Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team

Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team
By Walter Ang
April-June 2006
Metro Him Magazine

The sun pierced the morning clouds with shafts of light that skimmed the water's surface. Across the pool were sinewy bodies, skin glistening, cutting figures that belied graceful strength.

These bronzed gods of the National Water Polo team broke the stillness of the air with their whoops of encouragement for each other. Through the motions of a training session, their exuberance was to be expected. Under the aegis of coach Reynaldo Galang, the team had just recently won the silver medal in the SEA (South East Asian) Games held in our country.

The triumph is testament to the commitment this group of hardy athletes has put in to the team. Meeting daily at 5am, the next four hours are purely dedicated to training. Every day is a heady dose of drills and swimming exercises, with weightlifting thrown in for good measure.

With an average age of 28, these men have come together from across the nation. Nine out of the thirteen members do double duty for our country by serving for either the military or navy. Discipline and obligation comes part and parcel of being a member of the team. Team captain Sherwin de la Paz spoke of sacrifices made, but that "if your heart is in it, you enjoy it a lot. It's feels good and it's fun."

Despite the cut muscles and towering presence, the team is less a squad of snobby power athletes than it is a fraternity of affable blokes. Smiles, smart one-liners, and guffaws punctuate everything they say. No one is spared good natured ribbing.

It's this apparent collegial group dynamic that made Tani Gomez and Roy Cañete transfer from another water sport. "They saw how much fun we were having," recounted Coach Galang. "So they joined the team."

Stronger the a siren's call, the sport is apparently difficult to give up. Co-captain Allan Cesar Payawan is so enamored with the sport that he's been trying to leave for the past few years to no avail. "I have finally graduated with an architecture degree while still being part of the team, but I'm having too much fun here."

The team is not all sport and social bonding, however. Part of their physical prowess is fittingly channeled into spiritual growth as well with once-a-week Bible study lessons. The shared efforts and common victories have forged an unseen yet highly palpable connection within the troupe. This band of brothers, in fact, fondly refers to their team-building sessions as "family-building."

DJ Montano yearns for old-world elan

Yearning for Old-World Elan 
By Walter Ang
April-June 2006
Metro Him Magazine

"My favorite piece of clothing is my plain black Bench t-shirt," states DJ Montano in his paced, genteel manner. "It's so versatile. I can dress it up with a jacket or pair it with jeans for a casual look."

DJ credits grandmother, Virginia, for fostering his ability to mix and match. "She was a politician's wife and she was always so elegant. At our home, there was always a constant stream of visitors calling on my grandfather, former Cavite governor Delfino ? the "D" in DJ. As such, she was very particular about what we wore and how we behaved. My sense of style is greatly influenced by her."

Born into a family dedicated to public service (great grandfather, Justiano ? the "J" in DJ, was a senator), DJ's upbringing was steeped in propriety, etiquette and graciousness. It appropriately led to his calling as one of Manila's most happening restaurateurs.

Having had trained in Le Roches in Switzerland, when it comes to style and fashion, he's seen it all. "When I was studying, I traveled throughout Europe. I was exposed to so many different ways of dressing up. I could spend an entire afternoon in a Paris café just looking at what people were wearing. The street was their catwalk. The Europeans have a style that has a certain flair, a je ne sais quoi that I like."

Upon his return to Manila, DJ promptly gave birth to three of the most popular dining venues of the metropolis in the early 2000s. His international verve was clearly infused into Indian-cuisine restaurant Raj and Asian-cuisine restaurant Courtyard. Interestingly enough, it was a passion for water that inspired DJ to create one of the hottest places to be at during those years: the revolutionary chill-out lounge Acquario.

Fearless in pursuit of originality in both work and fashion, DJ's pet peeves are people who look like they replicated everything from a fashion magazine print ad down to the last detail. "Copying is fine, but you have to turn it into something that's your own. I myself am always inspired by film noir, the classics."

The nostalgia for a bygone era is grounded in fond memories of his grandfather. "He would always look so dignified in cream linen suits with a hat. Oh, if we could only bring back the stylish days of old Manila." This seminal yearning is probably the reason why, despite being on the forefront of the "it" scene, an old-world panache seems to organically envelope him.

Don't get him wrong though. Staid and antiquated is something he's definitely not. "I consider my style very, very eccentric. I'd wear an all black ensemble with a pair of snakeskin loafers." He points out, however, that while clothes make the man, how the man wears the clothes makes all the difference. "You have to carry yourself and your clothes appropriately. Attitude is important."

The delicate balance he achieves with his clothes carry over into his work as well. As a columnist for a national broadsheet and occasional stylist for Metro Him, DJ makes sure he finds the time to serve in his family's foundation that provides education for indigent students in Cavite. With regular visits to Boracay to get some downtime, DJ is currently cooking up a new dining establishment slated to open by the end of the year.