Thank you, Dr. George S. K. Ty

  • November 24, 2018

Against all odds, the founder of the Metrobank Group of Companies agreed to be on the cover of Lifestyle Asia’s Power issue and his feature became an award-winning story written by the then editor in chief, who describes what it took to make it happen

Ten years ago, Dr. George S. K. Ty appeared on the cover of Lifestyle Asia together with his sons Arthur and Alfred. It was the October Power issue and a coup of no mean feat. Dr. Ty had never obliged any other luxury lifestyle magazine a cover feature. Until it actually happened, there was no certainty that it would.

Dr. George S. K. Ty with Anna Sobrepeña (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)
Dr. George S. K. Ty with Anna Sobrepeña (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)

Story Worth Telling

Months before the actual cover shoot, my husband Chito and I had been invited to one of their family gatherings. My husband is part of the Metrobank Group and has responsibility over the Metrobank Foundation, which the Metrobank founder had established to serve as the philanthropic arm of his business conglomerate. Building successful businesses and establishing the Metrobank Foundation were the concrete expressions of the meaningful life Dr. Ty wanted to live.

The Metrobank Foundation was particularly close to his heart, being the platform where he contributed to nation building through programs and projects that enabled and empowered people towards better lives. The Metrobank Foundation intervened in different sectors to address the underserved, as well as nurturing a culture of excellence particularly among educators, law enforcers and soldiers. Dr. Ty believed empowering people consequently contributed to the success of a nation.

For these reasons, it was his story we wanted to tell for the Power edition.

Dr. George S.K. Ty with sons Arthur and Alfred for Lifestyle Asia October 2008 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)
Dr. George S.K. Ty with sons Arthur and Alfred for Lifestyle Asia October 2008 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)

An Unlikely Response

Excerpts from my editor’s note in that issue reads: “Over breakfast not too long ago, George S. K. Ty talked about the challenges of setting up a bank. Dr. Ty spoke about the adherence to core values, which became the culture of a conglomerate beyond the financial sector. The Group Chairman of the Metrobank Group of Companies shared the vision and philosophy that distinguishes his corporate business. The growth of his enterprise also saw increasing contributions to address needs in different sectors of society…Influence is power, and the kind that makes a positive difference is the only one worth wielding.”

Dr. Ty was not one who sought to draw attention to himself. Getting him to accede to a feature was like having God part the waters, which God did. Over that particular lunch years ago, in an act of audacity and mustered courage, I went to him and said I needed his help. From hindsight, despite being an unplanned opening line, the appeal was a masterstroke. It addressed his desire to assist others. He immediately said yes, even before I told him what I wanted. Nervous and excited, I said I needed him to be on my cover. Dr. George S. K. Ty said okay, gave a noiseless laugh and left me stunned. I don’t know if he realized what his acceptance would entail him to do but his word was as good as gold.

Arthur and Alfred were immediately informed that their father had agreed to be on the magazine and that they were to be part of the cover story. Both men had stayed out of the public eye and like their father, preferred not to call attention to themselves. However, good sons that they are, they complied despite major reservations.

Dr. George S.K. Ty for Lifestyle Asia October 2018 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)
Dr. George S.K. Ty for Lifestyle Asia October 2018 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)

The Chinese Connection

On the day of the shoot, Arthur and Alfred arrived at the penthouse of the GT Tower, which was the venue of the shoot. They were both still perplexed over how they had come to be in a situation that was completely alien to them. Mrs. Mary Ty, the wife of the Group Chairman, had been enlisted to make sure that Dr. George Ty would be there at the appointed time and place to be photographed with his sons. I recall her telling me that when she and the Group Chairman were getting into their car, he asked her a few times why he was doing this shoot; she simply said, “It’s for Anna.” He was doing it to help me.

It was intimidating to make him and his sons change into several outfits for the different layouts. They were obviously not used to being styled. Their discomfort in front of the camera was apparent and I was becoming apprehensive that they would run out of patience and we would not get the necessary photographs. Suddenly, Arlu Gomez, the banker turned lens man, who was taking the photographs, addressed them in Chinese. Arlu had studied in Xavier School and picked up the language. It surprised the Group Chairman and he broke into a grin. Then Mrs. Mary said something to them in Mandarin that made them all smile and relax. I didn’t understand anything but Arlu captured the look on their faces and that photograph became the cover of the October 2008 Power Issue.

Arthur, Alfred and George S.K. Ty for Lifestyle Asia October 2018 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)
Arthur, Alfred and George S.K. Ty for Lifestyle Asia October 2018 (Photograph by Arlu Gomez)

The Powerful Photo, The Winning Story

It was late afternoon when the shoot was almost done. Arthur and Alfred were doing another wardrobe change. Dr. George Ty was standing quietly by the window, looking out, seemingly in deep thought. It was a powerful image and I motioned Arlu to snap the moment. It happened quickly because Dr. Ty noticed and moved out of the frame but Arlu had captured what was probably one of the best photos of Dr. George Ty. That photograph became the opening spread for the cover story.

Writing the story was an even greater challenge. Dr. Ty was sparing in his words. However, what he said was highly quotable and rich in substance. It was his actions and his works that spoke most eloquently. When the issue hit the stands, it sold very well. I had been told that magazine covers with men did not do as well as covers with women. The issue sold out in a matter of weeks. A few months later, the International Association of Business Communicators gave an award for the cover story in the writing category.

The recognition was a source of satisfaction but equally a source of gladness was walking into his home one day and finding the cover page framed and displayed by the entrance. I like to think that he was pleased with the outcome of the afternoon cover shoot but it does cross my mind that maybe, he had it put there to make me happy. Dr. George Ty liked to make people happy and that is exactly what he did for me.

Dr. George S. K. Ty passed away on November 23, 2018. He was 86 years old.