Why It's Important to Grow Up With Strong Women

Leon Araneta talks about being surrounded by strong women, rocking out, and eating a rib eye with the fat.

Entrepreneurs are certainly very competitive. How challenging is that when you are organizing an event?
I’d say that the challenge is that they are a demanding audience. Our events need to be extremely exclusive and curated such that they cannot be otherwise readily availed of.

You grew up in Mexico. Is it still home to you? Or has Manila always been home?
I am proud to have grown up among Latinos. Having lived in Mexico from the time I was 4 till I was 27, I carry strong patriotic DNA in our blood. My love is for Mexico, my duty is to the Philippines. Home is where my family is.

What do you miss most about Mexico?
1) Being around people who know more about tequila than I do. 2) I’m a mountain person. I miss seeing the volcanoes that have watched over the Mexico valley since time immemorial. 3) Driving. Mexicans are liberal about driving speeds and have amazing roads.

With mom Gemma and sister Fatimah in Desierto de los Leones, Mexico in the '70s.

You come from a family of celebrated beautiful, strong women. Your mother, Gemma Cruz Araneta, was the very first Filipino to be Miss International, and later, she entered public service. Your grandmother, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil is a feisty journalist. What was it like growing up in a family of such feminine strength?
My mother instilled in me the notion that duty to country was larger than my own existence. I owe my ease with the written word to them. It’s been an honor to grow up around women who can express their thoughts with both might and elegance.

Does your wife, Karla, exude the same strength?
Knowing that Karla could level and see eye-to-eye with the women in my family was a very positive sign when we first started dating.

Reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu at daybreak; enjoying hot curry sandwiches and cold beer with Karla on a rooftop cafe in Tokyo.

What about your daughters? Do you see you daughters following in their grandmother's or even great grandmother's footsteps?
I am confident that our daughters will create their own paths in life and carry with them the life learnings from these powerful women.

How do you bond with your family?
I just do as all these wonderful women say!

What’s your most memorable bike run?
Mountain biking from the Sierra Madre Occidental to the beaches of Huatulco, Oaxaca. It was a four-day camping/biking thing. The most exciting days in my life. We pedaled through anything and everything.

We also hear that you’re a proud rocker. Who’s your favorite band?
Unabashedly the biggest fan of a Filipino band: The Flippin’ Soul Stompers. I love those guys.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Puttering around our home, fixing things. Home improvement and hardware stores.

Biggest guilty pleasure?
Rib eye with the fat.

Pet peeve?
When two cars on a busy road have minor contact—the drivers stop wherever they are, descend and scratch their heads, fumble with their phones and pretend to be calling the National Guard while an ocean of traffic builds up behind them. Get out of the way, I say.

What’s one thing you wish most people would do more often?
Think about what is good for society and for the people around them.

What’s the most romantic thing you've done for your wife?
“Wow! You've done a lot, Babe!”—Karla

Piece of clothing that's a style staple?
Legitimate guayaberas.

Gadget you can’t do without?
Proxy server.

Music on your playlist?
Django Django, Grouplove, Foster the People, Lykke Li, BlondFire.

Favorite drink?
Whiskey Sour by Dina Enriquez.

Comfort food?
Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, tall glass of cold milk.

What gets you excited the most?
Having something new to share.

Complete this sentence: I like my job, but I’d rather be?
Starting a new venture.

This story was originally published in the July 2013 issue of Town&Country.

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