My Personal Tribute to Washington SyCip (by Lifestyle Asia Editor in Chief Anna C. Sobrepeña)


    Photo of Washington Sycip with author which he keeps in his office

    When Washington Sycip turned 90 years old, there was a queue that lasted for more than three hours as luminaries across industries waited their turn to greet him on his birthday.  Sycip, Gorres and Velayo (SGV), the accounting company Washington Sycip had founded over 70 years ago, organized the annual reception at the Rizal Ballroom of the Makati Shangri-la. Ambassador Delia Albert had prevailed upon Wash Sycip to sit down on what he said looked like a throne. “You’re a king!” she told him in jest. In many ways he was.

    A few years later, he himself queued in a reception line to greet my husband and myself on the occasion of our wedding anniversary. While guests would have let him go through, Washington Sycip did not ask for entitlements. As soon as he reached us, he got a big hug, which photographers captured. That photo of me and Washington Sycip has been in his office for years. He sent an email on the day the framed photo arrived.

    “Today is Saturday, December 5. What a wonderful morning when I arrived in the office to see the beautiful photo in the excellent framing of the picture. I don’t know how I can keep on my work when I see this photo in my office.”

    Washington Sycip at the wedding anniversary reception of Chito and Anna Sobrepeña with Frances Lim, Jeanne Goulbourn and Alfredo Roca

    Washington Sycip at the wedding anniversary reception of Chito and Anna Sobrepeña with Frances Lim, Jeanne Goulbourn and Alfredo Roca

    Leader, Philanthropist, Supporter of the Arts

    Washington Sycip was the highly respected business leader who brought heads of states, leaders from different sectors and financial giants together to work towards national growth and development. He was a benefactor for many philanthropies and was particularly keen on supporting education. Washington Sycip, who called himself a mere bookkeeper, was a powerful man with far reaching influence.

    Washington Sycip was also a lover of the arts. His home held a collection of preferred paintings and sculptures. Among his intimate circle of friends was artist Impy Pilapil, who would prepare meals in her kitchen for select company that included Washington Sycip. She had broken the news of his passing and quickly went to work on a tribute to him that will appear in the forth coming issue of Lifestyleasia.

    Jeanne Goulbourn brought out a fun side in him. She made untraditional barong tagalogs for him, which he wore in happy colors. Washington Sycip was her signature model, who wore his Filipino shirtdress to high level events and social gatherings, making a statement of support for local artisans and artistry. When Jeanne introduced him to the gay revue entertainment, he enjoyed the show enough to return with friends several times.

    Washington Sycip at the birthday of the author, togethjer with Chito Sobrepeña, and Arthur and Zandra Ty

    Washington Sycip at the birthday of the author, together with Chito Sobrepeña, and Arthur and Zandra Ty

    On the Arm of A Woman

    My husband and I last saw Washington Sycip at the reception a week before he flew to Vancouver. As soon as he arrived, I asked to walk in with him. He smiled widely and took my arm. Washington Sycip was assisted by a cane and walked very slowly but always refused help unless it was from a woman. He never turned down the opportunity to have a woman on his arm.

    The suited guests parted to give way as we walked to a seat that was prepared for him. As soon as he had settled in, people approached to greet him – dignitaries, magistrates, diplomats, leaders and generally people who admired him. That was practically everyone in the room. Despite looking frail, he was sharp and greeted people, recognizing and acknowledging those who came to shake his hand or buss him on the cheek.

    I came back for him after awhile but he was gone. Washington Sycip had left. Days after, I received Impy’s message. Washington Sycip had moved on. It was a quiet leave-taking, dignified as befitting his years. The bookkeeper had closed his books. He had called it a day and we are now bereft of a man whose goodness is only outdone by the kindness of his friendship.



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