It must have warmed the cockles of many people’s hearts when lifestyle and business columns picked up on the presence of Mr. Washington Sycip in the June 6 concert of Taylor Swift, a wildly popular young musical artist. Why the buzz? Mr. Sycip is the highly esteemed accounting guru and founder of SGV & Co., and is one of the most visible and talked about nonagenarians in the country today. His June 6 outing with some business associates was reportedly part of his market research to understand why young people behave the way they do over foreign performers.
Mr. Sycip, long retired from the company he founded in 1946 when he was only 25, has not really retired from the business of learning.
At 92, he once agreed to be part of a fashion show for a cause, along with ambassadors and their spouses. Wearing a pink barong Tagalog, he gamely did the catwalk—his first time to do so.
Noting the dizzying pace at the backstage—with the models getting prepped before they walked on the ramp—he quipped: “I learn something new every day.”
A section in his biography, Wash: Only a Bookkeeper by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., provides further insight:
Wash takes an active interest in his grandchildren, who call him Angkong, Chinese for grandfather. “I learn a lot from these young people. My associations and everything are with the older generation. When you talk to these young people, it’s good to get their viewpoint, to see what is happening in the world. Otherwise I would lose touch. And if I were to advise companies I have to know what the young are thinking of.”
He credits a granddaughter for introducing him to the iPod. He has kept one in his office for several years now, still loaded with his favorite music ranging from Rachmaninoff pieces to Barbra Streisand songs.
An avid supporter of the arts, the business icon is not beyond taking his associates and friends after a business dinner to Club Mwah, a Folies Bergere-type of entertainment performed by mainly gay dancers—whether at the tony Resorts World or at the club’s original venue in Mandaluyong City. During a performance two years ago, he was called onstage where he claimed, “I’m 91 and still surviving because of Club Mwah.”
In one SGV Homecoming event that I attended, former SGV employees and guests admiringly watched him dance as violinist Jay Cayuca played one of his favorite tunes. And if you’re wont to dismiss the Mr. Pogi pose as juvenile stuff—think again. Mr. Sycip has pulled off that one, too!
My main takeaway from all this is best expressed by the industrialist Henry Ford: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Mr. Sycip, who sits on the advisory boards of many large companies and is rightfully regarded as ‘the man to see’ in Asia, is celebrating his 93rd birthday tomorrow, June 30.
May there be more healthy years added to his life and more wonderful life to all his years!
[This blogger worked with SGV & Co. for several years, starting as Administrative Assistant with the Computer Audit Group. She was part of the pioneering team of the Institute of Advanced Computer Technology (I/ACT), the computer school put up by the firm. She went on to become Marketing Manager of the school years later. She left the firm in 1993.]