“As I move on [in life and work on more dreams,] I have realized something – there is no limit to what we can do.” -Henry Sy, Sr.
“Tatang”. You may know him for his philanthropy, or his amazing rags to riches story, or you may simply be one of the millions of people who patronize his conglomerates every day.
However you know him, you love him. The Titan, the Philippines richest man, the beloved Henry Sy Sr. passed away in his sleep early last night (Jan Saturday evening amongst members of his family.
Mr. Sy was most known by his humble beginnings and inspiring story of mega success. Estimated to have a net worth of nearly $19 billion, Sy was the Philippines richest man consistently for more than a decade.
He founded the SM Group, chaired SM Prime Holdings Inc., SM Development Corp., Highlands Prime Inc., BDO Unibank Inc., and was honorary chair of China Banking Corp. as well.
Many think his story starts with the SM empire, as he made SM a family name and ‘malling’ a country-wide pastime, or by redefining banking in the Philippines and making the industry a global player in finance, or perhaps in 1958 when he opened the first small ShoeMart store in Quiapo, (now known as SM Mega Malls), others know him from his aid to the underprivileged people in the Philippines with millions and millions on philanthropic support.
However, we know him –and his families- kindness, genericity and humility firsthand here at The Philippines Magazine International.
Once, in the early days of our 3rd Edition, our US Executive Publisher was in the Philippines, and we encountered a ‘zoning issue’ for a photoshoot held in Pasay at the Mall of Asia waterside pier area, as well as, the rooftop, area guards and officials, shut down the shoot.
However, hearing of the issue and how we positively showcased the country, Pasay City Mayor Calixto and Mr. Henry Sy Sr. himself -who happened to be in an office over-looking to shoot- stepped in and made-it-happen for us and the shoot (for Hooter’s America) was a huge success, as well as the rooftop scenic shoot.
Later, we hosted an All-American Football camp in the Philippines for more than 300 underprivileged children every year for nearly 4-years as we promoted Philippines Philanthropic Tourism. The Mission was to inspire successful Westerners by showing them the happiness and joy of the Filipino people; whom had ‘less’ financial and material wealth than they did, but had more joy and satisfaction in their lives. The Westerners lived in squatter areas and shanti’s in the Philippines with poor families as part of a 8 day and 8 night tour. Emotional breakdowns, tears and personal lifestyle revelations were common.
Starting with just 2-dozen kids, at our last event, the numbers were so high, we needed a much larger and more generous food sponsor to feed the hundreds of children and families we hosted for 2-days, as well as, the professional and Olympic athletes and philanthropist from the United States who volunteered.
At the last minute, Robinson’s Market pulled-out and we were left foodless. Fortunately, thanks to the awareness and kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Sy, Mrs. Sy personally met our group organizers at an SM Market branch and loaded our vehicles with all we needed –and more. Ultimately, SM Market donated more than 1,000 meals, beverages, water, utensils, trash bags and Mrs. Sy (an American) and their children came personally to the event and coached the hundreds of underprivileged children in the camp.
Later, Herbert and his wife hosted our US Executive Publisher, Kareem Jackson, in their home for Thanks Giving Dinner; away from his home country, it was a wonderful gesture.
On behalf of all of us here at PH MAG International we want to express our deepest condolences and upmost admiration to the children who have just lost their father; Teresita (Sy-Coson), Elizabeth, Henry “Big Boy” Jr., Hans, Herbert and Harley.
For us, sitting with the family, connecting through common interests and a mutual love for the Philippines, we know the story of Henry Sy Sr., starts with the entrepreneurial spirit of his father, Xiu Shi Sy, an immigrant, who fled their poverty-stricken village of Ankhue, in JinJiang, China to make a new life for his family. Who could imagine, Henry with just 10 centovos in his pocket, would become the Philippines richest man.
Xiu Shi Sy, opened a small sari sari store, but he always had vision, and subsequently, leaned more towards a convenience store or grocery store model. He was ahead of his time, but, sadly, during World War II the stores were burned to the ground, and Xiu Shi and his family lost everything and were forced to return back to China.
However, maintaining his father’s passion, Henry, loved the Philippines, it was his home, and he had the entrepreneurial spirit of his father as well. A visionary like his father, he saw early signs of success and vast potential, so Henry decided to stay in the Philippines.
Most know the ‘Sy Success Story’ but few realize the journey to success, the 10 centavos humble beginnings, sari sari stores and selling shoe-overruns, the baby steps and the vision that lead to the “Tatang” Henry Sy Sr. we all know and are beneficiaries of today.
Henry Sy was a mentor, he taught us to never give up, to persevere, to stay strong and to make it happen –no matter what. He taught us that vision is a powerful thing, and that any of us from the smallest most impoverished villages in old China, the Philippines and around the world can becoming a, Titan of Wealth.
The Spirit of Henry Sy Sr., continues to inspire and to mentor us through his Henry Sy and SM Foundations. To date there are more than 6,000 supported college and vocational school scholars, 80 school buildings and 248 class rooms built, a mind-boggling 1,025,543 treated medical patients through their medical missions, 288,669 families stricken by disaster have been helped since 2013, they’ve planted over 536,479 trees, as well as served 500,000 breastfeeding mothers and have assisted 2,700 teen entrepreneurs to start-up, promote their ventures and more.
Learn more about The Titan of Wealth and the legacy he left behind at:
www.sm-foundation.org and www.sm-foundation.org/affiliates/henry-sy-foundation