This is the eulogy delivered by Aniceto “Chito” M. Sobrepena, president of Metrobank Foundation and executive vice president of Metrobank, at the memorial services for George S.K. Ty, founder and group chairman of the Metrobank Group of Companies, at the Heritage Memorial Park, November 25, 2018
More than 23 years ago, I sat down with a man who had a vision. He shared ideas of what the future could look like, imagining a society where people were enabled to pursue noble dreams and aspirations. We toasted over tea, and I came onboard in a position that gave me a vantage view of how a visionary realizes a better world, one project after another.
I joined Metrobank and was put in charge of the Metrobank Foundation. Steered by the vision of Dr. George S. K. Ty, the Metrobank Foundation has, for the last four decades, implemented programs that aimed to empower citizens to lead dignified and productive lives. Dr. Ty believed that the success of a nation begins at this most basic level with every person. He established Metrobank Foundation in 1979, 16 years after opening the doors of the very first Metrobank office in Binondo. He was 29 years old in 1963, a man who spoke little English, had no background in banking and no backer nor patron to help him. But the son of Norberto and Tytana Ty was
determined to join the financial industry.
A Persistent Man
He had sat outside the office of the Central Bank governor, going back every day for almost five years, waiting to see the man whose approval was needed to get a banking license.
When then Central Bank Governor Andres Castillo finally met with the young George Ty, he heard an unusual business philosophy. George Ty said he wanted to open a bank that would do more than make money. He wanted to establish a bank that would give money to help businessmen and the community. George Ty got the approval.
The Metrobank built a reputation of being conservative, reasonable and intent on doing things properly. He repeatedly said that in the business of banking, it is not only important to make money. “We have to be worthy of the people’s trust,” he emphasized. “If a bank is put up just to make money, it will not be successful…I did not go into banking to keep all the money of other people for myself…The Bank is there to do good, to help other people, to help the country. I never forgot that people trusted me with their money. As a banker, I take care of
other people’s money.” Banking, in George Ty’s book, was not merely the business of money, but he regarded it as the business of trust.
Dr. Ty had said that the most important task he had personally set for himself was to share the fruits of his companies’ successes. Building successful businesses and establishing the Metrobank Foundation have been the concrete expression of the meaningful life he wanted to live.
The Metrobank Foundation is the primary platform for the corporate social responsibility initiatives of the Metrobank Group of Companies. In his own words, Dr. Ty said, “The Metrobank Foundation is an important expression of Metrobank’s concern for the community, as well as for doing more for the Filipino people. The Foundation’s charities and public services are also a reminder that our hard work, thriftiness and discipline, in order to make money, are ultimately not for some wasteful spending or scandalous consumption, but are to be shared with others and the whole community.”
From the very beginning, the Foundation was given the wherewithal to carry out Metrobank’s commitment to nation building, intervening in different sectors to address the underserved, as well as cultivating a culture of excellence among our countrymen. This was done by recognizing outstanding Filipinos, encouraging a deeper engagement with their communities and the nation-at-large, and by nurturing a growing network of exemplary individuals and organizations to make a lasting impact on society.
Dr. Ty conceived an art competition in 1984 to create a venue for the nation to discover their voice at a time of economic crisis and socio-political unrest. There were uncertainties that heightened a search for meaning and hope. While many took their struggles to the streets, Dr. Ty thought of an alternate, cthoughts and feelings, which had otherwise been cowered into silence or were yet undiscovered. The Metrobank Art and Design Excellence or MADE became an arena to challenge assumptions and reframe perspectives on prevailing realities of that time.
More than a competition that discovers artistic talent, MADE facilitates a generation of fresh ideas for social development. Art was a catalyst to discover answers or ways to address situations and circumstance facing us individually and as a people.
Dr. Ty’s desire to honor and encourage outstanding public servants gave rise to recognition programs for teachers, soldiers and policemen. Nationwide searches sought out educators who instilled a love of learning and discovery among our youth, held up those in uniform whose valor and sacrifice contributed to public and national safety and showed fine examples of ordinary lives going beyond their reach to show the innate goodness of our people, as well as our potential for greatness. George Ty believed in the Filipino’s capacity for good and for greatness.
Through all the years I worked with Dr. Ty, it was not unusual for him to call me to his office and tell me to allocate resources to assist survivors affected by disasters. The Foundation, through the Grants and Calamity Assistance Programs, contributed to the rebuilding of lives and communities, not just through monetary and material donations but through significant partnerships for sustainable development.
Another matter close to his heart was providing affordable, quality healthcare for the well-being of our citizenry. Through the Manila Doctors Hospital, which is majority-owned by the Metrobank Foundation, he realized his goal to help the less fortunate access world class medical facilities, quality treatment and care. The earnings of the hospital make it possible to subsidize health care programs for the indigent.
Even closer to our founder’s heart is education, which he believes is a significant key to future possibilities. As Chairman of the Foundation, he developed on a prime property along Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard the new campus for the College of Nursing of the Manila Tytana Colleges, one of leading nursing schools in the country. Besides scholarships and education assistance, the foundation has developed a multi-pronged approach to education development through teacher- centered advocacy to a multi sectoral partnership honoring teachers on a nationwide scale.
Heroes of Philanthropy
While Dr. Ty appreciated the many accolades and recognitions for his successful enterprises, it was the distinction of being named one of Fortune magazine’s Heroes of Philanthropy that meant more to him. When he was named one of the wealthiest men in the Philippines, he said, “We can spend more money now and do more for the community.” Sharing energized him.
His inspired leadership was born of a generous heart. He was not indulgent but focused and definitive about how he wanted to help others. He liked to help others but he did it responsibly, so that the assistance was enabling and empowering.
Morning Tea with Mr. Ty
Over the years, we developed a routine that was like a morning ritual. He would call for me around 8 o’clock in the morning, and I would be at his office as the first order of the day. He would order Chinese tea for the two of us, and ask me about my wife, the country, and what I thought about certain issues.
He pretty much knew about the affairs of the nation because he read the morning papers before going to work, but would nevertheless listen to my thoughts. I appreciated the personal interest he took in my family. He himself held his family as important, even if in the early years of his professional growth, business took most of his time. When he had begun to leave the affairs of running his companies to his sons Arthur and Alfred, he would talk to me about them with a clear appreciation of their abilities. He was pleased with his children and the fine persons they had become.
Our morning teatime usually covered our Metrobank Foundation projects or the morning headlines; but sometimes,
it was just light conversation. Dr. Ty could joke, too, and while I cannot recall specifics, I remember him laughing and his laughter is a good memory.
Sometimes, he would call me in the middle of the day to share a piece of candy or sweets that he liked from his recent trip abroad. He would tell me how to eat it, and to savor the flavor
instead of biting into it.
When he turned 80, he told me that we had still so much to do. He wanted to build a new tower for Manila Doctors Hospital (which he did), explore putting up a nursing school in Fujian Province through the Manila Tytana Colleges, mount an exhibit in the Metrobank branch in Xiamen, and many others. I found it paradoxical that Dr. George Ty kept telling me to slow down, that we were both getting on in years, yet he himself remained charged and unrelenting in the pursuit of his many plans. He talked about projects he still wanted to do and the work we would do together on those initiatives. Even when his body was weakening, his mind remained sharp and he was bent on pushing forward his plans.
Even as his health deteriorated early this year, it did not keep him from coming to the office for our morning tea. Those visits eventually became irregular, depending on how his physical condition was that day. There were times he would call for me and I would go and see him at his residence. When I told him that I missed our tea ritual, he replied without skipping a beat, “We will do it again.”
Dr. Ty was more than a boss in many ways. When he jested about my weight, I took it as his concern for me. In front of everybody, over the dinner table, he would watch my food intake and jokingly threatened to tell my wife Anna if I overate.
He was a man who followed a set schedule that included swimming for exercise, which he encouraged me to do. He
attended dinners and functions to fulfill social obligations but would leave early so he could be in bed by a certain hour. So he truly honored me on the occasion of one of my birthday celebrations, when he stayed way past his bedtime to finish the evening’s program to the end.
He extended the same generosity and kindness to my wife by attending a milestone event she had organized, surprising and delighting us all. I remember that it was a stormy night but he showed up with Mrs. Mary Ty and some of his children. Because of the rains, there was a bit of flooding and his shoes got wet and everyone was mortified, but he just laughed and dismissed our fussing over it.
He has done things that surprised me. Once I was with him in an event and he introduced me as his friend. I was honored and overwhelmed.
When Anna and I renewed our wedding vows on our 30th anniversary, one of our original godparents failed to show
up. There and then, at the Manila Cathedral, we turned to him and asked him to stand as proxy. He agreed immediately, which further impressed on us his humility and kindness.
I am so grateful to this man who has become not just part of my life, but my family’s as well. He invited my children to be scholars in his family’s foundation honoring his parents, the Norberto and Tytana Ty Foundation. For as long as they made the grade, our sons and daughter received education assistance for their schooling. He may have been sparing in his words and the occasions for interacting with the children limited, but he
made them feel like they were part of his family. He made us all feel we were part of his family. And it is our sadness that his presence is now removed from us. But we are grateful to have had him in our lives.
I lift my tea cup to you, Mr. Group Chairman. Thank you for sharing your visions and enlisting me to work with you for the realization of your goals. Thank you for being a principled leader who has established integrity, hard work and corporate social responsibility as the core values of the Metrobank Group. Thank you, in behalf of all those you have helped, enabled and empowered towards better lives. Teachers, soldiers, police officers, artists, scholars, the marginalized and calamity victims. Thank you for the concern and the friendship you have given to me and my family all these 23 years. We are deeply grateful and we miss you already.
Good night, Group Chairman Ty. I will see you in the morning.