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Washington SyCip, bookkeeper, leader

Washington SyCip always described himself as just a bookkeeper. But when he died, he was larger than life, hailed as a legendary leader, business icon, statesman, pillar, and one of the old guards of the country’s economic development.

Indeed, he might as well be the business community’s version of Jedi Master Yoda:  small in body build but wise and powerful.

SyCip died on Saturday on a Philippine Airlines flight to New York at the age of 96, leaving members of the business community, diplomatic corps, and government and social circles deeply saddened.

The world-renowned accountant, philanthropist, diplomat, mentor, and adviser to generations of businessmen, tycoons and the country’s top executives was brought to the Richmond General Hospital in Vancouver where the coroner confirmed his death at 12:30 p.m., Oct. 7 (3:30 a.m., Oct. 8, Philippine time).

He was on board PR 126, the flight from Manila to New York via Vancouver. He died quietly on the plane but he was brought to the hospital in Vancouver where he was legally confirmed dead.

SyCip was the founder of the accounting giant SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. as well as the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). He also served as an honorary consul general of Austria.

Philippine STAR and Starweek editor Doreen Yu, SyCip’s cousin-in-law, said he was an American citizen but he always stood up and fought for the Philippines.

“He always stood up for the Philippines. He stood against the Chinese,” Yu said.

Yu also said SyCip was known all over the world because he sat on the boards of many global corporations and foundations.

“Uncle Wash, he was short, just around five feet but he was a towering figure,” Yu said.

SyCip was a 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Asia’s version of the Nobel prize, “for fostering economic growth and mutual understanding in Asia through professionalism, public-spirited enterprise, and his own esteemed example.”

The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation hailed SyCip as “one of the most revered and beloved industrialists in the Philippines and in Asia.”

He was also honored with the Edmonds Award for International Understanding by the New York-based International House, a non-profit residence and program center for graduate students from all over the world.

The government of Japan also conferred on him The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star for his contribution in promoting stronger business relations between the Philippines and Japan, the country’s envoy to Washington, Ambassador Jose “Babe” Romualdez said in a recent article.

SyCip also joined the ranks of iconic Bench models, agreeing to appear on a Bench billboard in 2015 on the condition that the fee would be used to advance his advocacy of promoting education.

Highly respected by members of the business community, SyCip’s presence in companies is regarded as a seal of good housekeeping.

Even Malacañang and politicians mourned the passing of SyCip.

“On behalf of the Filipino nation, we condole with the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Washington SyCip. He was a respected voice in corporate governance and staunch believer in Filipino talent…He is already missed,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Details of his wake were not yet available as of this writing.

  1. Gonzales with A. Romero, P. Romero, R. Santos. PS