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Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
Lilia Bautista Yang, recently passed away at the age of 91. She passed away from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, which also claimed music icon Francis Magalona last 2009. To my family she has always been more than an aunt, or the sister of my father Joe. She is the tie that binds as matriarch in not just one clan but several: Bautista, Yang, Tong and Cua. Officially she worked until a few weeks from her passing as Financial Consultant to the Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez and Gatmaitan. SSHG is the law firm that she helped build from her hiring as a young 22 year old in 1945 by founder Alexander Sycip.
Faith in the Youth
In the firm she was fondly called ‘Mother Lily’ because of her generosity and kindness to not just the legal staff but even more to the non-legal staff. While Mother Lily Monteverde is better known as film producer, Lilia Yang was considered a mother to the luminaries of the legal profession. Mother Lily recently spoke in support of one of her early discoveries in Gretchen Barreto, Sen. Bong Revilla, Ogie Alcasid and countless others.
Lilia B. Yang’s ‘discoveries’ on the other hand include former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, Sen. Franklin Drilon, current Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Ben Caguioa and even former TV5 Pres. Atty Ray Espinosa who is now Associate Director of First Pacific Company, DOTC USEC Jojo Lotilla and countless more. Lilia was a strong influence on their young careers and had life long friendships with all of them.
Senator Franklin Drilon was then a young lawyer in 1971 when he worked for Sycip. Even then he described her as “a very jolly and engaging person. We revolved around her.” He believed that she played an important role in the firm, “She was a stabilizing group in the law firm before. In Sycip law as you know were composed of superstars and therefore extremely difficult to manage. But Lily provided the motherly influence for all of us. Every person hired by the firm would pass through her as a member of the legal staff or to hire you in the non-legal staff. So she’d know everyone. She’d make it a point to find out how each one is that’s how I remember Lily Yang.”
Atty. Frank Chavez said, “She was an inspiration to us young lawyers. She gave us guidelines on how to go about our work from day one to the time we were able to earn our spurs so to speak. She was there not only for the administrative aspect but also for the logistics. She was always there to lend a helping hand to all of us. She never turns people down. She always accommodates people as I said; the essence of Lily B Yang is kindness, sharing and solicitation for the welfare of other people. She was a woman for others.”
Carlos Lopez was a young lawyer in the 90s. After working for the firm for some time he had considered leaving but LBY convinced him to stay. Immediately the following year he became a partner. Lopez said, “When I first worked for Sycip I knew of no other firm. She was Banco De Yang as some of us knew her. Mrs. Yang took a special liking to the young lawyers because she saw in the youngest lawyers the promise of the firm.”
Honesty, Integrity and Humility
Lilia’s reputation of honesty and integrity was built upon decades of relationships with financial institutions. Her humility and amiable approach has also helped her get high profile clients. Her fluency in both Mandarin and Fookien earned the trust of clients from the Chinese community. Today SSHG has become the biggest law firm in the country boasting of 145 lawyers, far removed from those days in Alex Sycip’s garage.
Former Justice Florentino Feliciano said, “Lily was present when the office was first started immediately after the Second World War. The office started by Alex Sycip first office was a garage in their house. Lily took care of everything that was not a matter of law. The office would not have been able to start without Lily. She is the concrete that held the firm together. And Lily remained there up to the time she died.”
Justice Feliciano’s own career in SSHG reminded him of LBY’s constancy, “I joined the office at the end of 1960 she was already there. It was she who played a very important role in keeping the office together as it grew. I did not feel uncomfortable when I left the office in 1986 to go to the Supreme Court because although Alex had passed away Lily was there. Lily was part of this very important event that held the firm together. She remained there ‘til the very end.”
Former managing partner Atty Llewelyn Llanillo said, “She is the symbol of stability in the firm. She is our connection to the past. The mere fact that she is there gave the impression that Sycip will forever be there because she was there from the very beginning. She is a truly significant icon in the office.” Llanillo is currently one of the senior legal consultants of the firm.
For her devotion to the firm she married at a later age in spite of having a lot of suitors in her youth. Even though she and her loving husband Yldefonso Yang were not blessed with children, she became a second mother to many more people with whom she met. While not having biological children thousands of employees, inaanak claim her as their mother who was caring enough to consistently help. The list is long from tuition fees to hospital bills.
Atty Llanillo recalled the time he first worked for the firm in the mid 70s, “I remember during my first years in the office I think those with me now began as associates. There are no more founders at the office at this time. We used to line up every Friday outside her office to make vale. I was receiving 650 pesos a month. So every Friday money has run out already so we would go there and sign a small piece of paper and write payable next week or next payday. Until finally over the years our compensation increased I managed to not go and line up any more. She was always someone to rely on. When we were in trouble we’d run to her not only for money but advice.”
Abet Guillermo is one of hundreds who were personally interviewed and recruited by Lily. He remembered being able to start immediately the day after the interview in 1981 in the records department. She was unforgettable because she helped him get back on his feet after a fire had consumed his home and she took the lead in raising money from the office. He also credits her for helping put his three kids to school. According to him she would use her own personal funds when the bonus of the firm’s employees were delayed, “Pag nadedelay bonus namin inaadvance niya. Magkano yon diba?”
One of her greatest achievements according to Jonathan Pascual is her willingness to represent and speak in behalf of the non-legal staff, “She was able to create a harmonious relationship between legal and non-legal. And also she represents the non-legal staff in terms of advocacies in enlightenment, in terms of knowledge experience. I really witnessed her good leadership. She’s a leader of the highest order, one of a kind mother, one of a kind leader. It was a sudden loss but we pray that Mrs. Yang will find rest. She’s done a lot of things we will feel the difference now that she’s gone away from us.” Pascual worked in the HR department for 13 years directly under Lily’s supervision.
Real Love Teams
Mother Lily Monteverde was also known for her love teams such as William Martinez and Maricel Soriano, Gabby Concepcion and Snooky Serna. Mother Lilia Yang also delved into match making although not for film or entertainment purposes but for true wedded bliss. Among them are Atty Butch Medalla, his wife Kriselle, Randy Salazar and Lulu Apostol. Lulu then in the late 1980s was a young and pretty accountant under LBY’s wing. Lulu had a lot of admirers. But the mentor and matchmaker saw the young but shy lawyer Randy Salazar as a perfect match thus gave her go signal.
The couple is now one of the more prominent figures in the Filipino community in Hong Kong. Randy is a barrister while Lulu is Executive Director of Allied Bank. LBY’s example in helping others has rubbed off on Lulu. She spends her weekends volunteering for the Bayanihan foundation for domestic helpers and other OFWs. Initially they were assisting Filipina domestic helpers but have also expanded to domestic helpers of other nationalities, such as Indonesians, Indians and Bangladeshis.
Devotion to God and Love for family
In all of the praise she received during her lifetime, she always credited her faith in God. She tried to instill in us her family, a deeper connection and relationship with the Lord. Every time she would bring our whole family abroad, be it to the U.S., New Zealand or Hong Kong, her requirement is to attend mass everyday. Because of her deep faith, she took on the responsibility of caring for her siblings and even their families when they grew up.
The world will not be the same without you, Tita Lily. I quote my uncle George Apostol who said, “There will be no farewells there will be no goodbyes between the two of us. I can always assure you will always be in my heart forever. And I will cherish all the good memories that we’ve had. Thank you Tita Lily.”