88 Years

The news on Michael Jackson’s death saddened many of us, as we grew up listening to his music. For us who have approached our 50s and for those who are soon to approach it, his death also brings about the reality and one of our greatest fears in our life of mortality.

In one of my columns this year entitled “Gone So Soon”, I wrote about a good friend, Franco Delgado, who passed away so suddenly. He was a man full of zest for life. We even thought he had nine lives. My father-in-law, Jose Orosa, also passed away. In fact, in both wakes, we had a video prepared. The theme song used was “Gone Too Soon”.

Michael Jackson dedicated this song for a young AIDS victim who was dying, not knowing that this composition would also be a song for him. While many of us feel bad for his sudden death, we are reminded of our mortality.

I attended the birthday of Wash Sycip who just turned 88 years old. Wash is the founder of Sycip, Gorres and Velayo (SGV) auditing firms. My family and I have known him for many generations, as our external auditor and a good friend. Clearly, God has blessed this man with a gift of mentoring families and institutions. As he humbly calls himself a bookkeeper, many refer to him as the “Jedi Master”.

While many of us negosyantes are busy trying to earn more and create more wealth, we all need time to take a pause in our lives. There are times when the special attention given to us tends to cloud us of our real purpose in life. We all need to take a pause. We can go on retreats or vacations to pull ourselves out and to think of our true purpose in life. Our summer breaks with my kids always give me time to think of what is important in life.

At one point in Wash’s speech, he mentioned that he started to see the value and enjoyment in music and that he started to see the real colors of this world, as he spent time overseas with friends. We will see the real colors of this world when we pull out ourselves once in a while from the very busy life we have. Trips with the family are healthy. Some families would feel that vacations are a no-no and that work is a must. However, we all need to have a balance. Wash has accomplished 88 years. It is definitely something to beat. It is an achievement, but it is not just all about merely living for 88 years and letting time pass by. It is about finding your purpose in life, fulfilling it to the best you can, and making a difference for the betterment of this country. More than 500 family and friends attended his birthday (who are all quite successful entrepreneurs), which proves that he has touched our lives in many ways.

When we create wealth, it is also important that we try to create wealth for others. Wash was gifted with 88 Gawad Kalinga homes by SGV that will be donated, under his name, to families in Caloocan. Tony Meloto of GK, who I have known and drawn inspiration from, has paved the way and means on how Filipinos here and abroad, who have created wealth, can also start create “wealth” for other less fortunate Filipinos. In a small way, I also hope to see myself helping this country move forward with the GoNegosyo advocacy. These are big steps to follow, but people like Wash serve as inspiration to all of us, who are trying to make this country a better place. Rather than complaining about this government, we need to help each other on how we can share our time, talent and treasures to empower our kababayans.

Life is short. It would be great if we can all live up to the age of 88 or above. Wash, who inherited great genes, would not last a long life if he did not have the optimism and passion that are very important in life to be enterprising. GoNegosyo may not be able to make every Filipino as entrepreneurs, but we can surely make every Filipino as enterprising individuals.

Eighty-eight is a lucky number. But, luck is also created with hard work, passion and optimism. Let us all take inspiration from this man who has found his purpose in life and fulfilled it. To Wash Sycip: Happy Birthday!

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Today, another batch of RFM Foundation’s THE OUTSTANDING STUDENTS OF THE PHILIPPINES (TOSP) is presented in Malacañang. Our annual search have been recognizing the greatest proof that this nation, without a doubt, has hope to rise from all the struggles and challenges that we are going through.

The stories of the 33 finalists set examples for the youth. In fact, one of them went through great sacrifices to put himself through school. Marvin Flores went through most of his student life with very limited resources – no electricity and no comfort room in their small house. He even remembers studying outside their house under a street light. Sometimes, the only source of light when he studies is a small kerosene lamp, which his little brother sometimes accidentally breaks because they are all crammed up in one bed with their parents. Marvin was a consistent scholar. His recognitions put him through school and he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS Physics degree from Siliman University. His future plans: to finish a Doctorate, provide a better life for his family, and help improve the standard of living in his community.

Another remarkable example is the story of Anne Crusit. With her very supportive family, she has also put herself through school despite poverty. She is a hardworking daughter, who is very proud of her family, especially her carpenter father. With values that are deeply-rooted from her family values, these are her words: “Kahit mahirap, may dapat tayong gawin para sa bayan. Try to be that someone who will be of service and who will be of help to other people.” Anne graduated with a BS Education degree in Physical Science from the University of Bohol.

With a hard life in Negros, Carlos Gerogalin also has a story to tell. He started working in a sugarcane plantation at a young age, helping his mother as a Sakada (hired laborers who harvest the sugarcanes). His father also died at an early age, leaving his mother as a single parent with a whole family to feed and put through school. With the same formula as Marvin’s and Anne’s, Carlos aimed high and hit his target as hard as he can. A graduate of a BS Education degree in Math, he continues to work for a better future for his family and his community.

Marvin, Anne and Carlos, along with all TOSP in the country, prove that nothing is impossible with a determined heart, an enterprising nature, and a positive mindset. Along with TOSP, these are the values that Go Negosyo is pushing for: nothing is more powerful and important than the optimism and hard work that a Filipino bears.