Why Dennis Sy is my favorite Fil-Chi-American

TO BE ABLE to say something profound enough about someone, it’s probably important to say that you’ve known him for some time. From early early on, we can’t say we were THAT close (hold two fingers together) with the subject of this discussion, but considering how long ago it was, and how much has come to pass since then, it’s probably close enough.
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Ten years before graduation, when we were still in short shorts / skirts and liberating our noses free from snot, high school batch 1982 of St Jude Catholic in Manila Philippines was a large, unwieldy bunch of around 250. It was understandably hard to see who would be great, who would be captains of industry and who would be giants of their respective professions. But though no one knew who would be great, you could see the rough silhouettes of who would acquire the aura of specialness around them.

One such aura holder was Dennis. We weren’t in the same section, but from afar it was not hard to witness, even with a bit of amusement, that this kid, with his quiet confidence, superior bearing and mini-swagger, was a BBOC (Big Boy On Campus), figuratively and literally. I didn’t even know his name, but I knew that he was SPECIAL. Little did I know how prophetic my intuition was gonna be.

Fast forward to golden high school years, and Dennis was almost certainly an alchemist with the Midas touch. His rich baritone and facility with the guitar was one of the signatures of the anticipated Mass choir. I can recall, when most of us could hardly carry a tune, him performing a Michael Johnson number in front of the school body, and strumming his guitar with ridiculous ease for good measure.

He was a multi-sport athlete who wore the school colors not just because he owned the skillz but also because he projected flash and flair, in nearly every sport he dabbled in. He had enough leadership smarts to be selected one of the senior officers in the ROTC corps. In hindsight, academics probably bored him, but he hit the books just hard enough to please Mom and Dad. You could tell that beyond all his extra-curricular accomplishments, there was a smart head between those impressive ears, as most of his spare comments were thoughtful and his insight, usually incisive.

Fast forward again, this time to university. Barely after graduation, and Dennis was setting his sights at a possible game changing career when he aced an extremely competitive admission exam given by an on-the-rise software company back home, an exam that sifted the top 1% from the ranks of the many, many exam candidates. This company paved the path to Dennis’s career in the IT industry, where he has distinguished himself and (he will probably admit) generated both financial and professional success as a citizen of the First World.

Along the way, he never forgot and has in fact nurtured his first and true love : creating and performing music that inspires and uplifts all who behold his musical talent. His band Chapter 2 is well-known in the New York tri-state area, and they have provided complementary talents to many visiting icons of music from the Philippines. He is never afraid to experiment with different musical genres and influences, but his most impressive instrument is his versatile voice that can interpret ballads, OPMs, mellow rock, R&B, jazz and even improvisational pieces that soothe the soul and amaze the senses.

As evidence of their depth, versatility and range, Dennis and Chapter 2 have been asked to perform in numerous venues and festivals, and have been honored by no less than the L.A. Music Awards in 2006.

Each time our countrymen and women back home are beset by tragedy, be it a typhoon, earthquake or similar calamity, Dennis and his crew are the first to come up with an event to raise awareness and funds to extend a helping hand, knowing fully well that the visibility of talent attracts attention easily.

Dennis is likewise never timid to use the transcendent tool of music and video to recognize and give testament to social change in the Philippines, whether it’s via the ballot box or peaceful protest.

Whether you judge him on a continuing life’s work, his many passions, or his solid friendships, Dennis is truly a man for all seasons.

As always, I strive to end a blog on a personal note. Twenty-three and a half years ago, when I stumbled into fatherhood as a young man unsure with what lay ahead the rest of his life, you visited me and my newborn as soon as you heard. I don’t know how you found out, who told you, or where I was. But somehow you found us, wished me well on my journey as family man, blessed my 12-hour old son, and went on your way. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since then my friend, but that little kindness has not been forgotten. Then and now, you are and have always been a great friend.

Happy birthday Dennis !




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