A SELF-MADE TAIPAN IN THE GOLDEN ERA OF PHILIPPINE BUSINESS

By House Speaker GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO

To Mrs.Mary Ty, the other members of the Ty family and the Metrobank group, my family and I convey our condolences for your great loss.

Metrobank had a special place in the heart of our father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, for it was during his Presidency that the 29-year-old George Ty established Metrobank.

Legend has it that George Ty was a mere teenager when he endeavored to put up his first business in the Philippines, a flour mill.  Legend has it, too, that he could not find any financial institution to back him, because as a newcomer and outsider in Manila, he did not have the credentials or local track record that the banks demanded. But still he persevered and prevailed, and legend has it that it was his experience of difficulty in getting banks to finance his early entrepreneurial efforts, that inspired him, 10 years later, to establish his own bank.

The story of the young George Ty is the pioneering story of perhaps the golden age of Philippine business, the1960s, when our economy was second only to Japan in the region. That golden age marked the passing of the torch from the old Philippine business establishment that dated back to the “pre-war” era onto a new generation of young entrepreneurs of the post-war era, such as George Ty. The new business generation shared many things in common – they were young and dynamic; often,they came from immigrant roots; often, they were self-made; always, they had sharp entrepreneurial vision; and always, they had the talent and the work ethic to implement what they envisioned. And among the most spectacular in that group was the very young George Ty.

Dr. Ty also had an eye for spotting good real estate. In the period when Makati was developing into the country’s Wall Street, Metrobank’s original building along Ayala Avenue became a familiar landmark which marked the boundary of Makati’s dynamic central business district. 

By the 1990s, the best and the brightest of the post war entrepreneurs would be acknowledged with the title“Taipan.”  Today’s young Filipinos know The Taipan George Ty as one of the Top 10 most successful Filipino tycoons in the Forbes magazine ranking.

The older generation knows this,too, but in addition, witnessed Dr. Ty’s entire spectacular journey from virtually out of nowhere, to become one of the most successful businessmen in Philippine history.  We know that he did it by virtue of merit, hard work, and skill. 

Today, the Metrobank Group remains at the very top tier of the Philippine banking industry.  Its activities and links stretch from as far to our east as New York, as far to our west as Madrid, as far to our north as Shanghai,and as far to our south as Australia and New Zealand.

Just as my father was part of the story of Metrobank, I like to think that I was part of the story of Metrobank Shanghai.

As Vice President, I was on official visit to China when Dr. Ty visited me at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing to remind me to push for a Philippine bank in China. So in my courtesy call to President Ziang Zemin, I proposed that the Chinese government should give a license to a Philippine bank to operate in China. 

President Ziang replied, “That’s not a bad idea.” Later in the day, Premier Zhu informed me that my request was approved. A year later, when I was already President, we inaugurated Metrobank Shanghai. 

Indeed, the fruits of Dr. Ty’s entrepreneurship now touch the day-to-day lives of countless Filipinos, whether it is when they cash a Metrobank check or grab a ride in a Toyota car or takeout an Axa insurance policy or enjoy a meal at the Grand Hyatt.

That in a word, is Dr. George S. K. Ty, businessman and entrepreneur?

About 15 years after he founded Metrobank, to his qualities of merit, hard work, and skill, we discovered another facet – his compassion for, and his desire for the upliftment of the Filipino people.

In 1979 he established the Metrobank Foundation, and in 2009, the GT Foundation.  These have grown to become among the effective foundations in the Philippines. Aside from their size and scope, it is a tribute to Dr. Ty’s personal charisma and reputation, that he was successful in soliciting the participation of such icons as President Cory Aquino and Washington SyCip. It was also an honor for our family that Dr. Ty invited our father, then retired from the Presidency, to join the board of advisers of Metrobank Foundation.

Dr. Ty’s foundations are involved in charity, grants and donations, as well as relief work and fields of social and cultural endeavor.  But two facets of his foundations reveal much about his distinct humanitarian and civic philosophy.

One is his“Outstanding Filipinos”awards. They reflect his keen appreciation of the need to strengthen institutions that underpin our nation’s development.  They encourage excellence for teachers,soldiers, and the police.

They speak to the “universal values that Filipinos are defined by” – patriotism, integrity, courage, and social responsibility. As Vice President, President, and now Speaker, I have had the honor of hosting the Metrobank awardees in the Vice President’s office,in Malacañan, and in the halls of Congress.

The second facet reflects a realization that a strong country is better served by a strong spiritual character.  Thus, Dr. Ty’s foundations have consistently worked hand-in-hand with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, particularly with Caritas.

I have talked of Dr. Ty as businessman, and as philanthropist.   Let me now talk about him as a person.

 His great achievements in business and philanthropy certainly entitled him to be arrogant, if he wished to be so.  But he was never arrogant.  Instead, he was gracious and humble.  These are traits of a highly accomplished man possessed of the self confidence of what he has achieved, yet down-to-earth enough never to forget where he started, and never to forget the hard work that he put in to achieve his success.

Before I left the Presidency, in2010 I conferred upon him the Order of Lakandula, because his life is worthy of emulation. Last year, many of us were with him when he was conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by the Japanese government. 

Legend has it that Dr. Ty likened his spirit of entrepreneurship to that of an ant moving a mountain.  What a wondrous mountain he not only moved,but created and made grow. 

Philippine history will remember Dr. George Ty as one of the handful of self-made Taipans who, in the golden era of Philippine business, ushered in a new, modern, and globally competitive way of doing business in the Philippines.

In doing so, they paved the way and showed the example for the next generation of Taipans who will take the Philippines to our next level of development. 

Within the Metrobank Group, this process is well on its way, with the future now in the capable hands of Arthur Ty and my godson Alfred Ty and their team. From all indications, Dr. Ty prepared them well, and there is every reason to expect that they will take the Group to ever-greater success both in business and philanthropy.

Dr. Ty was a pioneer, entrepreneur,philanthropist, tycoon, taipan, legend, and yet as a person, gracious and humble.  Truly, a rare combination.  It may be some time before we see his like again. Mr. Chairman, Dr. George Ty, you have touched the life of the country, and the lives of the people. I am sure you are already in God’s bosom. You’re in good hands. Rest in peace and thank you.

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