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Henry Sy’s granddaughter builds a name for herself

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 08, 2020 5:00 am Updated Mar 18, 2021 10:34 pm

Jan Catherine Sy believes her work at the SM Development Corp. (SMDC), which was founded by her father, Henry Sy Jr., is an expression of her Christian values.

Jan realized that infrastructure was not all there is to community building. There needed to be a catalyst to foster warm, convivial relationships and a supportive atmosphere among the people in the community.

Community building, for her, is encapsulated in The New Testament. “The early believers in Christ formed a community and provided for one another’s needs,” she says.

Along with the SMDC team, she brought the idea to fruition in 2019 through “The Good Guys” program. She was constantly on the lookout for gaps that needed to be filled.

Ultimately, she hit upon an idea that embodied the Christian values embedded in her and which reflected the diverse interests she had developed along the way.

The Good Guys has come up with a program that provides for the safety of SMDC residents. “Protect Our Community” conducts crime awareness and prevention workshops among SMDC communities in partnership with the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine Red Cross. To address the health needs of the community and the vulnerable, a health and wellness program for the elderly, PWDs and the youth is conducted regularly.

SM Development Corp.’s Jan Catherine Sy

Jan Sy was raised to understand that material things weren’t the key to happiness. This was a trait handed down to her by her grandfather Henry Sy Sr., endearingly called Tatang by many, and her dad, Henry Sy Jr., founder of SMDC, the home of “The Good Guys.”

Jan says she was taught early on about frugality and generosity, learning to spend wisely for things that mattered most and sharing life’s blessings with others. She saw how simply her grandparents (her late grandfather Tatang and her still spritely grandmother Felicidad) lived and how her family respected houseguests, making them feel important at all times. This generosity would be reflected in the vision they laid out for Filipinos. On the other hand, her dad’s vision was for every Filipino to have a home that was safe, secure, complete, comfortable and with lots of the outdoors.

A lover of the outdoors, Jan grew up to be a horse-show jumper and a sustainable-living advocate who loves music, camping, surfing, and being among the mountains and by the sea. She found joy in the family’s farm. Imbued with the values she was raised with, Jan blossomed into a sensitive and spiritual individual who wanted to translate her Christian values into service for others.

We are each given unique things in life, whether it be resources, talents and circles of influence. We are called upon to follow Christ and demonstrate His love.

Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business from Westmont College in California, Jan joined SMDC in 2018 as a project director. Her mission: to translate her father’s vision into the design of SMDC’s developments — creating luxurious residences with open spaces that encourage outdoor living and communing with nature, all located in a community that provided convenience and accessibility to transport hubs, banks, retail stores, schools, and offices.

Collaborating with architects and engineers, she is keen on putting her sustainable-living advocacy into action. She wants to create the best living conditions for the residents as possible: “a shelter with natural light, wide open spaces for fresh air, good acoustics, comfortable and cozy spaces imbued with a good sense of aesthetics — in other words, a physical environment that not only appeals to the senses but also promotes a healthy well-being.”

Jan grew up to be a horse-show jumper and a sustainable-living advocate

When the pandemic struck, Jan and The Good Guys community rolled up their sleeves, immersing themselves in the community to improve the plight of residents and service staff. Wanting to do more, beneficiary communities outside of SMDC were added. The Weekend Market helped 26,000 farmers displaced by the pandemic to market their produce in SMDC developments, at the same time providing residents with healthy, farm-fresh produce without the risk of going out of their residences. Personalized shopping services were provided for the elderly and PWD residents who had difficulty accessing medicines and groceries. The health and wellness caravans brought doctors and nurses to the properties to provide non-COVID health services. Meanwhile, the Protect Our Community and health and wellness learning sessions continued uninterruptedly, taking on a virtual form.

Jan also speaks of another personal interest — the youth. “It’s sad to see how suicide has increased in the past couple of years (among the youth). It’s terrible to see that it’s stemming from hopelessness.” The Good Guys has started a mental health online learning session targeting the youth. Jan hopes to be able to initiate a mental wellness hotline to address mental health issues.

Jan takes special note of the importance of youth involvement in community development. “They’re open to things. They just need an avenue. I think it’s more of providing opportunities for them to be able to do things,” she says.

The Good Guys project continues to evolve. The Weekend Market was opened for home-based entrepreneurship as a place for residents to earn extra income. It now has an online training on entrepreneurship and marketing. The Health and Wellness Caravans now include a Bloodletting Program, which gives residents and SMDC staff an opportunity to donate much-needed blood to COVID-19 patients.

She reflects on how her life and work have merged with her Christian values to form something bigger than herself: “We are each given unique things in life, whether it be resources, talents and circles of influence. We are called upon to follow Christ and demonstrate His love. To reflect how Christ loved, and how He was with people,” she says.