At 90, James Dy still an indefatigable humanitarian

Unstoppable Dr. James G. Dy, at 90 years old, defies all odds. Instead of enjoying the fruits of a well-lived life, he continues to head multiple corporations in various fields. Plus, he shows absolutely no signs of slowing down! Persistent, unflagging, tireless, inexhaustible, persevering and relentless — all these aptly describe this driven man.

To be called an indefatigable humanitarian seems descriptive of achievements enough to fill a lifetime, but it barely scratches the surface of this multi-faceted, multi-talented man. His life story begins a decade short of a century ago.

Dr. Dy narrates, “I was three years old when I was brought by my parents to this country. I studied here and survived the Japanese occupation. I almost lost my life three times during that period. During those hard times, I worked very hard as a teenager, selling items to make a living. Our family lived in Binondo; my father’s store, which was started by my grandfather, was in nearby Divisoria. It was originally a grocery, which later transformed into a cigarette importer. From 1915, the company has been run by four generations of our family, and today it is headed by my youngest brother’s son. It is now known as the Dyna Drug Corporation, dealing with pharmaceutical products.”

Also widely recognized as a major player in the local music industry, from its inception up to the present, he recalls his foray into the field of music: “After the Liberation of Manila, I went back to school and when I was in college, I helped my father run the business. By the time I was 26, I had been married for five years and I left my father’s business to strike out on my own. In 1959 I established the Dyna Products Corporation, which was in the music business. On the local music scene, one of our artists was Jose Mari Chan. On the foreign music scene, we carried artists like Paul Anka, Matt Monro, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole.”

Dyna expanded by getting the license of WEA Records, which later transformed into Universal Records and then PolyEast Records. Dr. Dy says, “During the early days, we had hitmakers such as The Beatles, Abba, Bee Gees, whose records were all licensed by our company for sale in the Philippines. At that time, we controlled between 60 to 70 percent of the local music industry.”

Today, the companies are run by his children, with offices in Ortigas and Makati, carrying the works of artists such as Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, and of course, Jose Mari Chan, along with bands like Parokya ni Edgar.

If one were to hold his breath while reciting Dr. Dy’s involvement in companies as chairman of the board and president, he would be gasping for air. He holds such titles in Universal Records, Inc., Machinebanks’ Corporation, James & Sons Corporation, Pan Pacific Travel Corporation, Pan Euro International, Inc., and Pacific Place Multi Development Corporation.

Photograph courtesy of CHINOY TV DR. James G. Dy.


The list doesn’t stop there. He is also chairman of Dyna Music Entertainment Corporation, PolyEast Records Corporation, Subic International Hotel, Dyna Drug Corporation, Eagle Electric of the Philippines, Sonic International Incorporated, and J.G.D. Realty and Development Corporation. He is also the president of Pacific World Plaza International Development Corporation, Sempco Realty Development Corporation, and JJD Realty & Development Corporation.

One would think that this man, with so many business responsibilities, would not even have time for a cup of tea, much less involvement as president of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. and Chinese General Hospital & Medical Center. He is concurrently chairman of the board and president of the Chinese General Hospital Colleges, chairman emeritus of the Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Inc., president emeritus of the World Lee Family Association, governor and vice president for Finance of the Philippine Constitution Association, and governor and national treasurer of the Philippine Red Cross.

Dr. Dy narrates, with pride, “Our ancestors bought 50 hectares of land and converted it in 1878 to what is now known as the Chinese Cemetery.
One of our national heroes, Apolinario Mabini, was a non-Catholic, and so he was buried in the Chinese Cemetery. In 1965 his remains were exhumed and transferred to Tanauan, Batangas, but we still keep a place for him in the Chinese Cemetery honoring him as a national hero.” He adds, “During Spanish times, if you were Chinese and got sick, there was no place to go for treatment, so in 1891 the Chinese General Hospital was established. During that time, the hospital solely practiced traditional Chinese medicine. Later on, a western approach to medicine was adopted. Our first Medical Director was Dr. Jose Tee Han Kee, the father of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee of the Supreme Court.”

He continues, “In 1904 our organization established the Filipino Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, the only Chinese chamber of commerce at that time. This is still in existence today.

Today, the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. owns and operates the cemetery, the hospital, the nursing school, the old folks house, and the charity clinic.

Much of Dr. Dy’s time is now concentrated on running the Chinese General Hospital. He says, “I have spent 32 years with the foundation running the hospital. I am 90 years old now and I want to retire, but they don’t want me to retire. They still want me to work.”

The hospital has a 700-bed capacity. It has a Cancer Institute which has the only 512-slice CT Scan machine in the country, which is the latest equipment, costing P100 million. According to Dr. Dy, the hospital is soon installing a 500-million-peso PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography), which allows doctors and technicians to see even the smallest blood vessels in the body, showing problems even at the cellular level. This technology is superior to Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI technology and enables enhanced cancer detection. The hospital has also put up a very modern and well-known Heart Center, which is run by world-class cardiologists. In October of 2018, the College of Medicine was established.

“We use machines made by Siemens from Germany and General Electric from the United States. All machines procured are brand new. There was an instance when an American hospital donated used dialysis machines to our hospital, which we re-donated to a hospital in Olongapo City. In the Chinese General Hospital, we have 30 dialysis machines running 24 hours a day,” he said.

Looking towards the future, he is counting on his eldest son, now the senior vice president for Overall Operations, to help him in running the hospital. His other children are managing the other businesses — recording, pharmaceutical, machineries, electrical, and travel.

Dr. Dy proudly recalls that he was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as an Ambassador of Medical Tourism, taking into consideration his successes in both the medical business and in the field of tourism.

At the age of 90, humanitarian Asian hero Dr. James Dy has touched so many lives that the Chinese-Filipino community is thankful for his generous and giving heart.

The author is one of 100 Most Influential Global Filipinas for her books and advocacy work. She was recognized as one of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS). As a social historian she has written 44 coffee table books in the last 24 years found in select libraries around the world.

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