Past the residential area of mansions and “chalets” in the Malate-Ermita area, the government center clustered around Intramuros and alongside Taft Avenue, up the Jones Bridge with the Post Office on Plaza Lawton to the right, and down the bridge at Plaza Moraga, was the quaint Filipinas Insurance Co. Building. This was the decade of the Twenties, when life was simpler.
It was in this building that Scottish accountants Charles P. White and Percival S. Page established one of the earliest accounting firms in the Philippines: White, Page & Co. The forerunner of today’s Isla Lipana & Co. (formerly Joaquin Cunanan & Co.), White, Page & Co. was among the accounting firms, banks and insurance companies which flourished in the financial district of Old Manila.
In the bustling business hub, the two public accountants offered their services, as their neighbors including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank, and the First National City Bank went about their own businesses. Nearby were Clarke’s, a famous refreshment parlor on Escolta; numerous shopping arcades, as well as Chinese stores and trading companies on Rosario Street, leading up to Binondo Church.
White and Page’s landlord in the Filipinas Building was Don Enrique Zobel, whose Scottish manager of Ayala y Compania’s insurance ventures was Jose McMicking; no doubt the three Scotsmen must have been close friends. In the mid-1930s, White, Page & Co. transferred to the National City Bank Building close by, which Don Enrique purchased in 1940.
Some years before World War II, White, Page & Co. already maintained correspondent relations with the large U.S.-based firm Price Waterhouse, with the former auditing the latter’s clients in the Philippines.
Santo Tomas Internment Camp records show that Percival Stevens Page was a prisoner of war until the university’s inmates were liberated by the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry Division. Like 3,000 other expatriate internees, Page suffered disease and starvation for three long years from the earliest days of the war in January 1942, until February 3, 1945.
Charles P. White may have been more fortunate in that his name does not appear in any World War II prisoner-of-war rosters in the Philippines.
After the war, in 1946 the company effected a name change to Stewart, Dacanay & Co. To the partnership of A.D. Stewart and Julio B. Dacanay was added Joaquin Cunanan and the firm’s name became Stewart, Dacanay, Cunanan & Co. two years later.
The company became the first major accounting firm in the country to have a formal worldwide reach when it was designated the official Price Waterhouse correspondent in the Philippines in 1958.
Offering clients advice and assistance based on their financial, analytical and business process skills in the implementation of their strategy, a new division was formed in 1962: the Management Advisory Services. Not long after that, Tax Services, as well, commenced operations, helping companies address tax requirements.
Another name change was effected in 1964 when the firm came to be known as Joaquin Cunanan & Co., as Messrs. Stewart and Dacanay had both retired. Joaquin Cunanan, called “Jack” by his colleagues and friends, played a huge part in steering the firm toward the reputation for excellence and professionalism which the company enjoys to the present.
A former stenographer at Bob, Cock & Templeton receiving P100 a month, Cunanan was appointed United Nations Chief of the Budget Control Office by the UN General Assembly in 1946. He was the first Filipino to hold an executive position in the UN organization, and the first Filipino to become a member of the prestigious American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
A string of other distinctive feats filled the accounting great’s illustrious career. He was elevated to the Accountancy Hall of Fame by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1985, and was given the Outstanding Master Mason Award in the field of accounting in 1989 by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the Philippines.
A changing of the guard took place in 1970 when Jose Florento took over the company’s reins. It was under his watch that the firm became a member of Price Waterhouse International. He also engineered the effort to expand the company’s provincial operations, with the Cebu branch office opening in 1975.
When Corazon S. de la Paz-Bernardo became the firm’s chairman and senior partner in 1981, she broke the glass ceiling as the first woman partner of Price Waterhouse anywhere in the world. Proving her mettle, she was elected to a three-year term as member of the board of the Price Waterhouse World Firm.
The worldwide merger of Price Waterhouse with Coopers & Lybrand to create PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1998, was a major boon to its local counterpart, further boosting its reputation in the financial services sector.
De la Paz-Bernardo was appointed president and CEO of the Social Security System soon after her retirement from the firm in 2001. Continuing her pioneering streak, she became the first woman and first Asian president of the Swiss-based International Social Security Association. Highly respected in both business and government circles, de la Paz has received many an award from various bodies: PICPA Accountancy Hall of Fame, Outstanding Filipino in Public Accounting, Outstanding Woman in Business, the Association of CPAs in Public Practice Life Achievement Award, Distinguished University of the East Alumna, and Executive of the Year.
Jerry S. Isla, yet another achiever, was de la Paz’s successor. Concurrently, Isla was president of the Association of CPAs in Public Practice.
The company became Isla Lipana & Co. in 2005.
For his outstanding work in the field of accountancy, Isla received the ACPAPP Presidential Award, and the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from PICPA, both in 2006.
Tammy H. Lipana became the firm’s chairman and senior partner in 2006. A CPA topnotcher and cum laude graduate of the University of the East, Lipana is an acknowledged tax expert who served as the Private Sector Head of the Bureau of Internal Revenue Task Force Drafting EVAT Regulations, and is Chairperson of the Philippine Chamber and Industry’s Taxation Committee, and erstwhile president of the Tax Management Association of the Philippines.
She is the recipient of the 2006 PICPA award for Outstanding CPA in Public Practice 2006, and the Outstanding Alumna Award 2005 from the University of the East Alumni Association.
Under Lipana’s watch, the company accelerated its participation in the BIR's tax education and information campaign. Books were published to serve as easy reference guides to help accountants determine various withholding tax and fringe benefits tax with which taxpayers must comply.
Judith V. Lopez became chairman and senior partner in 2009.
Isla Lipana & Co. is a Philippine member firm of the PwC global network.