Leo Consul: From broken slippers to accomplished dreams
“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy than what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father's dreams aren't big enough, and sometimes his mother's vision isn't long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.”― Ben Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp
As Leo Consul joined us on our table to share his story, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride for his “nanay” who was sitting quietly beside him.
Mabait talaga yang anak kong yan,” she tells us. “Matalino at Masikap.”
To say that Leo lived a hard life would be an understatement and a great injustice to what he has overcome.
When he was a child, instead of playing on the streets, he was roaming it in search of something to sell and something to eat. His introduction to Jollibee was not via a drive through or the take out counter but the back alley garbage bin where he would look for half eaten food to reheat and share with his family.
Yet as he sat proudly beside his mom, you couldn’t feel the slightest trace of resentment, anger, or even disappointment, instead there is only love, and gratefulness for bringing him into this world.
“A man of perseverance and dedication; a man who is willing to walk a thousand miles just to reach his destination.”
This is how actor and host Leo Consul says he would describe himself to people meeting him for the first time.
A former host of Eat Bulaga Indonesia, Leo—who has been living abroad for almost four years—recently returned to the Philippines for a short visit.
“The show catapulted my career in Indonesia and made me a household name. It was a fun and exciting experience because I was recognized not only in Indonesia but in the Philippines as well. It was difficult for a newbie like me in so many levels but I managed to get thru it all,” he says.
He ended up leaving the show after a year in search of greener pastures. Also, getting by day-to-day was a struggle.
Living alone, away from his family, friends and his comfort zone was no joke, he says.
“It’s not a walk in the park. The struggle is real. I started there as a teacher in an international school but my passion wasn't there. I quit the profession and pursued my career in the entertainment industry,” he says.
But Leo’s Eat Bulaga Indonesia experience did lead to positive things. He became known and got other work. “The show paved the way and opened doors for me. I was trusted by different networks to host my own show up until now. Leo hosts the morning TV show, Celeb On News in Indonesia and will soon star in his own teleserye. He is also dubbing a cartoon series in Indonesia titled "Kiko " which will be aired internationally.
Throughout his four years in Indonesia, Leo kept alive his dream of breaking into show business in the Philippines.
“It has been my dream to break into the entertainment industry here in the Philippines,” he explains. “While I am doing great back in Indonesia as a TV host, commercial model and an actor, I still have this yearning to be seen here and entertain our kababayan, most specially my father who has been dreaming of seeing me on local TV, doing things I am passionate about, instead of watching me on DVD/CD copies of my shows back in Indonesia.”
That dream came true when he met TV host and talent manager Boy Abunda. “I asked for Direk Eric Quizon's help for my movie and he said Boy Abunda might be of great help. He sent an email to Boy to introduce me and cc-ed me and from there, we started talking about this whole thing. Boy Abunda and I officially met when he visited Jakarta last year.” Boy will be managing his career in the Philippines and in other Asian countries except Indonesia.
Leo considers that a lucky break. “I am blessed and fortunate enough to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity by Boy Abunda to introduce me and explore the possibilities here in the Philippines,” says Leo. “At times, I would see myself while on the set of my shows, daydreaming and asking myself what would it be like doing the same thing that I do back there but in a different setting, audience and country, which is my home. I would still love to host shows, do commercials and act or anything that the industry could offer. I am not going to leave Indonesia, for I owe a huge chunk of my success to my fans and colleagues back there. We're planning to do this in both countries.”
The good-looking actor and TV host has detailed his inspiring life journey in a book, A Thousand Miles in Broken Slippers.
The book contains his life story from when he was a baby up to this point.
“In this book, people will get to know my bittersweet past back in our small town in Bolinao, Pangasinan. It tells about my struggles, pains, survival, painful memories, happy moments with my childhood friends, tears and of course my journey as an artist in Indonesia. It is a hodgepodge of everything.”
Leo thought of publishing this book not just as a means to promote himself or to boost his career as an artist but mainly to inspire people who may share the same dream and hope or those people who have different dreams but with same passion and determination to pursue in life. Among the most interesting parts of the book is how Leo worked himself up from his humble background growing up in Pangasinan.
To hear Leo tell his story borders on the unbelievable. “Just hearing the word Bolinao could bring thousand folds of happy and painful memories. It's traumatizing, in a way. It was the sanctuary of my childhood years and the niche of my struggles at the same time. I wasn't born with a silver spoon. At a very young age, I learned to stretch my bones just to earn cold coins to fill up our stomachs. I was introduced to Jollibee not in a conventional way but in a very demeaning and painful way and that's thru the trash bin. I would eat leftovers from the buses I cleaned in the middle of the night back then just to get thru the night. To be honest, every time I look back, it never fails to bring me to tears and sadness. I was one of those kids who was dressed in shabby clothes, worn-out slippers, exhausted and famished only with great determination and perseverance. I used to collect and sell junk (bottles, metal, broken glass, newspapers, etc.) dressed in a yellowish school uniform, carrying a hanging-by-a-thread-bag, and flimsy slippers.”
Leo walked to school every day, under the scorching heat of the sun. He was the kind of kid who would never be given any attention had he not excelled at school.“I have been to Baguio City since I studied there in UP for four years before I moved to Diliman for my final year. That's where I also landed a job as TV host in ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, which brought me to many places as we shoot for our travelogue show which was called "NC Atin To" which later renamed, "MagTV Na Atin To".”
Of all the places he has been to, his favorite would have to be the Banaue Rice Terraces.
“I consider myself a traveler, not a tourist,” he says. “Every time I visit a place, I make sure I immerse myself into its culture, values and traditions. I am not a cosmo kinda guy. I enjoy the outskirts/suburbs more than the city. There, I find peace and the perfect opportunity to reflect and enjoy serenity at its finest before I get myself back to the city’s hurly-burly.”
At this point, having spent his life in both the Philippines and Indonesia, Leo says he still identifies as Filipino.
Explains Leo: “I'm still a Filipino, of course. For me, what makes a certain country appealing and more interesting is not just its beautiful spots and scenery. I think what sets each country apart is its people. We, Filipinos, are known for our warm hospitality. We are friendly and loving people and that for me, makes our country great and fun to pay visit to."
He is excited over all the possibilities opening up to him. He is also eager for people to get to know him and discover what he has to offer.
“I am a man of many interests. I love traveling. I make sure I visit different countries each year. I also love cooking. In fact, my first show after Eat Bulaga Indonesia was a cooking show. I also play sports like Badminton and Tennis. I love singing. I actually released a single in Indonesia while I was hosting Eat Bulaga Indonesia but it didn't work out. I am also a hiphop dancer. I was a member of UP Baguio Shadows (dance troupe). My favorite artists would be Gina Pareño as an actress, Joel Torre (Actor), Toni Gonzaga (Host), Eugene Domingo (Comedienne) and Luis Manzano.
“Being in show business wasn't really my dream when I was a kid, probably because I didn't have the looks to back it all up. I was an ugly duckling. But I have always wanted to become a news anchor,” he says.
His battlecry is simple. “(I have always believed that) Poverty is not a hindrance to success. It was ABS-CBN Baguio which sparked my interest in show business because they gave me the confidence and made me believe that I have a spot in this industry.”