Thanks + Giving: Giving is the twin of gratitude

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Thanks + Giving: Giving is the twin of gratitude
Tessie Sy-Coson with Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel ‘Babe’ Romualdez.

Recently, I came across a poster (credit to the owner) that goes, “May our hearts be full of both THANKS and GIVING.”

A Thanksgiving lunch hosted by SM Supermalls president Steven Tan last week, which brought the Mt. Olympus of the SM Group to the Conrad Manila, was a blend of both — gratitude and giving.

Looking very happy and buoyant were Tessie Sy-Coson, Hans Sy and his son Chico, and SM Prime president Jeffrey Lim.  Guests, who partook of crisp golden roast US duck instead of turkey, included publishers, top executives and editors of the country’s leading publications, each of whom, when prompted by Inquirer’s Tessa Prieto-Valdes, answered this question: Who or what are you most grateful for? (Wish I had more space for everyone’s heartfelt answers!)

Tessie was grateful to get everyone together, “without competition,” she quipped.

“I am happy with my life because of my blessings,” she said.

Tessie also told me she is grateful that business at SM Malls are more than brisk, surpassing expectations. “I hope the people will continue shopping because the real test of the economy is in January. People spend in December, but hopefully, the trend continues.”

She also was grateful SM Investments Corp. was recognized in Forbes’ sixth annual “World’s Best Employers.”

“We maintain our employees,” she added. Altogether, they represent a substantial chunk of the country’s workforce.

Hans Sy said he was grateful to his late father, Henry Sy, Sr., for teaching him that, “Whatever you do, you should be able to eat and sleep well.” This has guided him in his endeavors.

Steven Tan recalled that at the start of the lockdown, Hans called him to an emergency meeting. Hans said that it would be SM Malls’ policy not to charge rent to their tenants during the strict lockdown, to enable them to ride out the pandemic. Steven shared that this had a ripple effect. The tenants, most of whom are MSMEs, then channeled their savings to their employees, who were also able to survive the crisis. Enabling their tenants to survive meant that when the lockdown was lifted, they were back in full force.

Star Media Group president and CEO Miguel Belmonte and Inquirer Group president and CEO Sandy Romualdez.

Steven is grateful to his mother and confidante, Juanita.

When Steven  was appointed president of SM Supermalls in January 2020, one of the first persons he shared the good news with was his mother. He was expecting her to shower him with praise. Instead, she warned him of the tough road ahead.

“Now that you have a bigger role to play, you will have more responsibilities. More people will need your help,” Steven quoted his mother as saying.

“Little did I know that very soon, her words would come true,” Steven said.

SM Prime president Jeffrey Lim thanked his grandmother. Raised in Tawi-Tawi, Jeffrey was encouraged by his grandmother to go past their shores and study in Manila. He took up Accounting at the University of the East and eventually became a CPA. And look at him now.


Philippine Ambassador to the US Babe Romualdez, who had just accompanied Vice President Kamala Harris and her entourage to Palawan, said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve his countrymen, and the support he got from friends in Manila when the going was challenging for him in Washington.

Star Media Group president and CEO Miguel Belmonte was very succinct. “I am grateful for my wife (Milette), who loves me.”

Inquirer group president and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez was grateful for the support of her husband Philip as she navigates the challenges of heading a newspaper group.

Tessa, who started the ball rolling by saying she is most thankful for her mother, Marixi, who supported her during the storms of her life, added, “You have to make life happen and not make whatever comes your way change you. If you’re happy with yourself, there’s no need to change…”

Broadcast journalist Karen Davila’s response to the question touched me to the core because I recently travelled with her family and bonded with her son David, who is in the autism spectrum.

“I am grateful for family, of course my husband (DJ Sta. Ana) — but I would like to say I am grateful for my son David. David is in the autism spectrum and he has taught me unconditional love, compassion and kindness. Growing up, David wasn’t responding the way other kids would, so as a parent I learned patience, humility and giving without expecting. Seeing him bloom and grow now — he has made me a more compassionate mother. I wouldn’t be the mom and person I am today if not for David. I thank God for David every day — his pure heart and innocence encourage me to love bigger.”

Indeed, giving is the twin of gratitude.

Steven Tan and Karen Davila.


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