If great mentors are a must to becoming a hotelier of note, then Jove Schrottmann is one lucky guy. His father is the German Dieter Schrottmann who built and ran the award-winning spa resort Mandala in Boracay until he passed away in 2015. His mother is the fabulous Ping Fideris, a top model of international caliber in the 80s. His stepfather, a Panlilio, belongs to a family steeped in the hospitality industry. Remember that icon of 80s lifestyle called Puerto Azul?
“I got my business savvy from my stepdad; how to present myself I got from my mom; and my dad Dieter taught me the law of attraction and the whole lifestyle aspect of Mandala,” Schrottmann says, sitting like a king on a Chesterfield sofa at The Fort Strip’s The Refined. The place is a gentleman’s barbershop, haberdashery, events place and spa all rolled into one, which the 31-year old co-owns with partners. It’s where men go to hang loose, which is what Schrottmann seems to be doing at the moment, just before he drives off to Subic for a meeting on a hotel he’s setting up. “My father taught me how to turn my dreams into reality,” he continues, running his fingers on his freshly trimmed beard, his legs stretched out on the chair. “My stepdad taught me structure. And my mom groomed me to be a man.”
IT’S NOT JUST ALL THEM, OF COURSE. But like the good hotelier that he is, and having grown up with such sophisticated folks, Schrottmann is a master at downplaying what has been toiled upon. After living with his mother for a few years in Bicol, Schrottmann decided to return to Boracay at 14. At that time, the Panlilios had already bought Friday’s—that chic collection of huts on White Beach’s fashionable end—from Lottie Green, mother of now famed chef Josh Boutwood. At Friday’s, young Jove served as hot chef, member of the wait staff, and front office personnel. Back at his dad’s resort, Mandala, he was at one time gardener and part of the construction team, up at five in the morning, rain or shine, and being told to “shovel that shit and turn it into fertilizers” by his dad.
IT WAS IN HIS TEENAGE YEARS in Boracay when the young Schrottmann realized he wanted to carve out a career in the hospitality industry. “I wanna go be a hotelier,” he recalls. “I love the whole concept of hosting people, welcoming people, providing an actual experience.”
BLAME IT ON HIS FATHER, MOSTLY. Dieter arrived in Boracay in the late 70s when there was nothing in the island but sand and coconut trees. “He would tell me stories like how he had to get a block of ice from the mainland once a week, just to keep the cheese and the beer cold.” There would be a delivery of decent food once every two weeks, sometimes once a month— depending on weather conditions. “You couldn’t grow anything in Boracay, are you kidding me?” says the son. “Copra and fishing, that was all there was. D’mall was all marshland!” In his early years, Dieter lived in a “little pyramid house where he had to light a hundred candles every night just to make sure the place was well lit,” says Jove. “We had a dog named New Year’s, and my father would basically cook his food in an outside fire. Robinson Crusoe lifestyle. He would tell me stories where he would be walking along the beach and there would only be his footprints. And then, all of a sudden there was another set of footprints. And then there were more and more.”
HIS DAD WAS METICULOUS. That’s the best way to describe his father, he says. And this may as well be a product of being a photographer. Dieter shot editorials for magazines when he was in Dusseldorf living the glamorous bachelor life. Like a good photographer, explains Jove, “He would build a scene. Everything he built he drew himself… he could imagine something in his head and he was able to turn that into a physical reality. He was a wizard in a certain aspect, very magical.”
JOVE WAS SENT TO SWITZERLAND after telling his father he wanted to be a hotelier. He earned his hotel management degree specializing in international tourism zoning and management. He worked in London for his front office management training, and in the Hongkong Mandarin Oriental in its sales and marketing department. He got recruited back by his school, the Swiss International Management Institute, to run their alumni website, tasked to match graduates with the best suited vacancies out there.
HE WAS DOING SATISFYINGLY on his own, taking on two jobs in London to make rent and make ends meet. “One day I got a call from dad. ‘Hey, how are you doing out there? Maybe you wanna come back now and endow us with your newfound knowledge.’” The son heeded his father’s call and returned in 2013. Jove was put in charge of running the resort. From an exclusively spa brand with the usual accompanying restrictions—no bringing in of food, no kids, no TV, etc—the son suggested they give guests options. “It is the perception of having options that gives people the sense of freedom,” believes Jove. “Just because you have a mini bar in the room, people will use it. In most cases, people will choose the right thing as long as they have the option.”
TODAY JOVE OWNS MANDALA the brand, after his Tita Karen Villarica-Neff decided to sell the business part of the property to the Sheridan group early this year, months before government announced the Boracay closure. (Villarica-Neff sold out to his father in 2010.) “I guess because Boracay didn’t go the direction they wanted. Mass tourism came in, and the esoteric market—the people who travel for wellness—stopped seeing the island as a wellness destination.” While the brand was strong enough that it continued to attract visitors wanting to dabble in wellness, the real goal was to cater to long-staying guests. “The original dream of Boracay as a nice, quiet getaway for yogis and people that wanted that soulful adventure and bohemian vibe was gone. The tourism direction totally shot that.”
HE HAD MIXED FEELINGS about the island’s closure last April. “The locals have been clamoring forever to government about shortcomings: what has to be done, what was not being done. And you know what they say: be careful what you wish for. They got their wish but it was a delivery nobody expected—a little abrupt and shocking. Something had to give. Instead of nice razor blades and cutting it properly, they came in with a baseball bat and started hammering. [But] I think it needed something of that extent in order for it to get fixed. That’s the honest truth.”
IT'S HARD TO THINK OF SCHROTTMANN as someone who is building an empire. The generous beard barely camouflages his youth. He is often in shorts and some tropical print shirt, even when in Manila. If you scan through his social media pages, there are the intermittent MMA workouts and video projects, but its mostly an endless stream of shirtless parties. Of course you must understand that he's in the business of creating experiences in beach-anchored destinations. While Boracay was his comfort zone for a long time, the devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Mandala property's sale, and the April closure of the island to tourists all reinforced the idea not to put all his eggs in the Boracay basket. While he will be on top of running the Mandala operations for Sheridan until everything is settled, eventually Jove plans to bring the brand and experience to other destinations. This early, there is interest in El Nido and Siargao.
But Boracay will always be home. “I am attached to it. My roots are there. that’s what shaped me in terms of being humble: growing up in an island where there really wasn’t much in general up until recently is something not everyone can experience. I didn’t really have to buy clothes, I wore slippers going to work, sunsets every day, beach vibes. Its a simple lifestyle. So yes I’m attached to it.”
THE WILDEST THING that Schrottmann has done? He stepped inside a cage for an MMA fight in 2015. He was a man in his 20s, the years of shaping and finding himself. He had been training in Boracay’s Legacy Gym. And then his dad passed away. “It was a rough year for me,” he recalls now, "I was just angry with everything, with the amount of risk I have to assume, angry with taking over the business abruptly, angry at my dad—well, not particularly at anyone or anything, but that this just fell on me. It was a tough blow losing your dad, and then suddenly assuming the mantle of having to head all these people.”
Click on the image below for slideshow
His father Dieter Schrottmann in Boracay, circa late ’70s
Jove at 15 with his dad.
With his mother Ping who now lives in Naga.
School graduation in Switzerland with his aunt Ria, his dad’s younger sister.
Proudly holding a Trip Advisor recognition in 2013 for Mandala.
Right after his first MMA fight.
At his birthday party at the Boracay Suncruiser Boat.
Hanging on a wall in his Boracay home, a portrait of his dad
Photographed at his home in Boracay.
HE BROKE HIS NOSE AND FRACTURED A RIB. “I couldn’t breathe properly for a few months, it was painful but probably the best adrenaline rush I had in my life. There is nothing that makes you feel more alive than when you’re in survivor mode and you’re in a cage. It’s either I fight this guy and I win, or I get beat up and I’m out—and that’s the most exhilarating experience. He’s trying to find a way to fuck with you, to kill you, to destroy you. It really related to the situation I was going thru,” Jove says, looking back. The sport taught him focus at a time when a lot was happening. But also, it taught him “how to get beat up and get back up. No matter what happens, you make sure you don’t end up on the floor again.”
No mentors this time, of course; it was a lesson Jove Schrottmann had to learn on his own.
Photographs by Joseph Pascual