CTI added hotels, the plurality of housing units on Guam, manufacturing facilities, and even a sanitation company to its corporate portfolio.

But it isn’t some typical corporation. Mr. Ho and his co-founder and wife, Mrs. He, don’t fit the mold your mind conjures when you think about the owners of a billion dollar empire.

I was at the party for two hours (waaaaayyyyy longer than I stay at any event involving more than five people); and the entire time, Chit and a team of probably 30 people were ushering 20 tables at a time to the convention center foyer to take group pictures. The picture-taking was still going on when my boyfriend and I left a bit past 9 p.m.

The groups were so large, a standard photographer set up was impossible. They had to use a drone to capture the photos from one corner of the foyer to the next, where the group was assembled. And there was Mr. Ho, personally coordinating the whole thing. Moving the employees into the shot while taking queues from the production table, all the while the bands in the main room belting out Tagalog and English songs as the workers were dancing, eating, drinking, and just loving life.

These  are happy people. There is no employer like Mr. Ho in the Marianas. The employees love him. Despite waiting their turns in droves, once the group shot was done, every single one of them rushed to him to take selfies with him. And he was beaming. He embraced all of them. I overheard him, too; he knew many of their names.

There were 1,300 people that night. He threw an appreciation party for them at the island’s largest (well, only) convention center, and spared no expense of food, drinks, entertainment, and raffle prizes… and it was his birthday. The Core Tech workforce is so big, that is only Part A of the appreciation party. CTI is throwing a second one for the remaining employees.

Core Tech is now Guam’s single largest employer. Some will criticize that many of the employees are foreign laborers, so therefore the economic benefit just isn’t as beneficial as a company that employs locals.

I’ll spare us the litany of arguments I can make ranging from payroll taxes to Guam’s failure to produce workers, and I’ll provide a more graphic illustration of the economic prowess of the CTI workforce alone.

The party originally was a formal-attire event (long sleeve shirts, ties, and pants for the men, evening gowns for women). Mr. Ho had to change the attire requirement because Ross Dress for Less didn’t have enough clothes to sell to his employees for the event.

Imagine that. Your workforce is so big, there aren’t enough clothes in all three Ross locations to dress them for one night.

CTI’s growth isn’t why I was moved to tears. It was Mr. Ho’s absolute love for those employees that drew the waterworks. I remember how everything would stop at CTI, when some stupid and arbitrary labor regulator would threaten to send an employee back to the Philippines. And Mr. Ho’s constant worry that the program of construction projects might have a gap that would cause the workers to lose their work permits because of some government or other contractual delay.

That man didn’t care about the money. He wanted those employees to be able to support their families.

I remember how the government, and oftentimes sharks of industry circling around him, would screw him over or try to muscle in his business. Never once did that man strike back, even though he had every resource and connection to do so. He didn’t pay off any bureaucrats on government procurement selection committees. He didn’t sue people whom he should have sued. And he gave everyone a chance to make their way in life through hard work.

For years, Mr. Ho and Mrs. He have been giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships through the Core Tech Foundation they started. It’s a simple foundation: They want public school kids to have the chance to go to college. For years, there was no media coverage of the charity, even though the man owns the only freaking newspaper on Guam! When I worked there, I asked him if we could at least put out a news release about it, like any other corporation owner who does even the slightest bit of charity. He said, “That’s not me. I don’t want any credit.”

I didn’t think he was serious. Just assumed he was having a bad day. Six years and tons of scholarship money later, I realized just how charitable he and his wife’s charity really was. While everyone else is sending in pictures for $100 donations to some non profit to the newspaper lifestyle section, there was Mr. and Mrs. Eun giving away their personal money and not even so much as whispering about it to a soul.

These are among the reasons CTI is what it is today, and is becoming even greater. These are good people. They work hard. They look out for each other. They are honest and focused, striving for value with an unmatched commitment to excellence in this region.

I normally hate being around crowds. But at this party, I felt very much at home and at ease. And that’s because it was a real party. Everyone was happy. There was no pretense. Just pure joy.

And I get why.

Mr. Ho should teach a local Masters Course on both business and how to be a good citizen and human being. I’d pay good money to take that class. Everyone in business should take it. The governor should definitely sit in the front of that class with a recorder to play back every word for full comprehension.

Hell, honestly, she should give her job to Mr. Ho. I mean, as a voter, I wouldn’t even pause to think about giving that man the job. He runs the only company on Guam that has assets greater in value than the government, and the billion-dollar annual revenue stream governors struggle with.

It’s a pipe dream, though. I don’t think his employees would ever let him leave their side. That, and he’d drive security crazy because he would insist on driving himself everywhere.


  • Troy, I’m touched! This is good reading and good for the heart. God Bless him for that extra mile for it will benefit more along the way.

  • Hi This is such a heart warming story. I worked For Mrs. He in some of their community outreach projects. She is so admirable and so hard working. I wish for nothing but the best for them both.

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