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Anthony, the builder

I would say the Fil-Am is the Supreme Court of all tournaments.

Anthony de Leon, the amiable general manager of Baguio Country Club, has been involved in the organization of the Fil-Am Invitational for more than two decades, so it is no surprise that Jude Eustaquio, his counterpart from Camp John Hay, would defer to him when discussion shifts to the event’s history.

Eustaquio is only in his second year as co-chairperson of the organizing committee while De Leon has seen the Fil-Am’s growth through the years.

“I would say the Fil-Am is the Supreme Court of all tournaments. Everybody wants to be here, but unfortunately, we can only accommodate so much,” said De Leon, looking dapper in a beige business suit one Wednesday afternoon in October.

Both GMs hosted a press conference for the Baguio media and a handful of guests from Manila to announce the 72nd staging of the Fil-Am, acclaimed as one of the world’s biggest team tournaments.

A total of 240 teams are entered with 107 teams on the waitlist, a testament to the Fil-Am’s charm and allure.

De Leon has been with Baguio Country Club since 1989, starting as a maitre d’hotel overseeing the service of food and beverage to guests.

He indeed has come a long way since starting as a food server and supervisor at Dunkin Donuts. He put up his own piano bar and restaurant called The Other Office where he was invited by the late BCC president and chairperson Potenciano Ilusorio.

“I was interviewed in my own bar by the former GM Donald Nye. The board of directors then were mostly my clients,” De Leon recounted.

Nye asked him to help fix the services in the BCC.

De Leon was promoted as food and beverage director in 1993 and soon became resident manager and acting deputy GM.

He was appointed GM in 2002. He changed the whole organization and operations manuals. He believes in MBWA or management by walking around.

De Leon holds daily meetings at 9 a.m., including Sundays and holidays. He rarely stays inside his office — a minimum of two hours a day — and would rather do the rounds. He’s well-loved by his managers and workers alike.

Unlike Eustaquio who is an accomplished golfer, De Leon has given up playing the sport a long time ago.

“But I tried. Played it from 1990 to 1998,” he said even if he figured in an accident that needed 11 stitches to close the wound just under his right eye. The scar is still visible to this day.

“There was one player who had just made his shot and made another practice swing unaware that I was behind him,” he recalled.

Yet, despite the accident, De Leon persevered only to realize golf is not for him.

He focused on his first passion — building plastic model kits and dioramas.

Inside the newly-opened Baguio Country Club museum is one of De Leon’s creations — a diorama featuring “The Battle of Irisan Gorge and the Liberation of Sablan, Benguet.”

Actually, De Leon corrected, it was a group build involving like-minded friends.

His fascination with scale models began early and stuck with him until to this very day.

De Leon co-founded International Plastic Modelers Society-Baguio that holds regular exhibits displaying the works of its members.

Inside his man cave located beside his house are his collection of works that include the USS Missouri which measures four feet and is made up of 1,400 parts.

“It took me two years to complete it,” he said.

This attention to detail is what perhaps makes De Leon successful in his chosen career.

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