Here’s a col­lab you shouldn't miss

FHM (Philippines) - - Contents - Words ash mahi­nay Pho­tog­ra­phy lian du­mas

“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.

street hus­tle

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

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