People

What is success for one of Boracay’s landed heirs?

The story of Leonard Tirol

BY KAREN V. BERMEJO

It all started as a vision, but Leonard Tirol is now living the dream of his grandparents, Don Ciriaco Tirol and Doña Trinidad Hontiveros-Tirol.

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Leonard retired as a Commodore of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“They have a vision that someday, his family will come home,” said the owner of White House Beach Resort. The 58-year old businessman grew up as a city boy for his parents, Leon and Fe Linda Aculado-Tirol own a school in Iloilo City. But his attachment to the place where his parents came from, Ibajay and Kalibo respectively brought him back to Aklan and to this world-class island in Malay.

In 1983, his grandparents’ vision was realized.

Leonard, in an interview with the Western Visayas Informer shared that of the five siblings in the family, it was only him who settled back in Boracay.

With only a two duplex native cottages at the Beachfront in Station 2, Leonard started his own business in Boracay that later became one of the pioneers in the island’s industry.

By the mention of their name, most people who knew about Boracay’s history would say that the Tirol family is one of the most landed in the island. Leonard however humbly objected that he is not the only one.

“I am just one of the many Tirols that own properties here,” he clarified.

Yet, instead of feasting alone on the properties that he owned, Leonard gave up some of it for the benefit of the community. He donated properties for the some of the important agencies in Boracy- to the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Boracay Tourist Police Assistance Center, which pioneered the Tourist Police Academy that trains policemen on how to deal with tourists.

Recently, he donated another lot for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to house the agency’s satellite office in Barangay Manoc-Manoc. He also signed a 1,000 square meter lot donation with a relative, Dr. Cyrian Gonzales, to the Local Government of Malay for the construction of a market in Sitio Bantud also in Manoc-Manoc.

When people ask him why he donates properties, Tirol just answered; “it is because you cannot take these properties in grave.” “But if you give it on a good cause. People can appreciate it,” he added. He however stressed that he is not after the appreciation, but for the benefit it could give for the people.

Leonard also advised the locals to be smart in handling properties. “Concentrate on the properties that you could handle, and think very hard before you sell properties” he said. Some have lost their lands, according to him for a bulk of money. Yet, at the end, they lose everything, he added. For the younger natives, Leonard advised them to remain in school and not just depend on their inheritance. “You should never depend on the inheritance because if you just defend on the inheritance nothing will happen to you,” he said.

SUCCESS FOR OTHERS

Born to a well-off family and parents who are both good providers, Leonard admitted that he never experienced hardship in his lifetime. But this became his inspiration to continue aiming for success. He considers hardship of other people as something new to him. Thus, one of the reasons why he put up a business is not mainly for the profit, but to help people.

“I want to be successful not to have all the money in the world, but I want to be successful because I want to help more people in the community,” he stressed. For him, his businesses are investments to human relationship. He even admitted that his son, Bong Tirol, the manager of the Boracay Airport and also the director for government affairs of Shangri-La Boracay is a better businessman than him.

HANDLING COMPETITION AND CRITICISM

As one of the pioneers in the developments in the island, Leonard considers other investors as his partners rather than mere competitors. He specially mentioned his friend, the late Esteban “Steve” Cordova Tajanlangit Jr.

Leonard considers Steve, known as the “builder of Boracay” as one of his inspiration. He said that it was Steve who brought the biggest investments in the island, and one of his partners too. Why he considers competitors as partners?

“It is because when you are in partnership with other businessmen here; when you work together, that is where you get strength,” according to Leonard. “I don’t treat them as competitors, outside our business establishments, we are all friends. When you treat them as competitors, you fall down alone,” he stressed.

Aside from his professional network, almost half of his life is also attached to service.

He became part of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer force. In his more than 30 years at the Coast Guard, Leonard rose from the ranks; he started as a regular lieutenant but retired as a Commodore. Yet with his retirement, his passion in saving lives never ended. Leonard founded his own rescue team, the Boracay Fire Rescue Ambulance Volunteers, keeping the island clean and safe for people. He is also actively involved in the operations of the Boracay Action Group (BAG) as a consultant and adviser to the Mayor. The BAG is composed of all the different organic agencies in the island, like the Philippine Army, PNP, PCG and the BOF among others.

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 With the Boracay Bureau of Fire officials.

This man also owns the Boracay Wildlife Expo which has become a sanctuary of different animals in the island.  Even the DENR has some animals housed in said sanctuary.

He has released into the wild several hawks and an eagle, and some tortoise to the sea in front of his resort.

With all the success he achieved, criticism is also on his way too. But Leonard never takes criticisms seriously. “Like in life, criticisms will always be there, people will always criticize you especially if you are successful. There will always be bad things that they will say to you,” he said. For him, the best way to face criticism is to continue doing good things. Clad in a simple shirt and pair of shorts when we did the interview, this man proved that he remains grounded despite his achievements in life.

Humility, according to him is what his parents thought him. “My parents thought me that whatever success that you may achieve in life, always put your feet on the ground. Never fly. Because the moment you fly, you will crash,” he said.

ON WHAT KEEPS HIM DRIVEN

For a man who entered marriage at a young age of 16, Leonard shares that his wife Nenette was his driving force in life. “Whatever the success that I have, it’s because of my wife. Some may not admit it, but no matter how successful we are, the wife is always a part of it,” he said. A father of two – to Bong married to seasoned wedding planner Amanda; and Maggie, married to model turned-chef Martin Jickain; and a grandfather to Sasha, Lucas, Ethan and Liam, Leonard values family the most.

“The most important thing is the family,” he shared.

A SPORTSMAN TOO

With a son like Bong who is active in a number of extreme sports, it is not a surprise that his father is also a sportsman. Leonard believes that sport is vital for a successful man; for he thinks that it is in sports where you develop discipline first. So his advice for other parents out there, “always push your children into sports.” “When you’re into sports, you become conscious of your physical health. Once you become conscious. You stay away from drugs and vices,” he said. He even personally finances the “Zumba & Taebo” Physical Fitness Program which is open for all every Saturday morning at the Barangay Balabag Plaza.

ADVICE FOR THE NATIVES

Leonard believes that in Boracay, you can make a lot of money. But what is needed, according to him is for people to take action.

He lamented that while people from Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod and other places come here to work, some natives are just inside their houses.  “This small island has many business opportunities. The locals should at least start in their houses, make accessories and sell it to the tourists,” Leonard said.

WHAT ELSE HE CAN DO

At first, he thought that life in Boracay is about drinking, partying and entertaining people. But he realized that life is more than that. As years passed by, Leonard grows with life’s lesson too. For him, being here is an opportunity to make a difference.

Pressed for an opinion on what he wants for Boracay, Leonard said that he wants the private sector to be more active in preserving the island’s best – the beautiful scenery and its fine white beaches.

Why the private sector and not the local government? “It is because, they won’t exploit it,” Leonard stressed. He said that if it is the LGU, they will just assign people who have long been into fishing to do it. “Sometimes, they will just use it for political end,” he said.

“Let the private sector do it and we will have a beautiful coral reef in the island,” he added. He also urged the LGUs to be more wary of the island’s sake. “Investors came in, but they should be controlled and regulated,” he said. “Whatever investment they get, they should return it to Boracay,” he concluded.*

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