Re-printed from The San Pedro Sun Archives Volume 10 #6, dated February 10th, 2000
It takes great men and women to stand up and fight for what they believe in. Their courage for their convictions, whether it is religion, politics, world peace or the protection of the rainforest, is admirable. In San Pedro, we have a great number of people who have done a lot to promote what they believe in. We are happy to introduce you to a gentleman in San Pedro who has dedicated a great deal of his life to the promotion of sports for the children of San Pedro. This individual has also played a vital role in raising awareness for the protection of the Barrier Reef. He is Mr. Phillip Leslie.
“Billy,” as he is known, was born on February 26th, 1965, to Marthita and Godfrey (deceased) Leslie at the Belize City Hospital. He was one of the few children of those days whose parents traveled to the city’s hospital to give birth. He attended San Pedro Roman Catholic School and then San Pedro High School, graduating in 1981. Billy’s mother, an educator herself, encouraged him to further his studies. He did this by attending Belize Technical College, graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Automotive and Electrical Engineering. He recalls that most of his favorite memories are the good times he enjoyed growing up in San Pedro with his four brothers Charles, Martin, Gerald and Wilfred.
As was customary in the younger days of San Pedro, locals married at a young age and so did Billy, who married Neima Blanco. He first worked as a carpenter, a trade he had learned in school. He worked among carpenters Norman Eiley and Ronnie Perez, building furniture for hotels and private homes. He also took part in the construction of Mata Rocks Resort, Victoria House Dive Shop and other significant buildings in San Pedro. Like most other San Pedranos he also worked as a commercial fisherman for many years.
As San Pedro’s popularity as a tourist destination became more known, Billy became involved in the tourism trade, securing a good job for himself as a dive master. In 1986, he commenced working for the Coral Beach Hotel/Dive Shop and for Journey’s End. He demonstrated good people skills, so his love for the underwater beauty and his knowledge of the reef prompted him to improve his diving standards. In 1989, he took his first Dive Instructor’s Course with the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). He then joined his brother, working full-time with Hustler Tours. This agency had received much recognition for their great services in snorkeling, diving and many island and inland tours. Billy continued to educate himself in the diving scene and in 1991 also received certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI). His dedication to the industry made Billy a role model to many who were interested in this field. During this time he served as President of the San Pedro San Pedro Tour Guide Association (SPTGA) for six different years, a responsibility he has taken over yet again. He has also served as the Chairman for the Trade Licensing Board for two years, President of the Island’s Sports Council and Vice-President of the National Tour Guide Committee (he has remained a member till today).
Billy has always been a sport’s fanatic and player. During his youth he played on the Tackle Box Boys volleyball team, the island’s champions for three consecutive years. He also played on the team, Hustler Boys, the sub-champions of the island’s basketball teams. When asked about his interest in sports today, he commented, “Now that I am an adult, it is only right to promote sports for the younger generation. I have a great love for sports and children. That is my main reason for being involved.”
As great as his love is for sports, Billy has a stronger love for San Pedro and its Barrier Reef. As a diver and local he has made sure to practice what he preaches, which is the protection of the reef. His love for the coral reef environment pushes him to try any and all means to promote the conservation of the pristine reef. He has done this by giving lectures, and conducting seminars and workshops to groups both locally and internationally. In speaking about this he said, “This has become my livelihood. It is unfortunate that some guides still live for today, not thinking of protecting the coral reef for the children of tomorrow. We should not over-fish or misuse our coral reef. I make a special plea to the ‘decision-makers’ to stop and take a look at our natural resources; to make sure our people end up benefiting from them and not to sell out to foreigners for financial profits.”
Today, Billy’s family has grown to include three children, Francine, Billy Jr. and Chelsea. He concluded by saying, “I hope that all the people living in La Isla Bonita keep in mind that guests come back for the coral reef, friendly people and natural ambiance. So let us stop over-building and let us monitor carefully the amount of vehicles on the island before we lose our charm.”
Billy is a true friend of the environment, a lover of the sea and an excellent promoter of sports on the island. For these things and others he makes a great contribution to “Our Belize Community.”