Small but terrible
- Wilson Lee Flores () - October 27, 2002 - 12:00am
There seems to be a correlation between people who lack inches in height and their prowess in their chosen professional fields. Is it possible that these people would like to overcompensate for their shortcomings by extraordinarily huge amounts of achievement and success? Let’s call this my theory of overcompensation.

"Vertically challenged" officials in the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who are known hard workers include Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Customs Commissioner Tony Bernardo and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) president Simon Roces Paterno whose face once turned tomato red when asked about his height. DBP assistant vice president Leonora "Lon" Fernandez defended the lack of height of her boss by saying "small but terrible" is valid in his case, since many of the female employees of the bank like her have a crush on the Stanford-educated investment banker. Another one is Tourism Secretary Dick Gordon. I learned from his sister that the Gordons from New York were of Jewish descent, and their immigrant ancestor had originally migrated from Belarus near Russia to New York in America.
Shorty With Mansions
This principle of overcompensation is fascinating. It is similar to the Jewish minorities having been oppressed and discriminated against for centuries in their adopted homelands, thus they overcompensate by becoming over-achievers in business, finance, law, medicine, music, literature, arts and other fields including producing the biggest revolutionary thinkers of history – Albert Einstein in science, Karl Marx in economics and politics, and Sigmund Freud in psychology.

Business tycoons here in the Philippines seem to have the same fixation with overcompensation. Those of them who were poor and went through a lot hardships in their youth overcompensate with more than the usual levels of ambition, drive, hard work with the grandest of dreams.

A poor boy from Cebu, John Gokongwei Jr. built the country’s biggest diversified industrial conglomerate. Another "rags-to-riches" taipan, Lucio Tan, is challenging Gokongwei in the size of his own industrial conglomerate. The son of a sari-sari store owner whose business was lost during World War II, Henry Sy today dreams of constructing the biggest shopping mall in the world which he calls "Mall of Asia." Before entering politics and before the 1997 Asian financial crisis, poor Divisoria boy Senator Manny Villar built his C&P Homes, Inc. as ASEAN’s biggest low-cost housing conglomerate. The late Bicolano self-made man Tan Yu built the 1,057-Asiaworld Plaza Hotel Taipei and it is Taiwan’s biggest and most luxurious 5-star hotel complex. In the US, real estate developer Donald Trump also has grand ambitions for his realty projects. There are many tales about homeless or penniless youth who have become billionaires and live in huge mansions or palaces. People who were deprived of material comforts or opportunities in their youth because of poverty seem to overcompensate by starting large enterprises, have big ambitions, and larger-than-life dreams.

My uncle-philanthropist Howard Q. Dee, former Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican and a devout Catholic, once asked me to chronicle the 200-year-old history of our ethnic Chinese family in the Philippines. In the 19th century under Spanish colonial rule, it was my "rags-to-riches" great-great-grandfather Dy Han Kia who established the clan’s entrepreneurial tradition according to my uncle and Philippine Lumber Association honorary president Donald Dy. Dy said that Dy Han Kia was the fifth of seven brothers in Chio-chun Village in Fujian province, rural south China. He was so short that all his life he was known by the nickname "We-Kia," because "We" is the Hokkien/south Fujian dialect word for "shorty." Dy Han Kia overcompensated for his childhood poverty and lack of height by starting lumber, furniture, real estate and other companies, even constructing a complex of four grand mansions in his ancestral Chio-Chun Village. He rebuilt the ancestral temple in Chio-Chun Village in1870.

From the business clan established in the Philippines by the "shorty" We-Kia would come many interesting people – China Bank founder and pre-war Chinese community philanthropist Dee C. Chuan, the country’s foremost cardiologist and medical board topnotcher Dr. Dy Bun Yok (whose clientele include the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, Lucio Tan and STAR publisher Max Soliven), mathematician Dr. Queena Lee Chua, lumber tycoon and philanthropist Dee Hong Lue, pharmaceuticals tycoon Joselito Dee Campos, Jr. of United Laboratories, World War II martyr Dy Hoc Siu of the Lee Tay and Lee Chay Sawmills, pre-war lumber tycoon and philanthropists Dy Pac and his cousin Dy Tian, Shanghai-educated banker Dee K. Chiong (ninong of John Gokongwei, Jr. who had granted the Cebuano entrepreneur his first loan), and many others.

A recent Philippine Airlines (PAL) announcement was e-mailed to me by reader Edgar Madrazo of New Life Supermarket in Quezon Avenue, Quezon City: "To stop terrorism, PAL will introduce totally safe air travel starting Monday! All passengers must board the planes naked! This way, all small weapons will be exposed!" What about men who have many wives, mistresses, queridas and girlfriends? A mischievous but beautiful beauty queen says: "Based on your theory of overcompensation, these politicians, movie actors and tycoons who simultaneously maintain huge harems of wives and girlfriends, perhaps they are compensating for their small size in another area of their physique (laughs)."
Napoleon, Deng Xiaoping, Rizal
The center of gravity of the world has now shifted to Los Cabos, Mexico, where leaders of the Asia Pacific economies led by the US, China, Germany, Russia and others converge for their annual summit or "a meeting of giants" as a European magazine described it. Once again, our President will be conspicuous in this gathering of leaders because of her being the shortest, a distinction which was once held by a former Prime Minister of Thailand during the APEC summit in Subic Bay.

Once while writing a column for Philippine STAR before Edsa 2 on then Vice President Gloria Arroyo, I asked my secretary to call her cell phone to verify her exact height. The then Vice President seemed flustered by the query, saying she was the aide and she replied: "I think the Vice President is five feet in height." GMA is actually four feet and 11 inches, same as the height of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

Small states like Singapore and the Arab state Dubai have great world-class ambitions. Although one of the world’s smallest nations, founding father Lee Kuan Yew had personally handpicked the very-tall Goh Chok Tong as his successor, perhaps to have a better public projection in the arena of geopolitics. Dubai, despite its small size and tiny population, has laid claim to having the world’s many "biggest" in terms of massive investments and infrastructure projects.

Like China’s late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, French Emperor Napoleon the Great, British monarch Queen Victoria, national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, Presidents John Adams and James Madison, anthropologist Margaret Mead, English poet John Keats, English poet Alexander Pope and respected Filipino diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may have overcompensated for their lack of height with unusually high levels of determination, personal drive, work ethic and overpowering ambitions. Napoleon was short, but he conquered a massive empire in Europe. Queen Victoria at five feet reigned over the greatest expanse of the British Empire. Deng Xiaoping was short but he survived many political purges and stunned the world with his unprecedented reforms which launched China’s "economic miracle." Among holy men of the Catholic Church, two very short men are Jesuit founder St. Ignatius de Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was only 5 feet 2 inches, but he became the first man in space. Even President Emilio Aguinaldo was short.

In a recent meeting with Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Clara "Caling" Lobregat in her La Vista del Mar Resort, she and her city councilors told us about the latest trip of President GMA to the downtown areas hit by terrorist bombings. She said when the people in the streets saw her walking around, they exclaimed with excitement: "Ang cute naman ng Presidente!" The smiling Mayor then made some comments in Chabacano using the word "dyutay" or "small." Zamboanga

When told that Rizal was only four feet 11 inches according to research by award-winning sculptor Juan Sajid Imao, Mayor Lobregat responded: "Maybe the pants of the national hero had shrunk in the museums because it seems that theese could not have been his clothes. Was he really that short?" Imao had recently been commissioned by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry led by president John K.C. Ng and secretary general Joaquin Sy to do a bronze Rizal statue for Fujian, China. This statue will be nine feet and will be installed on Dec. 19 in the hero’s ancestral Siong-Que Village. Imao was also earlier commissioned to do the 6-feet tall Rizal statue for the hero’s alma mater, the Ateneo High School.
Joyce Jimenez And Dolly Parton
In Philippine showbusiness, Nora Aunor is as short and diminutive as our President, but no one questions that she is a giant in Philippine entertainment. One of the petite entertainers I have met is Joyce Jimenez. While discussing her lingerie business, she told me that she does not consider herself really sexy, due to her lack of height and the imperfect frame of her physique. I believe that her sexiness really comes from her personality, her intelligence and of course, her voluptuous breasts.

Another short entertainer, American singer Dolly Parton is also well-endowed. Billy Crystal is another short actor, who has a huge amount of talent, wit, humor and intelligence.

What are the disadvantages of being vertically challenged? It is almost impossible to become world champion in basketball or swimming, but soccer superstar Maradona of Argentina is short. Perhaps this fact should encourage the whole country to promote soccer as a viable alternative to basketball. Other disadvantages for those lacking in height include their difficulty in reaching for books in upper shelves of libraries, the difficulty of finding the right size of pants or clothes, and others. Despite their being short (or perhaps precisely because of this disadvantage), many over-achievers have overcompensated with extra huge amounts of genius, energy, work ethic, daring and dreams. They have made ours a better and more exciting world.
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