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What I learned from Tatang: Employees and colleagues share stories about SM’s Henry Sy, Sr.

TARLAKENYO (Oct. 17, 2023) — When the Mall of Asia opened in 2006, Henry Sy, Sr. was walking around the SM Store alongside Ma. Cecilia Abreu, who was then Assistant Vice President for Store Operations.

As is usually the case with Mr. Sy, he dropped by the Shoe section, checked the shoes and sandals, and then asked a few questions to the sales clerks. Holding one sandal, he asked Abreu a question that stayed with her: “Can our customers still afford to buy our sandals at this price?”

That consistency in understanding the market has stayed with SM through the years. Providing customers with affordable and quality items goes way back to Tatang – the name Mr. Sy, Sr. was fondly called by those whose lives he touched.

HONORING COMMITMENTS, RESPECTING HARD WORK

Once an SM Makati Branch Manager, Chelo Monasterio said, “Tatang feels that SM is for everyone. That’s why di ba kahit pag typhoon, we will open. It was because, for Mr. Sy, we are a shelter for people.”

Monasterio joined SM 41 years ago, back when there were only three stores: Quiapo, Cubao, and Ermita. Climbing the ladder from HR manager, SM Makati Branch Manager to becoming SM Store President, and now a Consultant for SM Retail, Monasterio shared with pride, “We were trained by Tatang. He molded us to be what we are. He listened to what people had to say.”

BELIEVING IN YOUR VISION AND YOUR PEOPLE

In 1978, Rose Siaco was a practicing Medical Technologist who dared to try something outside of her comfort zone. She started her journey as Shoemart Inc.’s Supplies Officer that year. This is where her organizational skills and attention to detail would come in handy.

Seeing that Siaco thrives on challenges, she was given the task by Mr. Sy of becoming an acting warehouse manager. “I told him that it’s a man’s world, but he told me to train as a warehouse manager. He said to me, ‘I need your talent. I don’t need your physical strength. That would be too taxing for you,’” Siaco shared.

Other than thriving on new challenges, Siaco shared the reason why she stayed with SM for 45 years: “Kaya rin ako nagtagal, I don’t feel that they are other people. They treat their employees like family.”

STORIES SHARED, VISION REALIZED

Abreu shared another anecdote. “Supermarket. After his usual ‘rounds,’ Tatang bade farewell to everyone. He got into his car but before the car even left, Mr. Sy got out of the car. Everyone was still outside, waving and thanking him for the visit. Mr. Sy said in a clear voice ‘I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work.’”

Sharing his vision, telling stories, and words of gratitude are the ways in which Henry Tatang Sy, Sr. showed he cared. Now, his employees and colleagues from the small stores of Quiapo and Makati continue to tell his stories and help the company realize his vision.

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