Henry Sy Sr.
Photo from www.smsupermalls.com
Father knows best
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2018 - 12:00am

In a rare display of informality, the lady tycoon behind the biggest bank in the Philippines confessed recently that it was her father who wanted, nay, decreed, that she go to college at the Assumption Convent (AC) in San Lorenzo, Makati “over 50 years ago.”

At the inauguration of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall at the AC campus in San Lorenzo last week, Tessie Sy-Coson said, “Many of you might be surprised why this is the Henry Sy building. Actually, it was my dad who made me study at the Assumption for college. I did take the test at AC but I was going to another school because most of my classmates at Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA) were going to another school.”

But the family patriarch, who, even then, already had a vision for his oldest daughter, insisted.  “It’s conservative and also because it is near,” Tessie quoted her father as saying. She later quipped that some of her future classmates were not as conservative as her dad thought they would be!

Tessie was actually surprised with her father’s insistence on the school because she thought then that Assumption was only for future “homemakers,” not future bankers, a future President and future senators.

The Henry Sy Sr. Hall at the Assumption College in Makati.

“My father was really instrumental,” she pointed out. Not only in getting her to study college at the Assumption, but also in the training she would receive for her future responsibilities. “I am grateful. He was a visionary. I didn’t know his purpose then, but my education here helped me a lot along the way.” Later on, she revealed, she would meet many people on her way up who were also Assumption girls.

“Assumption was very good to me. I was an irregular student because I took two degrees in four years. I was fully loaded every day. My mother always thought that maybe I would be able to get into the Dean’s List. But I never did, and I thought that maybe in order to go up the stage twice, I might as well have two degrees,” she recalled.

Tessie shared that as a college student, she had a “restless mind” even after classes.

“I channeled this restlessness to help me in work.”

Grateful for the school’s role in her life, and honoring her father at the same time, Tessie said she and her siblings want the Henry Sy Sr. Hall to be a catalyst in the community, as each SM project aims to be. Designed by architect Willy Coscolluela, the Henry Sy Sr. Hall is composed of state-of-the-art facilities in a five-story building. It includes the Paradiso Exhibit Hall, Pamana Museum, Liwanag Innovation Center, Little Theater, Biyaya Gathering Hall, Chinshi Contemplation Garden, Entheos, Harmony Review Room, Discovery Room  and Ani Culinary Corner. These venues are available for the transformative education of adults.

“I can also continue my learning here,” Tessie pointed out.

***

During the inauguration of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall at the Assumption College San Lorenzo are (from left) Sisters Bernadette and Isabel, r.a., Tessie Sy-Coson, Felicidad Sy, Assumption College president Pinky Valdes, Elizabeth Sy and Hans Sy.

AC president Dr. Pinky Valdes recalls that decades ago, Henry Sy pulled her aside and said he was going to build more malls in the country than another prominent family would.

“And I looked at him and I said ‘He’s gonna do it.’ Little did I know it would be his daughter who was going to do it. And his son.”

Pinky expressed gratitude to the Sys, represented during the inauguration by Mrs. Felicidad Sy, Tessie, Hans and Elizabeth Sy.

“We are deeply grateful for this building because Tessie said we have forgotten the students once they graduate. What she wanted originally was a center for women leaders but we thought we’ll be nice to the men as well. This is for everyone.”

But admittedly, there will be a focus on women. “iNay: Circle for Leaders and Learners,” a home for programs that provide life-skills and transformative education for adults, is housed in the new Henry Sy Sr. Hall.

“Because I asked her ‘You know Tessie, tell me the truth. Everybody says in the Philippines, men and women are really equal.’ To be honest, when you look at the world, I think in the Philippines, we’ve already had two female Presidents. So, I said ‘Tessie tell me the truth, are we really equal?’ And she said, ‘Not yet.’ So, every time I do a lecture, I would tell people, ‘Tessie Coson, because she knows what she’s talking about, said ‘Not yet’ to my question. So my plug is always we need to have equal representation in corporations.”

Pinky also emphasized that the center will be a place where women can have private time, in a place conducive to their endeavors.

(From left) Assumption Alumnae Association (AAA) officers Chinggay Lagdameo, the author, Sister Ana Maria Melocoton, r.a., president Marlu Balmaceda, Pilar Villanueva and Sabrina Panlilio.

“If a woman doesn’t have a place in the house to write, you have to give her a place. This building is a place. It’s not hollow blocks and cement. This is a place, it’s a nurturing place.

“We are making this center and the programs here a center of energy and light that bursts out. This is a place where we are going to have a new ecology. Ecology doesn’t mean the environment. Ecology means a dwelling place that gives light. What is this light all about? Very simple, it’s kindness and love. And this kindness and love should generate from this place and it comes with skills, academic excellence and social responsibility.”

Pinky says that the building makes concrete what the Sy family believes, which made Tessie and her siblings nod in agreement. “This building is a sign that the Sy family really cares about people. You didn’t have to do this. You could have put your money somewhere else. Why in a school? Why did you do this in La Salle, in Miriam, in Assumption? Why in a school? Because I think the Sys understand there’s only one thing that would change society — education.”

When Pinky thanked Tessie after touring her around the five-story building (which is adjacent to the original old Milleret Hall), the latter said, “No, my father is the visionary. I just make it happen.”

ASSUMPTION CONVENT HENRY SY SR.
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