Shi 施 in the Philippines

The surname 施 (Shi in Mandarin, Sy or See in Hokkien) ranks 97th among the most populous family last names in China. However, among the Chinese in the Philippines, Sy has fifth place.

The most famous Sy in the Philippines nowadays, of course, is Henry Sy of Shoe Mart. Cebu’s Gaisano clan and Hapee toothpaste owner Cecilio Pedro both belong to the 施 family too.

The Sys are descended from royalty. As well, they are, by affinity 2,500 years ago, related to China’s greatest philosopher Confucius.

The 施 ancestor is said to be from 姬 (ji) imperial family of Zhou (周) Dynasty (1066-256 BC). An heir of the family by the name of Lu Hui Gong (魯惠公) had three sons, the youngest was Heng (恆). Heng was so famous for his kindness that the states around willingly submitted to his authority.

Where Chinese surnames are concerned, Heng by that time not only created a new surname but in fact invented a new Chinese character for that purpose.

He combined two Chinese characters – fang (方) which means prescription, and ye () which is a branch of ancient Yue (越) people in southern China – with 方 on the left and on the right. Thus, a new Chinese character and surname was born.

Heng was conferred with the territory he reigned as State 施, with an assumed name Shi Fu (施父) which means father of Shi.

Also worth mentioning here is that a fifth generation heir of Shi Fu by the name of Kai (愷) had a daughter named Yao Ying (曜英) who happened to be the mother of the great Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius [孔子 (551-479 BC)].

Hence, the relation to modern-day Sys.

Information about the origin of Sy surname is based on an article in Genealogy of Lin Pok Sy (臨濮施氏族譜), 50th anniversary publication of Lin Pok Sy Association published in 1960 and written by Shi Zhong Lian (施仲連) in 1159. —  First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 23, no. 9 (October 5-18, 2010): 5.