Boracay Island knows how to make headlines. It topped the list of Condé Nast Traveler's Readers Choice Awards for best island twice, and attracts nearly two million visitors annually. Its popularity, however, comes with a price: in February 2018, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered the closure of 51 establishments due to non-compliance to environmental laws.
Fiona Lauren Molina has been a witness to Boracay's highs and lows over the last eight years. In 2010, she graduated from the University of the Philippines thinking she would be an investment banker. Her father, James Molina, asked her to come on board for upcoming business projects. Her first job was to manage Boracay Island Adventures Watersports, a company that offered jetski rentals, flyfish and banana boat rides, and parasailing. She led the growth of the company and sold it in 2013, then put up an online travel agency called Book Below Zero, Inc (BBZ). Within a year, BBZ was running out of hotel rooms to book in Boracay. "The demand for rooms gave me and my dad the courage to build and operate our first hotel, Boracay Haven Resort," shares Fiona.
Tell us about your current work.
I am the Managing Director of the Club Haven Group of Hotels. We currently have 145 guest rooms spread across three properties, which are Boracay Haven Suites (Boat Station 1), Boracay Haven Resort (Boat Station 2) and Haven Bistro (Beachfront, Boat Station 2). I like to think that I am the master plumber of our organization – I plug the holes in our operations to compensate for any weaknesses and hopefully these efforts help result in more efficient operations. I am tasked to set our annual goals, meet or hopefully surpass the said goals, and make sure both our working force and investors remain happy and inspired.
What 3 pointers would you provide for people who'd like to pursue an environmental lifestyle?
1) You always have a choice.
As a business-minded individual, my golden rule is my bottom line should be positive. However, I always have choices on how to reach that positive bottom line. In relation, Club Haven chooses to adjust its operations to consider the environmental effects of its efforts. We invested in sewerage treatment facilities to maximize our water utilization and minimize consumption, and our own multi-process water filtration system so we can minimize (and eventually eliminate) serving bottled water to our guests. We have reduced our dependency on plastic products and look forward to being 90% plastic free by year 2020.
Seriously pursuing and environmental lifestyle is a choice – it’s your choice to either give up or continue.
2) Control what you can.
Not all individuals will share your passion and enthusiasm and more often than not, you will get quizzical looks and opinions. Hold yourself accountable to make sure all your decisions contribute to your end goal of helping our environment.
3) You’re not alone.
You’d be surprised to learn that there are people who care about the environment and more importantly, there are also those who do something about it. Be vocal about your cause and rest assured, you will attract similar minded folks. It’s important to surround yourself with at least a handful to make your journey more pleasant.
What are the best and worst parts about your job?
The best would be being able to create jobs and help numerous families stay in the Philippines (no to brain drain!) and help drive our country to greater heights – even in our little corner at the very least. The JGM Group of Companies currently employs 350 Filipinos, of which Club Haven accounts for 190 staff. The worst part is having no holidays, am on call 24/7 and carry the burden of making sure Club Haven continuously improves without sacrificing its profitability.
Fiona (leftmost) with staff of Boracay Haven
What can people do to help your cause?
Can someone please invent edible cigarette butts? Muchas gracias!
In general, people are very excited to claim they are travellers. Being a traveller is not limited to having the Instagram-worthy picture to post -- part of travelling is being an informed individual. Informed individuals [should] have common courtesy, which dictates to take any trash you have with you. Boracay is our home and everyone is welcome to enjoy everything our little island has to offer. We take great pains to clean up White Beach, so for anyone who wants to visit, please keep in mind to take your trash with you – you don’t see trash on White Beach because it doesn’t belong there.
What is the best advice you've ever received from anyone?
“Never lose the kid in you.”
“Live the life you want to live.”
What makes an ideal leader?
Someone who listens, who has an acceptable level of transparency, who is accountable enough to admit mistakes and most importantly, one who inspires his or her group to be more than what they currently are.
What is your why - why you do what you do?
At present, my goal is to make the most positive impact I can through my chosen profession. The world was beautiful when we were born into it so let’s make sure Mother Earth is even more magnificent when we depart.