Father’s Day feature: Tatang cuts father figure to SM employees


MANILA, Philippines – Retail pioneer Henry Sy Sr., fondly called Tatang in business circles, is a hands-on father to his children, balancing work and family.

Today, Father’s Day, marks a special day for his family, the day to pay tribute to his industry and as a loving father, inspiring his six children to work doubly hard in their various strategic positions in the SM Group and using as a model their father’s life story.

His example likewise is the beacon for two SM executives, who rose from the ranks.

Atty. Epitacio “Jun” Borcelis, 63, who has worked for almost four decades with SM in various capacities, has learned this lesson well. Borcelis, the son of a bus driver in Bicol, rose from the ranks, starting as a security officer in 1978 in SM Makati after he earned his degree in Criminology.

In 1979, he was chosen to perform legal secretarial duties by SM’s legal counsel, resulting in his transfer to SM’s head office at Carlos Palanca in Manila.

After doing his day job from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., he would walk to the University of the East College of Law to attend night classes.
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His career with SM took off after he passed the bar in 1985. He later on moved up the ladder assuming various positions in the SM group including house counsel, corporate secretary and eventually senior vice president for legal at SM Investments Corp., the Sy family’s holding company which is a position he holds to this day.

Throughout his career, there was one man he looked up to as a father figure and mentor—Henry Sy Sr., who taught him the value of honesty, hard work and simplicity in both lifestyle and language. Borcelis was also inspired by Sy’s own life story to pursue a dream so it becomes a reality. Borcelis has imparted the same lessons to his four children—Angelo, a graphic artist; Jonah Lynne, who is following his footsteps by taking up law; Jazzel Jane, who has formerly worked in the US and is now working with Conrad Manila after finishing Hotel and Restaurant management and Anjun, who is going to start college. “I believe that a successful family man will see their children finish their chosen careers no matter what these are. That’s the only time you can say you are a successful father,” Borcelis said.

For former banker Ronald Tumao, 57, SM Prime Holdings’ vice president for market research and planning, time with family is very valuable. Tumao heads the department in charge of land acquisitions and development for SM Prime Holdings, SM’s property holding firm, which requires him to take frequent trips away from home.

Despite these challenges, Tumao said he makes best use of his time with his family. Tumao has two children, Aaron, who is in the information technology field and a daughter, Nika, who is a banker based in Singapore.

“People say that what matters more is the quality of time you spend with your family. I think that’s partly correct. You just have to spend time, period. Our kids feel safe and secure by our mere presence even if we are not doing anything together,” Tumao said.

To be able to balance his time with his children, he tries, as much as he can, to wrap up at 6 p.m. to make it in time for dinner. On weekends, he finds happiness in cooking for his family.

Tumao grew up in small apartment in Mendiola, Manila and is the youngest of seven children. What he learned from his own father was to find happiness even in the simplest of things. My parents were pretty cool and from them I learned how to become thrifty and to make the most of what we have. This is why I work so hard because I want to give my children what I never had,” Tumao said.

“I tell my children, that there are phases in life. There are tough times and good times but that they should always try to remain happy. You can find happiness by simply being in the comfort of your own home,” he added.

“I admire what Tatang did. By involving each of his children in the business, he made them his lifetime partners with whom he can always interact and touch base with,” Tumao said.


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