FHM x BIGBOY CHENG
Here’s a collab you shouldn't miss
“First time ko to gagawin [putting his entire collection together] and ilalabas natin sa FHM
to–exclusive yan.” He speaks those last few words in a tone we later become familiar with–a man with the confidence of many successful collabs, plots, and sold artwork.
He’s busy enthusiastically ordering his staff to pull out more Supreme from all over the place as we jury-rig a Supreme rug to the side of his open display refrigerator. Supreme shirts end up as unseen sacrificial platforms to prop up more Supreme shirts. We’re running out of space in the dining room, so we ditch all the non-red and white goods–yes, this isn’t even the whole collection.
Bigs decides that he’s okay with not having a functional dining room for around two weeks and jokes, “Magpa-picture tayo dito tapos singil five hundred!”
As we pick up fake $1000 bills from the floor, he shares that he once made real currency rain during a particularly wild DJ gig. It’s exactly the kind of behavior you’d expect if you follow Christian “Bigboy” Cheng–streetwear lord, gallerist, mattress seller, and all around larger-than-life personality–on Instagram. But he followed it up with, “Pero hindi mga one thousand– kasi ako rin makikipulot kung may gumawa nun noh. One thousand din yun!”
a typical Workday
We arrive at RONAC in San Juan on a Tuesday afternoon, and see Bigboy seated on the porch of his art gallery, Secret Fresh. He’s chatting with then-star Hotshots Allein Maliksi of the Blackwater Elite who is fresh from practice at RONAC’S indoor court.
Before the PBA player goes, he teases Bigs about a few pairs. “Dyusko 13 [ang
size mo]—sige hanapan kita. Marami akong sobrang 11” bigay ko sana,” Bigs replies.
“Sobra” might well be understatement of the year for anyone who’s seen his shoe collection. “Ayun, nabigyan ko ng advice [si Allein]. Matalino siya sa money niya.
Advice ko sa kanya, ‘pag may extra money: lote, bahay, o artwork. So pati mga basketball player, customer ko rin sa art at foam.” Foam refers to Uratex, of course, which also has a presence in RONAC along with a new brand Bigs has brought in: Sixinch, a Belgian line of modern furniture that’s suitable indoor or outside.
A friend arrives and introduces Bigs to a colleague and they both check out the gallery. Shortly after, a pair of rich-looking older gentlemen arrive–with bodyguards, of course– and go into the furniture showroom.
“Ayan, may bumibili na,” Bigs says. They turn out to be a former undersecretary and the owner of Eskaya Bohol–a super exclusive resort. They come over and Bigs speaks to them about supplying the beds for the resort. Introductions begin with high-society things like my friend owns this club, was archi of this and that, and “kakagaling
ko lang sa Bohol punta ako sa inyo next.”
The resort owner insists Bigs come over in person to see what needs to be done, and offers him a special price if he stays at one of their 24 villas. Afterwards, Bigs tells us, “Ngayon ko lang siya na-meet and in-offer na yan. Okay di ba?” Did he know they were coming today? “Actually hindi. Kaya maganda nandito lang ako. I get to see the customers coming in and out.
Ganun talaga dapat,” he says. Here’s a typical Bigboy Cheng schedule: “11a.m. magba-basketball kami ng best friend ko–every day yan. Tapos punta na ‘ko rito. 1 p.m. nagbubukas ang SF. Tuesday and Thursday kasi meron pa ako Uratex eh, then Sixinch pa. Bale, PR and Sales ako. Pag may mga big accounts, nirerequest tayo ng customer minsan, or pag wala ang mom and sister ko.” A well-dressed lady arrives and says she’s a relative of one of Bigboy’s customers. He goes into art gallery owner mode and accompanies her inside. “Every week may nabebenta n’yan.” he says, referring to a resin piece by Luis Lorenzana. She points to another artist’s work and he ruefully says, “sold out na.” She agrees to buy the Lorenzana. Bigs whispers to his staff, “sagad mo, less 10 percent.” In about an hour’s time with him, Bigboy has made three new acquaintances. Something we notice is that he’s never on his phone–in fact, he doesn’t even have one with him. It’s good old-fashioned human PR and salesmanship–and judging by the deals he just effortlessly pulled off, he’s good at it.
We’ve been sitting on the Secret Fresh porch this whole time. Bigs doesn’t hide inside the aircon gallery or office— if you want to meet the man you can pretty much just
walk up to him any given Tuesday or Thursday. His close friend, architect Miko Abueg arrives. Responsible for many of Bigs’s projects, they first met over a shared love of streetwear. “Dati pa kaming nagsu-supreme, di pa sikat nun, mga Jordan-jordan pa lang,” architect Abueg says. A little later, Randy Galang arrives. Bigs introduces him as one of the top adidas collectors in the world, and the man with the konek. “Sikat sa Singapore yan…yung IG niya. Lahat ng pinaka-rare at di pa lumalabas, nakukuha niya.” Randy is wearing a 1-of-150 3D-printed adidas pair worth P150,000. In his hands is a Supreme × Louie Vuitton denim jacket for Bigboy to consider. It fits and despite already wearing another Supreme x LV denim, he wants it. “Magkano to, four?” “Lagpas…” says Randy. “Shet. Five thousand?” Chief toymaker, Rommel Chua, arrives as well. “Siya kino-consider ko na partner ko [sa Secret Fresh];
maestro. Minsan kaaway ko,” says Bigboy, laughing. A few local artists arrive early for afternoon basketball on the court, and they all greet Bigs like he's some sort of tito. Someone hands Bigs an old-school Nokia, and he finally answers a few texts for the first time all day. When street food vendors pass by, Bigs generously buys their entire stock for the day and tells his staff to dig in. We get to eat a load of kwek-kwek as the afternoon stretches into a hang-out and kwentuhan session.
Of course, it revolves largely around streetwear: “Randy, kuha mo rin ako n’yan.” “May extra ka pa n’yan?” “Saya, kahit si Allan K mahilig na rin sa Supreme!” “Halos nasira ulo ko rito [sa Supreme x LV] grabe! Hook-up doon, hook-up dito. Di mo alam kung scam—nag-down ka ten thousand ta’s di mabibili kasi kahit pumila sila biglang cancelled release sa Houston. Buti binalik sa’kin, mabait yun–mga bata ah!” And for our benefit, life as it happens:
“Ang maganda, nag-jive kami lahat dito, na-swerte rin ako sa mga kaibigan natin. Kaibigan ko, naging
customer ko, para kaming isang pamilya rito. Asaran…parang uupo lang ako rito ngayon ta’s dadating na lahat, palitan ng mga ideas. Ito [ngayon], meeting na ‘to.” With all the street food and random people coming by it starts to feel like the poshest sari-sari store tambay. “Pinapawisan na ako!” Bigboy laughs in his denim. We ask if he does this even in the heat of summer. He just smiles and nods.
This homey atmosphere is probably on purpose. In fact, the impending Secret Fresh renovation seems to reinforce that: “Magiging carinderia 'to; para talagang carinderia na may manang! Nagluluto ng corned beef, hotdog,
Spam, Milo, kape na may tinapay, at monobloc yung silya–tapos yun yung secret entrance, may dalawang papunta sa likod, pagpasok mo: Secret Fresh gallery.” He’s looking forward to it for another reason, too. “Nakaka-hassle din and draining ang gallery–every two weeks may show kami. Walang tigil yan for how many years, minsan nakaka-drain din mag-pr sa totoo lang, lalo na pag maraming tao.
“Pag Sunday at walang show, masaya ako kasi kasama ko family ko…yung isang anak ko sobrang hilig din [sa streetwear], yung bunso ko. Yun ang boss ko. Parang clone e, natutuwa ako dun.”
a secret show
We arrive at the second RONAC in Magallanes for a secret, invite-only show–so secret that we can’t even say the name of the artist or show any pictures.
The vibe here is very different from the previous day. The art collectors are almost all dressed conservatively in dad polos and dad jeans. These people probably wouldn’t know a Yeezy if it hit them in the face. They might not even know Kanye.
Bigs quickly points out some of the guests: Terry Que, “Rain or Shine owner;” Paulino Que, “the biggest Filipino art collector in Southeast Asia;” Jonathan Matti, “one of the most famous interior designers;” and Julius Babao, shod in Gucci and Supreme, of course.
Europe’s “Six Two Eight” and other ‘80s hits are playing. The buffet is, quite unexpectedly, Chinese fried rice and lemon chicken. Bigs is a one-man show and does all the
sosyo and hosting himself. The show sells out by 7 p.m. despite the fact that it was supposed to open at 7 p.m. Bigs explains that some clients buy ahead of time. From 7 p.m. till 10 p.m., Bigs is constantly speaking with the guests, and it does look tiring.
bigboy’s secret lessons
Our last day with Bigboy is actually the one we spend in his home, preparing the Supreme collection. Randy Galang, his buddy, Joey, and the FHM team, do the handling of his very expensive items. Feeling like we’ve earned his confidence, we decide to go ahead and ask for the
Mmk-story: Bigs, for a very rich man–who even deals in art, which can be pretentious as hell–you aren’t extremely douchey and are down to Earth. Was Uratex still struggling when you grew up and did you have a hard-knock life youth or something? “Hindi naman, asenso na [yung Uratex noon], pero nagsimula yan sa wala. Nagsimula ang tatay ko sa paggawa ng unan, tapos nakuha siyang exclusive supplier sa isang hotel. Dun nagkaroon ng puhunan ang Uratex. Nagbabakal na rin kami. Ninety percent ng car seats, mga OEM sa Pilipinas, gas tank ng motorsiklo ganun, kami nagmamanufacture.”
Did he ever work somewhere else to earn his “place” in the company? “Uratex lang ever since.”
He then orders P5,000 worth of food for our group’s merienda– nothing fancy, just his comfort food: Jollibee. His right-hand man, Johnroy, arrives and gets a burger. Then, over the meal and without prompting, Bigs tells us how Johnroy saved his life once.
In his youth, Bigboy was a chronic gambler and played himself into a load of debt. “Nadisgrasya
talaga ako sa casino eh, kaya kayo, wag na kayo magsugal.” Massively disappointed in himself, he went home to take his last bit of cash to hit the highway–literally.
“Tinanong ko lang sa tagaexpressway san pwede pumunta, ta’s
sinabi sa ‘kin Bicol, dire-diretso ka lang.” With no phone, no money, and no word to his family, he ended up on the doorstep of the family of the then 7-year-old Johnroy. It must’ve been weird for a six-foot Chinese guy to randomly show up—and they were total strangers—but they took him in for around two years. At one point, Bigs said he went home and was like “uy, may de lata, parang may pambili tayo ngayon ah!” He realized later that his parents had probably found him by then–and sent monetary support.
It’s an unexpected tale of enlightenment, and we ask Bigs if his own experience ever reminds him of this certain, famous story of a man under a tree. He knows what we’re getting at, and gamely plays along: “Oo, kamukha ko kasi si Buddha eh, kaya siguro nangyari yun sa'kin, ha ha!”
the high life and hyped times of big boy cheng
ronac art Center, san Juan
SHOWCASE (Clockwise from top) Bigboy's purpose-built designed shoe room; "$1000 dollar" bills and the gun to make it rain with; choice collabs are a big part of Bigboy's collection