TYCOON, PHILANTHROPIST FROM BICOL, TAN YU DIES AT 75
Houston, Texas, March 14, 2002 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - The famous poor boy from Bicol, who overcame incredible odds to reach the zenith of international business success and gave thousands of college scholarships, has passed away.
Philanthropist and real estate entrepreneur Tan Yu died last Tuesday in Houston, Texas due to heart failure. He was 75.
His body will be flown to Manila shortly and his remains will lie at his residence on 16 Guirayan and Palansa streets in Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City. Tan Yu was founder of the KTTI Foundation and Asiaworld Internationale Group.
Tan Yu, during his last quiet birthday celebration two months ago at his home, told The STAR in a two-hour conversation that since poverty deprived him of formal schooling, he did not want to see the countryís poor children suffer due lack of educational opportunities. Because of this, he said, he offered thousands of college scholarships every year before the Asian financial crisis in mid-1997.
He established the Kingpaoguat Typoco Tanyu Internationale (KTTI) Foundation in memory of his late mother. Tan Yu had supported numerous educational, medical, social, cultural, sports and other civic causes. One of his favorite charities was donating public school buildings to the poorest barrios in cooperation with the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerceand Industry Inc. (FFCCCII).
Tan Yu said that one of the best ways to fight social injustice and rural poverty was to upgrade the countryís public school system. He expressed high hopes that President Arroyo and his fellow Bicolano, Education Secretary Raul Roco, would pour the governmentís resources for public schools, especially those in the provinces.
He lived by the ancient Chinese proverb that says it is better to teach a man how to fish than to give him fish.
His multinational business group has diverse real estate, hotel, banking, department store, textile mills and other enterprises in Taiwan, US, Canada, China, the Philippines and other places. Today, his daughter Dr. Emilia "Bien-Bien" Roxas-Yang has already assumed leadership of the Asiaworld Group due to Tan Yuís having set the guidelines for the transition since the 1980s.
Tan Yu once said: "In my childhood, our family environment was not good. We were poor. At an early age, my father passed away. However, God was good to me. As if to compensate for the loss of my father and for our poverty, He gave me a great mother. When I reached the age of 13, I earned a living by becoming a fisherman at the seaside town of Mercedes in Camarines Norte province. I had the opportunity to be by the sea. I love the sea. I look up to the sea, because the sea is vast and wide, mighty and full of spirit. It is this perspective that has influenced my whole life. The sea symbolizes endless opportunities and has given me the strength and the spirit to persevere through lifeís struggles."
Daughter Elena Tanyu-Coyiuto of Asiaworld Philippines said: "Our late father struggled all his life and worked very hard. He used to tell us that he felt like riding the back of a tiger, so even though he had passed on responsibilities to us his children, he never really retired from working everyday. Work was his passion, it was his life. We hope to continue the two legacies of our late father. First, to rebuild the momentum we had lost as a business group during the Asian financial crisis, a situation which had taken its toll on my fatherís health. Our father had always been confident about the future of the Philippine economy, whatever he had earned overseas in business he had brought back to the Philippines in investments. In the same manner, we want to continue to pursue his dreams.
"The second legacy we hope to continue is our fatherís commitment to the society, especially to the less fortunate. He was a self-made man, and it was his lifelong dream to help the Philippines to overcome mass poverty. We his children will devote our lives to continue his legacy of helping others, of serving the community and the society." Public speaker Tan Yu is remembered as a dynamic public speaker, though his public speeches are very rare. On May 23, 1997, the New Jersey Institute of Technology conferred Tan Yu an honorary doctorate of science degree during its 121st commencement ceremony.
Instead of giving a speech, Tan Yu recited his original poem which was applauded 12 times and received a standing ovation from the 20,000 graduates, students and guests, which included New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman.
University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental also conferred on Tan Yu an honorary doctorate degree. In May 1995, Tan Yu delivered an extemporaneous speech before 1,000 government and business leaders at Shangri-La Hotel Makati in his familyís thanksgiving dinner for his successful 1994 kidney transplant operation in Hermann Medical Center in Houston.
Born in the rugged countryside of Fujian province in south China, Tan Yu was a boy when his family migrated to the Philippines. When his father died early, Tan Yu and his brother helped the family survive by peddling foodstuffs on the streets every morning. He grew up in Daet and Mercedes towns in Camarines Norte. Tan Yu also worked as a young fisherman in Mercedes to supplement the family income.
After World War II, his mother sent Tan Yu to work as store clerk in Divisoria near Manilaís Binondo financial district. The youth first made his name as a ping-pong champion in postwar Manila, before starting his first trading and manufacturing businesses in the textile industry.
During the martial law era, Tan Yu stayed away and spent most of his time overseas and built a multinational real estate and financial business group. After the 1986 EDSA revolution, Tan Yu made a dramatic comeback in the Philippines and brought his overseas financial resources for new investments in the Philippines such as the 1988 purchase through public bidding of the 173-hectare Asiaworld Marina reclaimed property fronting Manila Bay.
Through all the socio-political and economic upheavals of the past 20 years the country had endured, Tan Yu had consistently retained confidence in the long-term future of the Philippine economy and of Asia.
Meanwhile, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. mourned the loss the tycoon, whom he described as his "boyhood friend."
"(He was) one of the great Filipino-Chinese business leaders in Asia," De Venecia said, adding that Tan Yu "employed tens of thousands of Filipino workers and university scholars in almost every town in the Philippines."
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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