Washington SyCip: The Man Through Time

Jace Amodo
PUBLISHED October 9, 2017 02:10 pm
Reference photo from Fruhlein Econar

(Inside Manila) The Philippine business world mourns as the visionary tycoon and philanthropist Washington SyCip passed away Saturday night, October 7.

SyCip, 96, “went quietly” aboard Philippine Airlines Flight No. 126 (MNL/YVR/JFK) heading to Vancouver Airport, accompanied by his son George SyCip and an assistant, Roberto Cabilles.

The death of SyCip was a big loss to the business community as seen by numerous condolences sent, shortly after the public announcement by SVG & Co., by people whose lives he has touched.

Photo from www.washingtonsycip.org

Wash SyCip was born in 1921 with parents Albino and Helen Bau SyCip. He spent the early years of his boyhood with his grandmother in Shanghai, before finally returning to Manila at the age of five.

He was a proud product of Philippine public education system. He was an accelerated student: graduating from Padre Burgos Elementary School in just five and a half years instead of seven years.

Adamant by the distractions of sports and his mother’s persistent invitation to take piano lessons, Wash was able to excel in physics and mathematics. At the age of 15, he graduated from Victorino Mapa High School in 1936 as a high school valedictorian.

This entitled him to admission and free tuition at the University of the Philippines, however, after only a semester, he saw UP unfit for his desire to be in the accounting field, leading him to transfer to the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He finished Accounting at the College of Commerce in only two-and-a-half years and as a summa cum laude at the age of 18.

He took his master’s degree while teaching at UST in place of his mentor Dean Stanley Prescott who was on a vacation at the time. Realizing the law qualifies only 21-year-olds and above to practice their profession, Wash, 19, decided to take up a doctorate degree.

Photo from www.washingtonsycip.org

In 1940, Wash entered Columbia University in New York, studied hard, and moved quickly, until the news of the looming World War. Learning his father had been imprisoned by the Japanese, Wash left the university in late 1942 and enlisted in the United States Army, becoming a naturalized American citizen as a result.

His IQ was recognized to be the highest in the regiment at Camp Cooke. He would later report for codebreaking duty in Calcutta, India.

World War II ended by March 1945 and Wash reunited with his family again in Manila.

SyCip saw great opportunities in the country’s postwar reconstruction, thus building the W. SyCip & Co., in Binondo, Manila. He was later joined by his longtime friend Alfredo M. Velayo in 1947 and merged with accountants Arsenio Reyes and Ramon J. Gorres in 1943, hence the SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. (SGV).

Photo from www.washingtonsycip.org

After several firm branch expansions and property growths, Wash earned the title of “Outstanding Management of the Year” in 1967 as awarded by the Management Association of the Philippines.

In 1968, Wash became a vital part in the founding of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), which would later grow to be one of the foremost business schools in the country. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Philippine Business for Social Progress in 1970.

Awards and recognitions kept on coming in the following years: “Star of the Order of Merit” from the Republic of Austria in 1976; elected president of the International Federation of Accountants and president of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1982; finally receiving the degree of Doctor of Accounting Education, Honoris Causa, from UST; and “Officer First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star” by Sweden in 1987.

A doctor in the 80’s and then a commander in the ‘90’s, as the Philippine government bestowed onto Wash the Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander.

He also received the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation awardee for International Understanding in 1992 and the Outstanding Manilan recognition by former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in 1996.

That same year, SGV & Co. marked its Golden Anniversary, and along with it was his retirement from the firm.

Photo from www.washingtonsycip.org

Wash thereafter devoted time to his advocacy—make education accessible to poor Filipinos—apart from managing business prospects. Through his partnership with the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), he helped more than 200,000 children.

Washington SyCip enjoyed the idea of constant learning, which he brought throughout his career, all the while believing the capability of our countrymen to succeed.

He may have passed, but his legacy lives on.






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