Washington SyCip died on Saturday, October 7 aboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Vancouver/New York. He was 96 years old.
Washington SyCip, a Philippine national treasure, is the founder of SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co (SGV), an accounting, tax and auditing firm. He also founded Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to mold business leaders.
SyCip was a philanthropist who was devoted to children’s education. He went beyond advocacy by spending energy and money to support more than 200,000 children. He also founded a Zero Dropout Program to give elementary children a chance to acquire basic education. He explained to this writer why some children were failing: Yes, schooling was free but children could not learn on empty stomach!
As his passing went viral, tributes poured from public, private, and civic groups:
“Mr. Washington SyCip was a highly valued adviser to the Board of Directors of BDO Unibank. We will always remember him for his guidance over the years,” said Teresita Sy-Coson of Shoe Mart (SM) Group of companies.
“Mr. Wash SyCip was a true giant in the world of Philippine business. He was a leader, advisor, and guiding force behind many other Filipino businesses and philanthropic organizations. Mr. SyCip was a legendary mentor who inspired us to strive for the highest measure of excellence and integrity in the conduct of our business, and in serving the Filipino public,” PAL of the Lucio Tan Group of Companies said in a statement.
“His passion for excellence and commitment to mold business leaders, combined with his unfaltering generosity, led to the foundation of the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business at AIM. His legacy will live on in the AIM alumni who strive to be ethical and responsible business leaders, and live up to Mr SyCip’s call to lead, inspire, and transform,” Asian Institute of Management (AIM) wrote.
“SyCip was a respected voice in corporate governance and staunch believer in Filipino talent. He gave us all a sense of what Filipinos could be,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
Added former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares, “With his demise, we lost one of the great minds ever produced by the Philippines. The auditing industry has a lot to thank him as he pioneered the growth of the industry not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of Asia. But more importantly, he trained and was a great influence to a lot of the captains of industries.”
“Mr. SyCip was a man who radiated intelligence and inspired respect. He was the Sage of our Age and was a person I greatly admired. I actively sought his counsel and learned from his wisdom,” reflected Senator Grace Poe.
Former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said, “Today we mourn the profound loss of a dear boss, friend, and mentor. I owe much of who I am to the privilege of having been under his wing. Washington SyCip was a towering pillar of the Philippine economy. For decades, he stood as an exemplar of excellence and integrity while shining the light of his sage guidance on our business community.”
David Balangue, former SGV chairman, wrote, “He was a pillar in the local accounting industry. He dedicated his entire life to excellence and was instrumental to improving business and society. We will terribly miss him.”
Benjamin Punongbayan, former SGV senior partner and founder of accounting firm Punongbayan & Araullo, said, “SyCip was unique and one of a kind. He had a very strong passion for utmost excellence, not only for himself but also for the people around him. I learned much from Wash and for which I am truly grateful. He was my mentor and model. I will greatly miss him.”
Roman Felipe Reyes, former senior partner at SVG, and co-founder of Reyes Tacandong & Co, noted, “He is a big loss. He contributed a lot to the accounting industry. His death will create a big vacuum.”
Marivic Espano, managing partner and CEO of P & A Grant Thornton, said, “Mr. SyCip was one of the great pillars of the profession and played a key role in shaping it. He built a strong firm that is acknowledged as a good training ground for CPAs. He is [a] leader who believes in the goodness and talent of Filipinos.”
Business advisory firm Bower Group Asia also tweeted, “RIP Mr. Washington SyCip. This great patriot & leader of the Philippines, we learned so much from him.”
SyCip received numerous prestigious Awards including:
Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding; Dr. Jose Rizal Award for Excellence (Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service); Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander conferred by the Philippine Government; Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Columbia Business School; Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government; The Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany; Officer First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by His Majesty the King of Sweden; Star of the Order of Merit conferred by the Republic of Austria; Accountancy Hall of Fame conferred by Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants; and Management Man of the Year conferred by the Management Association of the Philippines.
While his parents Don Albino and Helen SyCip could afford private schooling, they opted to send their children to public schools to assimilate with local children at Burgos Elementary School and Mapa High School. They also walked to school.
After learning the imprisonment of his father in the Philippines by Japanese forces, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He joined the infantry but was found to have attained the highest IQ level ever recorded in his regiment. He studied Japanese in a language school in Colorado and cryptography in Virginia and was assigned to Intelligence Unit and deployed to Calcutta, British India as a codebreaker.
His father Don Albino SyCip was the first Chinese-speaking lawyer to top the bar exams. He founded China Bank and was acknowledged as the Dean of the Philippine Banking. He lived traditional virtues of frugality, quietness, hard work, patience, and integrity that he imparted to his children. He raised a family of achievers: David graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines and graduated with honors from the Colorado School of Mines. He headed Northern Motors and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation; Alexander headed the U.P. debating team for three years and founded the law firm of SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan; Washington graduated Summa Cum Laude at age 17 from UST and founded SGV and AIM; Elizabeth earned a Math degree magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) and another degree with honors from Columbia University; and Paz, the youngest child, was musically inclined.
Washington SyCip was the last survivor of the five siblings. He is survived by his wife Anna Yu, and his children Victoria, George, and Robert.