Dr. Julio O. Sy, Sr. Gives Touching Tribute: ‘Papa, Mama: I Finally Have a Degree’
“I have been waiting more than 60 years to say this: ‘Papa, Mama: I finally have a degree from Silliman University. It’s not just any degree… it’s a doctorate degree.’”
This was the moving opening line of the acceptance speech of Dr. Julio O. Sy, Sr. during the conferral on him of a Doctor Humanities, honoris causa, on August 26 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium. It was a heartfelt line that reduced a good number of those in the audience to tears.
Dr. Sy, a well-loved business tycoon and philanthropist, spoke about his experiences as a child who was born without life’s luxuries. He even had to let go of an opportunity to finish college in order for him to help his family out of hard times.
“Truth be told, I never graduated from college. On my second year, my brother Susano and I had to stop schooling due to a financial crisis. My father’s business got burned so we had to drop out of school to help out financially for our family of nine,” he shared.
He described life to be hard. His father, who was a diabetic, was also sickly. “My sole focus then was to give my family a comfortable and a secure future.”
Dr. Sy recalled how tough life was: “As an 11-year-old during the Japanese occupation, we were so poor we could not afford to buy rice. Eating my favorite rice puto meant the world to me. I would wait along the sidewalks for cargo trucks loaded with rice to pass by. Back then rice was packed in jute bags and often grains would fall out from their gaping holes. I would sweep the dirt from the streets and patiently separate the grains to give to mama for her to cook my rice puto.”
All of these experiences, according to Dr. Sy, propelled him to persevere in life. Gifted with the skill in entrepreneurship and business, he was able to slowly lift their family’s business from financial instability due to the values he strongly upholds as an individual with a word of honor. Moreover, he was also able to help more people and contribute to the bigger community.
“Who would have imagined my life would lead me to be in business dealing with food commodities I hungered for as a child: rice, corn, sugar and vegetable oils? No matter what circumstances you are born with, you should never stop dreaming. As I reflect, I am thankful I have achieved something in life. Entrepreneurship has been my calling. I have been blessed to use this talent to contribute to society and nation building,” he said.
As a reflection of the wonderful journey he has been through, Dr. Sy cited three key virtues that have truly become his weapon in his road towards success and excellence in the world of entrepreneurship.
First is integrity. “Integrity is probably the biggest hallmark I have as a person. Success comes and goes; but integrity is forever. It means doing the right thing at all times no matter the circumstances. It means keeping your word and fulfilling your promises,” he explained.
Second, he said, is hard work. “To succeed in life, there are no shortcuts. We must be willing to accept challenges and make extraordinary sacrifices to do great work. My advice is to find your calling in life. It becomes much easier to persevere when you are passionate with your work.”
The third is love and respect for people. “Treat everyone with equal respect no matter what their status in life is. As people have helped me when I had little, I have always tried to help as many as I could without any conditions. They in turn have given back in so many ways: in prayers, in strength….in extending kindness to others,” Dr. Sy shared.
Dr. Sy’s hard work and resourcefulness have been quite evident even at such a young age. Having to be late at school just to help his parents in the morning and seeking for means to earn money are just a few of the desirable traits he has which truly helped him eventually in life.
He said that a lot has definitely changed in this modern world but the values that he hold most dearly and which he has proudly passed on to his children and grandchildren will never change – they will be the key to success.
Earning cheers from the audience, he expressed that above all, “love will always be the greatest gift you can give to anyone. “
Inspired by his message, the audience gave Dr. Sy a standing ovation.
“People often ask me what the best thing is about success. My answer is: it is not the rewards but the journey. Life is not simple; it is a constant struggle, an unending adventure marked by failures and triumphs – all directed by the grace of God,” Dr. Sy said.
Click for photos: Dr. Julio O. Sy, Sr.