To whom much is given, much is expected. He may not have quoted the famous verse from Luke 12:48, but 85-year-old philanthropist Dr. James Dy has long lived his life by its good words.
As one of the most prominent and awarded philanthropists in the country, it came as no surprise to The Sunday Times Magazine that the Chairman Emeritus of the Philippine-Chinese Charitable Association Inc. began this exclusive interview by saying that helping people is the most natural thing to do, especially when one has the capacity to help those in need.
“Helping people gives me a sense of purpose in life. It gives me fulfillment and accomplishment, which is different and far more rewarding than anything in this world,” he furthered intently.
Under the Philippine-Chinese Charitable Association Inc. (PCCAI), Dr. Dy reaches beneficiaries far and wide for he also actively serves the network of companies and organizations under the umbrella organization. The PCCAI owns and operates the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center (CGHMC), where he sits as president, the Chinese Cemetery, Home for the Aged, the Chinese General Hospital College of Nursing, the Charity Pavilion, and the Free Clinic at the PCCA Building in Binondo, Manila.
Ever energetic in helping others, Dr. Dy—a Ten Outstanding Filipino awardee for Humanitarian Service—regularly heads and arranges teams from the CGHMC to provide free medical and dental treatment for poor communities of urban, rural and squatter areas across the country. These efforts intensify especially during typhoons and calamities.
On a daily basis too, the CGHMC allocates 100 beds for charity with social workers tasked to identify patients who are really impoverished.
A businessman by profession, Dr. Dy, who also happens to be Chairman Emeritus of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc. (FCCCI), is generally mistaken as a doctor. And in his 26 years as president of the Chinese General Hospital, he has never tired of correcting those who confuse his four honorary doctorate degrees with that of Doctor of Medicine with a genuine smile and the reply, “I’m not a doctor by profession but a doctor at heart who wants to help people who are sick.” He four honorary doctorate degrees include Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa-University of Pangasinan; Doctor of Business Administration, Honoris Causa-Lyceum Northwestern University, Pangasinan; Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa-Central Luzon State University, Nueva Ecija; and Doctory of Philosophy in Technology Management, Technological University of the Philippines.”
Dr. Dy was also recognized as “Outstanding Chinese Filipino” in the Lifetime Achievement Award category of the 2004 Dr. Jose P. Rizal Awards for Excellence, a project of The Manila Times.
Truly inspiring in word and deed, The Sunday Times Magazine finds out more about the man behind countless charities, Dr. James Dy, whose compassion and sincerity all come naturally.
Sunday Times Magazine (STM): What are the challenges of being president of a large medical and charitable institution as the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center?
James Dy (JD): The challenges I encounter are always about helping people, especially the poor. These people are close to my heart because as a fellow Filipino, I know that those who have means in life should extend their hands and help the needy.
I believe one such memory would be when I established the Wound Healing and Diabetic Foot Center. It became my personal advocacy to help diabetic patients because I am also one. We have one of the most advanced equipment in diabetic care—this is the Hyberbaric machine, which oxygenates the skin promoting faster wound healing for diabetic patients.
Presently, our hospital is accommodating (comedian) Ms. Joy Viado. We treated her diabetic-related condition, and we’re mounting a charity concert on October 3 in her behalf to assist her in defraying the cost of her hospitalization. (See related story on page 5).
As of now, I am certain that the Wound Healing and Diabetic Foot Center that I established will help people in many years to come. Diabetes is a crippling disease and this should not go unnoticed. People should be conscious that despite this disease, they can still live normal lives.
STM: What led you to the kind of work you do for CGHMC?
JD: The knowledge and experience that I gained in putting up my own businesses before—in the pharmaceutical industry (Dyna Drugs), music industry (Universal Records, Dyna Records, Poly-East Records), industrial machineries (Machine Banks), electrical equipment (Eagle Electric), travel and tourism (Pan Pacific Travel Corporation), real estate (JGD Realty) and my active involvement in various socio civic organizations (Philconsa, Red Cross, Lions Club)—helped me prepare for all the challenges that came my way before I became the president of the hospital.
My experiences molded me to make better and firm decisions in crucial matters in running a big organization. When full responsibility is on your shoulders, you have to take the initiative to be strong, firm but always fair in all your dealings with people; to be a role model, so that you would be an inspiration to others. Trials are there not to make you weak, they exist so that you may learn, thrive and become a champion.
I was trained to be a businessman during the Japanese occupation. I used to be a sidewalk vendor. I also produced different products to sell until I become the general manager of my father at the age of 26, then I put up my own company.
STM: How does one become a successful businessman to begin with?
JD: Simply hard work. I have been working hard all my life. My parents are hard workers
and persevering immigrants from China who strived during the early days to put up a business here in Manila to provide for our family. I have eight siblings.
I love what I do. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” This is what I practice. I engage only in businesses, which I personally enjoy doing.
My involvement in the music industry is due to my being an avid music lover. I play the saxophone and have a good ear for music.
I love to travel and see the world that is why I have a travel agency.
I am interested in the electronics industry because they fuel the economy and that is why I have Eagle Electric and Machine Banks.
If you are doing something that you are passionate about, you will enjoy what you do and success is never far behind.
STM: Please talk more about your passion for music to give the readers another side to your interests. [Dy was Chairman of the Board and President of Universal Records Inc., Philippine Association of Recording Industry (PARI) and Chairman of Asean Music Industry (AMIA)].
As I said earlier, I have a good ear for music because I play the saxophone and the harmonica. I have three recoding companies: Universal Records, Poly-East Records, and Dyna Records.
I was the one who pioneered bringing foreign artists here in the country. I brought the records of the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Paul Anka, for the Filipinos to appreciate. I did that to develop sophistication and appreciation of varied music genres to the Filipino audience.
In the 1960s Dyna Records was the major licensee of foreign labels in the country. The Philippine Association of the Record Industry (Kapisanan ng Industriya ng Plaka ng Pilipinas or PARI) is a non-profit and private trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the Philippines. It was formed on February 10, 1972, composed of 14 corporate members and 13 associate members to date. The association works with Congress on drafting music copyright laws and had helped conduct raids on music pirates with the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Optical Media Board. It is also responsible for awarding music-recording certifications in the Philippines. Annually, PARI organizes different music events such as Awit Awards to promote original Filipino music (OPM). It is still the vanguard of the fight against music piracy.
In 1978, I was elected president of PARI and worked to boost the anti-piracy activities of the association. When I became the chairman of the prestigious Asean Music Industry Association (AMIA), I led the organization in their anti-piracy activities.
I proposed to the AMIA the holding of the ASEAN Popular Song Festival, which showcased Filipino talents in music composition and interpretation. The Asean Pop Festival, staged in the Philippines, was the first international song competition held in the country.
However, the advent and proliferation of piracy and downloadable music nowadays have led to the demise of a healthy competition in the music making industry.
STM: Who inspired you in your mission to help others?
My father, Dy Hun, was very instrumental in forming my beliefs and values in how I do business. He established the early seeds of Dyna Drug Company 100 years ago in 1915. It was during the Japanese occupation when I learned the ropes of being an entrepreneur. Life was very difficult at that time so I made it a point to appreciate what we have and thank God for the blessings that we receive.
After the liberation, in my teenage years, I managed to balance doing business and studying. From then on, I realized that life is how you make it. You control your own destiny.
I learned the values of honesty, empathy and social responsibility from my father. I learned from the best. Growing up, I looked up to him and he became my role model. I saw how he conducted his business without a hint of cheating people. From then on, as much as I can, I tried to live my father’s values of delivering quality service and dealing with customers squarely.
Keeping a good name in business as the foundation of anything you do is one of the principles my father passed down to me.
On the other hand, my mother, Honorata Go, taught me the value and importance of family and a good home. She gave me unconditional love as a child. My wife and my six children, on the other hand, inspired me to be more hardworking for them and for other people.
STM: How would you summarize your life’s advocacy?
JD: My primary advocacy is helping the poor, sickly, and needy. When others have left them in destitute, I want to become a beacon of hope to guide them to a better place.
Whenever I go to calamity stricken areas, I personally see to it that I interact with the beneficiaries of our assistance. Whenever I reach out and extend my hand to the recipients of our gift—whether it be medicine, relief goods or food packs—the gratitude in their eyes and the warmth of their smile never fails to touch my heart. These are the memories that I bring home with me when I leave calamity stricken areas after every medical mission. These small things inspire me to do more so I can reach more people and touch more lives.
As Chairman Emeritus of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Inc., owner and operator of Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center, and the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc., I have been all over the country traveling wherever there is natural calamity; fire, typhoon, flood, earthquake to personally supervise our humanitarian missions, distribute relief goods, food, medicines and other assistance to the calamity victims.
STM: What guides you in all your undertakings?
Honesty still is and will always be the best policy. I make it a point to be straightforward all the time; I do not cheat or take advantage of people. I have always believed that the foundation of a person’s integrity is his honesty.
STM: With so many hats for different organizations, what is a regular day in the life of Dr. James Dy?
I have breakfast in the morning and take 350 cc milk from Thailand, then I go down to swim for an hour and a half.
My main sport is swimming. I do it every day at home before I start working. This keeps me fit and gives me the physical workout as advised by my doctors. It is the best form of exercise for me because it is a total work out for my body. I also avoid eating meat.
I spend the majority of my working hours at the hospital. On other days, I have to attend to meetings and activities of PhilConsa and Red Cross, because I am a governor of both. I am also regularly invited to give inspirational messages to several socio-civic organizations and government institutions. Of course I also regularly attend to the charitable activities and programs of the PCCAI and the FCGCCI.
I have let my children handle the daily operations of my businesses so I can concentrate in doing my humanitarian work, because I want to devote my time in helping people.
At night, I go home and watch TV to relax. During Sundays, I play mahjong to train my mind to stay alert, and to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
STM: How do you want to be remembered?
JD: I wanted to be remembered as someone who did his best to help and inspire people. Personally, helping people gives me a sense of purpose in life, especially now that I am in my golden years. It gives me fulfillment and accomplishment, which is different and far more rewarding than anything in this world. I believe that when you help people in this life, you store up riches in heaven.