Legendary accountant and philanthropist Washington SyCip passed away while on an overseas flight last October 7, shocking friends and admirers in spite of his age (he was 96). People still mourn him as you read this. When you’ve lived a noble life, tall tales about you will continue to be transmitted from person to person long after you’re gone.
And so it came to pass that four days after the death of SGV & Co.’s beloved founder, I had lunch with former Lexus Manila president Danny Isla. During this meeting, I noticed his wristwatch and asked to inspect it. The executive told me the timepiece had been given to him by SyCip during a photo shoot for a Lexus print ad.
You see, SyCip was a loyal Lexus LS owner. He was such a fan of the full-size luxury sedan that he would recommend it to anyone looking for a limousine. He also didn’t mind mentioning the brand in press interviews. Because of his affinity for the car, Isla asked him to participate in a simple advertising campaign for the brand. SyCip agreed.
The ad, which appeared in newspapers in July 2012, only showed SyCip and a nugget of his wisdom. “Never give up,” the copy said. “Always make things better. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Strive for excellence. Always pursue perfection. And you, too, will find success.”
I suppose this print ad was extremely effective because they made a second one in June 2016. This time, SyCip came over to the Lexus Manila showroom to be photographed by Isla’s son, Leon. The copy read: “My greatest satisfaction comes from honing hard workers. Motivating. Inspiring. Rewarding. Because when ambition is fueled correctly, it drives us further.”
Now, here’s a noteworthy story behind these endorsements. When Lexus offered SyCip compensation—P500,000, to be exact—for the first print ad, the latter refused. The carmaker insisted, even giving its customer-cum-ambassador the option to avail of the amount in the form of repair or maintenance service.
“If you insist,” SyCip told Lexus Manila, “please donate the money to any education-related charity.”
Isla recounted over our lunch that the money was, in fact, given to two public schools.
What about the fee—also P500,000—for the second print ad?
Isla couldn’t remember so he had somebody call SyCip’s secretary, who then said that the money had been turned over to a social development foundation that was working to help eradicate poverty in the country.
Like I said, if you’re a good man, acclaim will follow you to the grave.
Washington SyCip didn’t make money out of his endorsement. If he gave you his thumbs-up, it was because he truly believed in you, not because you paid him. But more importantly, this great man always looked after the plight of the less fortunate.