George Ty’s gratitude is the reason behind P1 billion technical school
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - September 2, 2013 - 12:00am

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.   —Cicero


One of the unique characteristics of outstanding entrepreneurs and professionals is a strong sense of gratitude — they remember the support or kindnesses of others. This is one success secret of many achievers: they know how to count their blessings and have a more positive attitude towards life.

Today, Sept. 2, is the first day of class at the Toyota Motor Philippines School of Technology (TMP Tech) in Santa Rosa, Laguna, which Metrobank Group and Toyota Philippines boss George S.K. Ty told this writer he envisions to be “the best in the Asean region” — a P1 billion, 10-hectare world-class technical school. It is a non-stock, non-profit school supported by the Toyota Motor Philippines Foundation.

The initial investment for phase one of this school cost P350 million. Graduates can have good jobs here and abroad, making it unique from Toyota technical schools now operating in Japan and India.

When asked why he decided to establish this technical school, Ty said that he thought of this project out of “a deep sense of gratitude to Philippine society for the opportunities given me and my businesses.” He wants to provide the Filipino youth with a world-class technical school with state-of-the-art facilities and a high equipment-to-student ratio. The school also teaches English and foreign languages, has a dormitory, computer laboratory, speech laboratory, library, etc.

George S.K. Ty is an immigrant from Fujian, south China, who has successfully built the Metrobank Group into a leading financial, motor vehicle, insurance and real estate conglomerate that includes Philippine Savings Bank (PS Bank), Federal Land and others. He is also one of the country’s top philanthropists with his Metrobank Foundation, GT-Metrobank Foundation and others that support socio-civic, art and culture, medical, educational and other causes.

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One example of a tycoon with a strong sense of gratitude was the late contractor F. F. Cruz, who recently passed away. Unknown to most people, Cruz was born to a poor peasant family in barrio Sulukan, Angat, in Bulacan province, and he was the only one among eight siblings who studied at high school and college. It was his teacher, Amador K. Roxas, who urged his father to send the intelligent boy to high school, with Roxas’ support. Years later, Cruz constructed a school building in Sulukan with a memorial hall named after his former teacher.

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Another billionaire tycoon that Forbes magazine missed out on is Victory Liner boss and “Bus King” Johnny Hernandez, who’s a business partner of another low-key billionaire, Palawan Governor Jose “Pepito” Alvarez of Kia, BMW and Peugeot Philippines.

The father of Johnny Hernandez and Victory Liner founder Jose I. Hernandez should be thankful for the mistake committed by a Chinese businessman, which caused him to accidentally go into the bus business. He was a prewar mechanic who had collected pieces of machinery, metals and spare parts from some abandoned US military vehicles after World War II, which he planned to build into a delivery truck for his family’s small buy-and-sell business of rice, corn, vegetables and homemade laundry soap.

The Chinese businessman whom he paid to assemble the truck must have misheard Hernandez’s instructions. When he came to pick up the truck, he was shocked to see a bus instead. In order not to waste the limited money he’d already spent, on Oct. 15, 1945, Hernandez started to ply the Manila-Olongapo-Manila bus route with himself as the driver and his brother-in-law, Leonardo D. Trinidad, as his bus conductor.

The Hernandez family has that Chinese businessman to thank for their unplanned foray into and phenomenal success in the bus business. Today, Victory Liner, Inc. has over 900 buses traveling all over northern Luzon and its sister company, Five Star Bus Company, also has subsidiaries with another 900-plus buses plying the central and northern Luzon regions.

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Recently at the festive eighth-anniversary dinner reception of Go Negosyo NGO led by RFM boss Joey Concepcion at Manila Polo Club, I was seated between the Philippines’ “Chicken King” Tennyson G. Chen of Bounty Fresh Food, Inc., “Mango King” Justin S. Uy of ProFood International Corp. of Cebu, and rice/paper tycoon Henry Lim Bon Liong of Sterling Paper Group.

The soft-spoken and humble Tennyson Chen told me that he is grateful to the late textile mill tycoon and Chinese community leader Ramon Siy Lay for giving him a break in 1976 when he was still 22 years old and an engineering graduate. His father worked as operations manager of the former Bataan Cigar & Cigarette Factory run by So Lee Kuy, to whom future tycoons Lucio Tan, George Yang of McDonald’s and Enrique Cheng of Landmark Department Store are also grateful, having worked for him as well.

Chen and his father went to Siy Lai to solicit business, and the textile magnate gave him his first project: to build a factory for Unisol in Calamba, Laguna, which was Chen’s start in business. It eventually led him into the poultry and piggery businesses. Today Bounty Fresh Food, Inc.  sells three million chickens every week, the bulk of it through their wholly company-owned 900 branches of Chooks-to-Go roast chicken outlets. 

“Mango King” Justin Uy, the Philippines’ top exporter of mangoes, told me that he is “forever grateful” to Cebu ethnic Chinese businessman George Neri, who in 1980 kept lending him money when he was just a struggling 21-year-old trader starting out in business. They knew each other because they attended the same Christian evangelical church, and the elder businessman trusted Uy. In his first three years, Uy kept on failing, but he never gave up trying to export mangoes.

Uy said that in those days, the banks wouldn’t even lend him P20,000 because he wasn’t big yet, and didn’t have real estate collateral. When he needed bigger loans than what Neri could lend him, Neri even lent his real estate for the young Uy to use as collateral for a bank loan.

Today, ProFoods is the Philippines’ biggest dried fruits exporter, with over 3,000 employees and clients in 40 countries, which include the USA’s Costco, Target and Walmart retain chains. Not content to just be the biggest in the Philippines, his vision is “to be No. 1 in the world.”

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Another story of gratitude involves the late prewar Manila tycoon Dy Pac, who was the godfather of many top businessmen, including Malayan Insurance/RCBC boss Alfonso Yuchengco and his wife, Paz SyCip.

Dy Pac was only three years old when his father, Dy Han Thia (another name was Dy Thong Yit), died, so he and his elder brother Calixto Dyyco (a prewar street in Manila was named after this father of China Bank founder Dee C. Chuan) were supported by their father’s fifth elder brother, the 19th-century “rags-to-riches” lumber tycoon Dy Han Kia (also known by the courtesy name “Dy San Sieng”).

The lumber magnate was not only forever grateful to this uncle and recounted his tales to his sons, Dy Pac in 1958 sent money to the ancestral village of Chio-Chun in Fujian province to construct a pavilion in honor of his uncle Dy Han Kia and named it “San Sieng Pavilion.” 

As a youth, the self-made Dy Han Kia also never forgot that when he first arrived in 19th-century Manila, the guy who introduced him to work as a laborer in a lumber shop for 18 years was an elder village-mate nicknamed “Sang-pang Hui.” When he became rich, Dy Han Kia and his family always sent the best gifts to Hui’s family and that story of gratitude is still retold by old-timers in seaside rural Chiochun village today.

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Do not forget to say “thank you” for big or small things, and to send a handwritten note or small gift expressing gratitude. One of the worst sins of humans in general is amnesia when it comes to gratitude; we often ask for favors and totally forget to say thanks, or we receive support from important people but forget them when they are no longer of any help to us in the future.

Entrepreneurs and professionals should be always be grateful to clients and to the public by providing the best customer service.  Above all and beyond just profits or success, having a grateful attitude is also a much better way to live a happier life.

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