The 60th wedding anniversary of the US$4.2-billion man

The singers for Henry Sy's wedding anniversary take a break after the ceremonies. From left: Allan Asor, Arnel Mariano, Allan Puno, Pepe de Leon, Audrey Cabalfin, my wife Em, and me.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

It’s not often that you get to sing for the richest man in the country. And a 60th wedding anniversary is even rarer. That’s why singing for the renewal of vows of this man tops the rarity chart for me.

My wife and I, together with five other members of the music ministry of the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, were lucky in this regard. Henry Sy, according to Forbes magazine, has a net worth of US$4.2 billion. He’s rank 201 among the world’s billionaires. That’s number 201 out of the world’s population of 6.8 billion as of end 2009.

That means he’s at the 99.999997 percentile in terms of economic status. His printing business is definitely doing good… printing money, that is. Lots of it.

And yet, he remains a frugal and humble man. Not much fanfare at the Shrine, which is near the SM Mall of Asia and SMX at the Reclamation Area in Pasay. There were probably less than 200 people in the church. You would think it was just another wedding at the Shrine.

Well, not until you see the two long lines of priests getting ready for the procession. There was Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal B. Rosales, and there was Bishop Teddy Bacani. And there was a long retinue of other bishops and priests, including our rector, Monsignor Bobby Canlas.

Only a few guests attend Henry Sy's renewal of vows at the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Then I saw Philamlife President and CEO Jose Cuisia, Jr., too. There were probably a few other well-known businessmen that I didn’t recognize from the choir loft. As volunteers, we were there to take part in the celebration, to thank the man who built the beautiful Shrine that we loved. Long before SM Mall of Asia and the SMX Convention Center were built, there was the Shrine. For years, it was the only structure in the area.

From nothingness, the Shrine rose and, through the dedication and discipline of Monsignor Bobby, the Shrine community grew. Now, with the SM Mall of Asia nearby, more people hear Mass at the Shrine.

Henry Sy and his family made this possible. And it was just proper to celebrate his renewal of vows to his wife and to the Lord at the Shrine he built. He looked happy, despite having to use the wheelchair and depending on other people. His wife Felicidad beamed with joy beside him.

A well-wisher shakes Mr. Sy's hand after the ceremonies.

It was a joy to watch them together with family and friends to celebrate. It was a joy to sing for them, too. We sang the usual Mass songs. Our fellow volunteer Allan Puno sang a heartfelt “Our Father” by Malotte. My wife and I sang “The Prayer” during the communion.

We never got to talk to Mr. Sy or shake his hand. But I guess we said enough with our singing.

And it’s nice to see a billionaire continue to make our country a better place.

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