What more else can really be said of a revered and beloved industrialist, a philanthropist, the grand old man of Philippine business, one whose lifetime achievements for his country may never ever encounter near emulation?
He is the founder of an institution quite like no other. Sycip, Gorres and Velayo & Co. or SGV. A Philippine “multidisciplinary professional services firm.” It carries the name of its founder, an individual quite like no other. Washington Sycip. He was 96.
Accolades and paeans have followed the sad news of his passing while on board a Philippine Airlines flight bound for New York City, en route yet to another business engagement in the United States on behalf of Philippine interests.
Through SGV, “WS,” as he was endearingly referred to within his organization, has influenced and nurtured some “over 30,000 professionals who have, at some point in their careers, been connected to his legacy,” dozens of whom have served honorably and productively in the higher echelons of our government. That is unequalled tutelage and mentorship. That makes “Wash” a giant of a man. Indeed, he stood larger than life. I am at a loss to quote anything else but the most apt honor and accolade granted the man.
In 1992, conferred upon Mr. Washington Sycip was the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation Award. It is Asia’s premiere prize and highest honor, celebrating ‘greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia.’ The award said: “Because he engaged the business community in meaningful acts of social responsibility” he was elected to receive the honor for “fostering economic growth and mutual understanding in Asia through professionalism, public spirited enterprise, and his own esteemed example.”
And as such, Mr. Washington Sycip has brought incomparable honor and prestige to the county of his birth.
Critical and skeptical I am, as my usual wont, I have noted that there was nary a word from any of our top ruling political prominences, except from a couple of unimportant politicians. I expected sincere expressions over a sense of loss from the President himself as well as from the twin heads of Congress. I found the absence of social grace almost distasteful. For a very important instance, there was no display of appropriate protocol, only a show of bad manners. Instead of the President himself, personally expressing condolences and sympathies over the passing of a national treasure personified, a newspaper reported quoting the “Office of the President Spokesperson” clearly denoting that the expressed sentiments were also his, and not unequivocally exclusively on behalf of the President. Why could it not have been the President himself personally saying that the deceased was a “respected voice in corporate governance and a staunch believer in Filipino talent.” The spokesperson intoned “we condole,” inserting/including himself. Good manners can be a slippery nuance, you know. I am sorry for sounding so stickler-finicky, but good manners denotes observance of protocol. The Spokesperson is never allowed to say “we” thus enveloping himself with the President’s person. He should have said, “the President condoles….” Today’s Malacanang still has plenty to learn.
There is no other Filipino that has singularly devoted as much to his country, through his own distinct achievements. And yet although born and educated in Manila and was a lifetime tax-paying resident of the Philippines, Mr. Sycip was not a Filipino by citizenship. I surmise that remaining a U.S. citizen, among other personal reasons, was his defense against having to be pulled and absorbed into the fray of Filipino partisan politics, as most Filipino businessmen are perforce inveigled to. A non-Filipino citizen is prohibited by law from making financial contributions to political candidacies as well as from participating in local politicking. I recall him saying that he has never contributed to any candidate.
With that in mind, a posthumous award of Filipino citizenship by an act of Congress is surely apropos and merited.
Albeit, while alive and physically performing, basketball players are known to have been conferred Philippine citizenship in the not too distant past. For the State, through Congress and the Executive, to fail to do so would amount to a missed opportunity to express gratitude and recognition for initiatives and contributions rendered towards the social and economic development of the Filipino community by an individual so richly deserving.
The Sartorial Sycip, that distinctive Wash Sycip Barong
Let us enjoy a lighter note even as we extol this heavyweight of a Philippine personage. I am not certain if it was ever intended to become a posthumous fashion fad. But I find it to be a personal fashion statement, nonetheless, that is also revelatory of his inner persona, his heritage as well as his environment. A yen for color and design with geometric figures, revealed later in life, displayed in the national formal shirt that Wash Sycip wore.
In his various public appearances and during social and media engagements, Wash Sycip has often donned a distinct sartorial innovation. Many a photo display have shown him wearing a barong Filipino shirt with a very distinct touch that so far can only be him and attributed to him. So far, no one has yet copied the attire. Let us call this the Wash Sycip Barong. Basically Filipino, as Barong can ever be, but Mr. Sycip’s added muted accoutrements represent him like no other visible emblem, later in life it may have come.
If there has been any public commentary about it at all, or if anybody else has been seen so similarly garbed, I have no knowledge of it. But I have decided that when I visit Manila next, I shall ask SGV for the name of Mr. Sycip’s tailor. I would like to wear a “Wash Sycip” barong!
His choices of colors are bold which, of course, are aesthetically colorful. Sometimes flaming Red, sometimes Emerald Green. I have seen him in Orange, in shocking Pink as well as in suave Lavender. In Beige and Brown. And Fuschia, too. And in very elegant Black for an evening formal.
The sartorial innovations he has introduced are noticeably visible in the alternations of the sleeve, the cuff, collar and the shirt front of his colorful Barongs. These comprise evident adaptation and practical utilization of Chinese motifs incorporated into the Filipino!
The ‘Wash Sycip Barong’ then becomes a reminder of the certitude that, in much of the Filipino, there is indeed a merry mix of the Maharlika and the Mandarin.
Let me take the liberty of thinking that such is another manner by which Mr. Washington Sycip has said Thank you and Salamat to the country of his birth!
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.