Ilonggos owe Henry Sy Sr a debt of gratitude

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — William Arthur Ward

NEW YORK CITY — I can’t wait to see Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and the members of the Iloilo City Council in the Philippines honor the late SM Supermalls godfather, Henry Sy Sr, for his big contribution in the metropolis’ economic growth and expansion for over 40 years now.

Ditto for the Iloilo Business Club (IBC).

Ilonggos owe Mr. Sy a debt of gratitude for choosing Iloilo City where to build the first branch of SM Department Store outside Metro Manila in 1979.

The Iloilo City branch was the 4th SM Department Store built by Mr. Sy.

Even as a not-so-expansive department store in the early 1980s, SM Delgado infused tremendous economic gains for Iloilo City in terms of taxes generated for the city government and employment opportunities for the Ilonggos.

SM Delgado’s arrival created a big stir in the Ilonggos’ malling life, and a paradigm shift in the local consumers attitude.

Weeks before the SM Shoe Mart Delgado opened on May 15, 1979, I used to peek inside the glass from outside and saw a lot of shoes being displayed.

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We were told it would be the biggest “shoes mall” to open in Iloilo City, which did not have a big department store at that time other than the chain of traditional wholesale and retail stores in the Calle Real.

When SM Supermarket was conceptualized, SM Prime Holdings opened its store at SM Delgado in 1985 and relaunched the mall in 2004.

It sparked further economic growth for Iloilo City.

SM Delgado was originally known as SM Iloilo prior to the opening of SM City Iloilo on June 11, 1999.

For his 8th of the 72 chain of SM Supermalls built across the Philippines , Mr. Sy picked Iloilo City anew.

The four-level complex, featuring eight cinemas, food hall, food court and a cyberzone with a total retail floor area of 181,657 sq.m., was built and officially opened on June 11, 1999 in Mandurriao district, Iloilo City.

The presence of this mammoth mall, one of the biggest in the entire Philippines, had a domino effect: it further helped skyrocket Iloilo City’s economic development and spur investment opportunities in other areas of business.

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Mr. Sy, who died on Saturday morning, January 19, at 94, was a frequent Iloilo City visitor.

During the inauguration of SM City in 1999, I saw Mr. Sy, moving in a wheelchair, throw coins in the crowd.

I helped myself pick up some coins on the floor together with other guests.

When the Mall of Asia, currently the fourth largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the 13th in the world, opened in Pasay City on May 21, 2006, I was one of the lucky editors officially invited and flown to the event by SM management along with a few selected public officials and business leaders from Iloilo City.

I again saw Mr. Sy throw the coins together with his children and associates.  

When Forbes released a list in March 2018, Sy led Filipinos on the World’s Billionaires List 2018.

He has been the richest Filipino since 2005 with a net worth of $19 billion, it was reported.

For his gargantuan contribution in the economic life in Iloilo City in particular, and in the entire Western Visayas in general, we salute the Mall King of Asia. Rest in peace.