Engineer, politician, agriculturist, businessman, revolucionario--Leonardo Valdes Lilles is all that—a Kapampangan visionary who wore many hats and played many roles, all in the name of community service and for his beloved town, Macabebe.
He was born on 11 April 1877, the unico hijo of Remigio Lilles and Leodegaria Valdes, the second child in a brood of five that also included his sisters Felisa, Margarita, Florencia and Laurentina.
“Ando”, as he was called, went to Ateneo de Manila (1886-87) and then to San Juan de Letran for his high school. He then enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas in 1894 to take up agriculture from 1894-96. The course was a natural choice for Ando as the Lilles family had vast farmlands from where they derived their livelihood. As the only son, Ando was expected to continue the family’s agricultural tradition that had given them wealth, comfort and status in Pampanga society.
The Revolution however, briefly intervened and Ando was quick to support the cause, one of the first Macabebes to do so. His first act was to resist Col. Blanco and to join the local revolutionary government. He was elected member of the Committee of Fund Drive (Comite Reandador de Fondos), together with Capt. Mariano Talag, Capt. Felipe Bustos, and town cabeza Cirilo Musni.
When conditions stabilized, Ando was sent off by his parents to England, where he enrolled at the University of London to finish his Agricultural Engineering (Ingeniero Agricola) course . While there, he also became an esteemed member of the “Agriculture Club” of England. Ando could have stayed in Europe but he decided to go home and pursue his career as an agriculturist. From 1905 to the late 30s, he worked an managed their landholdings in Lubao, Macabebe and Masantol. “Ing pamagtiaga yang dalarayan ning pamagwagi”(Patience is the way to success), was the motto he lived by, and slowly but surely, Ando steered his family enterprise to greater heights.
With a secure future, Ando decided to share his time and services with his fellow Macabebes. In 1911, he ran as an independent for the position of a councilor. He won a slot and became a consejal (councilor) for the next 12 years, despite not having a party affiliation. He had always ran as an independent because he could not bear to ‘play politics’.
Ando now had everything—except a family. He found true love in Olivia Limson, a kabalen, whom he married in December 1915. The couple, however, were childless. Adding to his sorrow was Olivia’s untimely death in 1919—they were just together for 4 short years. Undaunted, he devoted the next few years to public service. As a councilor of Guagua, he was one of those who donated Php100 for the salaries of teachers so that the Intermediaria Guagua (Guagua’s Intermediate School) could run and operate, under the tenure of Mayor Felipe Simpao. Ando also supported the construction of the public market and even participated in drawing up the plans.
On April 1922, Ando married for the second time to Graciana Engracia del Rosario (b. 18 December 1886) of Guagua. This time, the union produced three offsprings: Leodegaria, Remigio and Renato. (Note: Leodegaria married Rodolfo Tioseco. Their son, Leonardo, is the father of Alexis Tioseco, the noted film critic who was murdered together with his Slovenian girlfriend Nika Bohinc on 1 September 2009. Alexis is interred in Angeles City)
The best years of his followed after; he left politics to help raise his family and grow his business. He would divide his time between Manila and Macabebe, until his death on 27 February 1951. His wife, Engracia, outlived him for 12 years, passing away on 5 March 1963. Leonardo Lilles left behind a legacy of good governance and public service, guided by this precept that he subscribed in and which he evidently took to heart: “Ing catapatan o calinisan qng sablang tratus yang babie catimawan at catajimican qng tau”(Loyalty and fairness in all dealings is what gives prosperity and peace to people).