The late Liberato “Levy” P. Laus was one of the few Filipino businessmen who championed countryside development. He, just like others, had his fair share of struggles. But with his idealism and passion, he was able to make a monumental shift in his career and helped shape the lives of many.

It was in 1978 when Mr. Laus, at the age of 28, left his corporate job as a bank manager to pursue his entrepreneurial vision. He took the challenge of putting up a business in his hometown, San Fernando — the capital of Pampanga — with a long-term goal of elevating countryside development to a new level and generating employment opportunities.

Mr. Laus started with a small automotive dealership, funded with a meager capital, with only three cars on display. Despite operating in a business environment threatened by both economic and political uncertainties during its inception, Mr. Laus’ business blossomed into a highly diversified conglomerate now known as the LausGroup of Companies (LGC).

The LausGroup is considered today as the largest multi-brand network and remains to be the biggest and fastest-growing auto dealership in the country. It has a large network of more than 55 dealerships across Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Northern Luzon, with a wide range of brands, including Mitsubishi, Ford, Hyundai, Chevrolet, BMW, Volkswagen, Jeep, Peugeot, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki, Foton, and Haima.

Aside from automotive dealership, the LausGroup’s portfolio includes business interests in diverse industries. The group operates the Corporate Guarantee and Insurance Company, Comtrust Finance and Investment Corporation, Huper Optik Philippines, and Laus Marketing and Trading Corporation. It also owns several media outlets, restaurants, and an event center.

Over the years, the LausGroup, under the leadership of Mr. Laus as the founder and chairman, has remained committed to its core values of customer satisfaction, honesty and integrity, hard work and productivity, efficiency, and social responsibility.

As an affirmation to Mr. Laus’ exceptional leadership, he was appointed as the president of the state-owned Clark Development Corporation (CDC). His stint here from 2006 to 2008 widened the stage for a new wave of investors in Clark. Prior to holding the CDC presidency, Mr. Laus served as the director of Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

Despite Mr. Laus’ success, his commitment to community development remained evident. During the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, for instance, Mr. Laus led concerned city residents in organizing a disaster management group called Save San Fernando Movement. The group became instrumental in bringing together government leaders, businessmen, and other members of civil society to push the government for the construction of a protective dike that would stop lahar on its tracks, thus, saving the capital town from further destruction.

As a visionary man, imbued with the value of hard work, challenged by innovation, and inspired by the love for his hometown, it is not surprising that Mr. Laus was regarded as one the most accomplished and most awarded Filipino businessmen of his generation.

Among the prestigious accolades and recognitions Mr. Laus received through the years were the Most Distinguished Alumnus in the field of business given by the Don Bosco Academy in 1983; the Most Outstanding Kapampangan in the field of business with civic consciousness by the province of Pampanga in 1991; the Presidential Medal of Merit from former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005; the Outstanding Alumnus by the Don Bosco Academy on its 50th Anniversary and the Blessed Philipp Rinaldi Servant Leader from the Salesians of Don Bosco Philippines in 2007; the Most Distinguished Bedan by the San Beda College Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the CDC in 2008; the Outstanding Fernandino in the field of business and entrepreneurship by the City of San Fernando in 2009; and the Distinguished Bosconian Alumnus given by Don Bosco Academy in 2016.

The inspiring life story of Mr. Laus, however, came to an end when a private helicopter carrying him, together with two others, crashed into a fishpond in Malolos, Bulacan in noontime of April 25. Mr. Laus was declared dead on arrival.

The untimely demise of the Pampanga-based businessman, who is fondly called “Levy” by his family and friends and “LPL” by his colleagues and associates, left those closest to his heart in shock. Tributes for him and sympathies for his families poured in.

“Mr. Laus will always be remembered as the man who led efforts to save thousands of jobs in Clark as he headed the lobby and passage of the Freeport Law or R.A. 9400 which effectively institutionalized incentives that made investors and locators to stay in Clark,” the CDC said in a statement.

The state-owned firm noted that Mr. Laus’ efforts impacted not just Clark workers but the whole country as well because of the freeport’s undisrupted contribution to the nation’s economy.

“Sir Levy, your legacy lives on in Clark,” the CDC concluded.

Meanwhile, in an official statement of the LausGroup, the firm said that Mr. Laus’ untimely passing unfortunately came at a time when he was looking forward to greater things, not only for the company but also for the province of Pampanga as a whole.

“He will be remembered for his love of and dedication to the LGC as a group of companies, as a brand, as a family. He will be greatly missed,” the LausGroup said. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino