A peek into the Henry Sy philosophy

By: Jose B. Maroma, Jr.

SOMETIMES we accidentally pick up morsels of wisdom from chance meetings with the rich and the powerful. I was fortunate to tag along one night with our company president who had a round table dinner meeting with Henry “Big Boy” Sy Jr. at the former Café Elysee, a restaurant in Makati owned by a sibling, Elizabeth Sy.

After dinner Big Boy asked for the chit, took out his wallet, and paid in cash. I thought I witnessed something remarkable. A rich Filipino who dines in a restaurant owned by his sister would either sign the chit and wait for the bill to be sent to his office, or wouldn’t pay at all. This is an entitlement family members enjoy in the Filipino culture.

I’m sure Big Boy didn’t have to pay right there, much less pay in cash. The fact that he did showed a kind of business ethic, maybe insignificant in one setting but meaningful when magnified many times over in a vast business kingdom.

This was the same Henry Sy scion whom we hosted in Saudi Arabia when he made a quick look-see visit many years ago. When we fetched him at the airport, we learned that his luggage was left behind in Manila and was supposed to arrive the following day.

We promptly accompanied him to the premier shopping district of Al Khobar. We led him to an upscale store selling signature brands of men’s wear. We started ogling Pierre Cardins, Balenciagas, Christian Diors, etc., hoping to pick one or two items for ourselves. We were in the mood to act classy because we were in the company of a tycoon. After all, those were the heady days of Saudi employment when overtime pay was generous and we had extra funds to indulge some fancies.

After a while we noticed that our guest had transferred to another store and bought a pair of shorts and a plain t-shirt which one could buy at Divisoria for P50 each. We sheepishly looked at one another and I guessed we wanted to say the same thing, “that’s why he is rich and we are not.”

We retired that night blushing from our misplaced airs, but humbled and wiser for the lesson learned.

The author is a retired civil engineer from Cabatuan, Iloilo. He likes to spend his time reading and writing on the burning issues of the day