In 1934, while the Philippines was still ruled by the United States’ Commonwealth government, ten centavos looked like this. It was also the sum with which Henry Sy, known as Tatang, a little kid of twelve, arrived in Manila.

According to Eduardo V. Francisco, President of BDO Capital & Investment Corporation, “it would be worth roughly PHP 120” in today’s currency.

This sum is still insufficient for a youngster living in the city. However, for Tatang, it was enough to get him started—not on the road to entrepreneurship, but on the road to imagining a better future.

“Even at such a young age, Mr. Sy had the gift of vision, of seeing the far larger picture. He would develop a clearer picture of its realization as time went on. Mr. Francisco remarked, “The success of his investment, which became SM, is proof of that.”

Tatang once observed, “I knew I had the desire and determination to make something of myself from the very beginning.”

Tatang learned the significance of money from an early age while working alongside his father in the sari-sari store they had in Quiapo, Manila. He watched as his dad walked back and forth from Divisoria with stock for the shop.

Tatang would personally take to the streets to promote the company’s wares. They pooled their resources and set aside as much money as they could in the hopes of opening further modest shops.

Tatang’s early upbringing instilled in him a strong work ethic and an appreciation for the value of good credit: “I learned the importance of both from my parents.”

Their middling triumph, however, was cut short by the mayhem and violence of World War II. Their stores were destroyed in the last battle for Manila, therefore ending their business. Everything they had painstakingly created vanished overnight, taking their dreams and finances with it.

However, the lessons of hard effort that Tatang had learned from his father and earned in the city’s early years persisted. He was determined to rebuild his hopes and aspirations, so he looked for a way to use the little money he had left to launch a successful enterprise.

Tatang’s humble beginnings as a shoe shop decades ago would eventually spawn a retail empire that included dozens of standalone businesses, several shopping centers, and an extensive department store portfolio.

Decades later, his company would expand into new fields, becoming a diversified multinational.

BDO was formerly known as Banco de Oro, which was formed when the SM Group acquired Acme Savings Bank, a Philippine thrift institution, in 1976.

Real estate development, retail, banking, and other sectors are just a few of the many SM Group has invested in throughout the years to make it the most significant commercial conglomerate in the country.

Tatang realized early on that even a modest beginning can lead to enormous success, and he invested his ten centavos in a plan to make his life better. It is a piece of advice that SM wants to spread throughout the Philippines during this Super Month of October, Tatang’s birth month.

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