12 July 2017

On the Fast Lane: Five Creatives at the Top of their Game

There's an age-old saying that goes like this: it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. To play the game, however – and to play the game well – requires knowing the game; understanding its internal machinations so you know which switches to flip.

In life, the game can be anything or any field. The game-changers, on the other hand, are the people who have excelled in their respective fields, be it through hard grit, creativity, or otherwise. These are the people who aren't afraid to take the heat or live in the fast lane – whose determination makes them legends in their own right.

Not everyone can be in the fast lane, however – and for the few who do, Nike's Fast Pack is fast and light enough for the long day ahead. Because for the game changers, hustling isn't on an occasional basis; it's a way of life.

Here, we look into five of the hustlers who've shaped and contributed to the growth of the Philippine creative culture.

Photography by Zaldine Alvaro


Having masa-friendly virality while appealing to niche audiences isn't an easy feat. Especially in the local music industry, where there exists a demarcation between the indie and mainstream.

Abra is one such individual. Having made his debut in the Fliptop Battle League, he has since become a fan-favorite and a household name; known for his sharp wit and clever verses. For a while, it seemed like most of this recognition would be relegated to Fliptop's audience, but upon the release of single Gayuma, he was launched into a larger consciousness. From the well-made visuals to the catchy beat, it was a thrilling taste of what was to come – and Abra's creative genius.


While talented, he doesn't solely rely on it to incur his current degree of success. He instituted Artifice Records, his own record label, to ensure full creative control for both him and those under the label. Having graduated in management accounting in the University of Asia and the Pacific, he still uses what he learned from his degree to help with his career. Moreover, he used timing to his advantage when it came to Gayuma – the single had been long finished before its release; it was only after he saw a rise in hip-hop in the Philippines that he released it.

But aside from his more business-minded persona, his creativity in crafting songs stemmed from a love for all things creative – from painting to books, to movies. None of them seemed like the right outlet, however, until he saw the movie 8 Mile (starring Eminem). This was where he was introduced to rap, and coupled with the inspiration from his creative writing classes, the rest was history.

Abra wearing the Nike Dualtone Racer

Abra, then, runs the line between work and play, between clear logic and swift creativity. But he's able to make it work by bouncing one side on the other, often enhancing it. Perhaps this is the secret to his success across all audiences. He knows what he's doing, and he's not afraid to show it. And with the Nike Fast Pack, he can do just that.

When it comes to art, there are certain pieces we could call sublime – those which take beauty from pain, as opposed to pleasure. It's the kind that leaves us breathless at pieces like the Spolarium, or even sad love songs. And it's something you could use to describe the works of Yeo Kaa.

While other budding artists dream of the day they find their signature style, Yeo Kaa has done just that – balancing out the cutesy pastels of her work with darker, sometimes graphic undertones. But it's this contrast that makes it all the more striking, all the more sublime – and coupled with titles that feel all-too-real, provides a vulnerability that audiences can tap into.


With a growing career and increasing exposure – last year, she tied up with Bigboy Cheng for a doll line – Yeo Kaa's future in the visual arts seems bright. But unlike the usual formulas to fame being spouted out – know your audience, your competition – Yeo Kaa's work is decidedly personal, be it her themes, or how she approaches it.

What makes her work sublime is that it comes from her own personal experiences. In fact, she doesn't paint with a certain audience in mind, but for herself. Her work is cathartic in nature because it is meant to be – having depression since high school, her art helps her express the things she keeps hidden, or what she could not on a regular basis. The girl that figures prevalently in her work is Yeo Kaa herself, and beneath the sparkly eyes and soft colors lies something more painful. It's appearing okay on the surface to not inconvenience others, but only after further inspection can one see the pain inside, much like the reality of many depressed people.

Yeo Kaa wearing the Nike Dualtone Racer

But even with the troubles that plague her, Yeo Kaa continues painting. With its speed and lightweight capacity, the Nike Fast Pack helps her soldier on despite everything. There are deadlines to be kept, after all. And she keeps a positive outlook on the current art scene today – that it's great how art has become more democratic, and that the people in the art scene should just help each other flourish. To weave something beautiful out of something painful – especially while still undergoing difficulties of one's own – is a hustle in itself. And it's one Yeo Kaa keeps doing despite the odds.

The fashion scene is notorious for its cutthroat nature. As trends come and go and are disposed of, it's a race to get first dibs on what's in, what's new, what's fresh. But while this premium on exclusivity won't be going anytime soon, there's been a notable move from high-fleeced concepts to something more relatable.

Chi Gibbs of Neon Island is part of this growing sentiment. With locally made pieces and approachable designs, the brand has amassed its own sizable following – proving that fashion doesn't need to be elusive to look good. And it's no surprise. With Neon Island, Chi does what she loves, creating the designs she and partner Aira Medina have wanted to make. And with the Nike Fast Pack, she keeps stylish while doing so.


This is the kind of passion customers can feel – be it through their unique, hand-drawn designs, or their own enthusiasm for the brand. Aside from making the designs themselves, they also ensure that it helps promote the local industries by collaborating with other local businesses. It may be hard to keep a hand on all of this, but Chi manages nonetheless – while looking ever-so-fashionable, of course.

Moreover, it's also about consistency and keeping the brand's authenticity. Since its conception in 2013, Neon Island has continued to keep with its tropical, quirky designs without growing stagnant. Perhaps in part due to the fact that they keep their audience in mind when creating the designs, allowing for a more dynamic slant to it over the years.

Chi Gibbs wearing the Nike Air Zoom Mariah

But despite the love she gives Neon Island, it never crosses territorial boundaries, especially with the influx of other brands. On the contrary, she finds the numerous up-and-coming brands a good thing, noting that it's a great time for the local fashion industry. It's more support for all things local, after all – and although convention would state it'd be best to one-up the competition to succeed, Chi chooses to do otherwise. It's only through unity that one can achieve great things, after all, despite what fashion tradition may dictate. And, in a twist of irony, it's what keeps Chi above the competition in the end.

Jome Silayan wears a lot of hats. Some may recognize him by his modeling ads, others by his acting gigs. There is one field, however, that stands out the most – health, and Jome is right on top of it.

As one of the partners of The Healthy House, Jome knows the hustle. Providing science-backed healthy meals, after all, takes a lot of work – moreover ensuring that clients are satisfied with what they get and are able to achieve their fitness goals. Fortunately, this is something Jome knows well, for he has lived it.

He got into martial arts back in high school. The road to eating clean came easily with the practice. But Jome notes this isn't the only reason for his wholesome approach to life. Diabetes and hypertension run in his family, so growing up, he became more conscious of what he was eating along with the medical expenses his family incurred. His grandparents also had heart conditions, so every family reunion they would always have something healthy on the table.


From there on, the healthy lifestyle stuck and has been going for him ever since. The Healthy House, for instance, was a way for him and the other founders (including Gerard Sison, Daniel Matsunaga, and Ally Borromeo) to eat healthy, quality food in spite of their hectic schedules. They tried other diet delivery services, but none seemed up to par, so they thought to hire someone to cook for them instead. It was an arrangement that worked quite well for them, and with other people inquiring about their training regimens and lifestyle, they thought it was high time to share it with other people.

But even with earnest intentions, starting The Healthy House wasn't all smooth sailing. In the beginning, it was Jome and Gerard who talked to the clients directly, even conducting the follow-ups to see how their clients were. Eventually, they were able to hire more people into the team to keep it going solid, but Jome still works at it from Mondays to Sundays, even in the midst of his other commitments. (He shares that in between sets and scenes for his other gigs, he is often found working on The Healthy House.) Nonetheless, he balances out the busy by keeping a tight grip on his schedules and making sure he still adheres to a healthy lifestyle. If he's not on the dot, he's close to that.

Jome Silayan wearing the Nike Air Zoom Mariah

For Jome, after all, the grind is well worth it. With the Fast Pack's light and comfortable properties, he's able to go through the routines with ease. And as long as he helps people – customers and employees alike – he continues to be driven. Their satisfaction is one of the highlights of the job. Moreover, it's the fact that The Healthy House is an extension of himself – his principles, his lifestyle, his interests, and talents.

Shaira Luna's reputation precedes her. To have a Shaira Luna photograph featured in one's publication, or to be photographed by Shaira herself, is a point of pride, an honor that is a testament to her prowess.  Lo-fi, dreamy, and reminiscent of a time gone by, her photos are at once touching and cinematic, whose organic feel is informed by an innate understanding of the subject.

Creating her iconic style takes a lot of determination, however. Before clamping onto portraiture and fashion, she delved into various types of photography, ranging from events to sports to food. This openness towards other shoots helped her pick up and learn many things along the way, things that would eventually inform her creative process. Works by other photographers are also seen as potential points for awareness.


But this openness is not limited to the kind of shoot. Before the advent of self-taught-by-video, Shaira learned mostly by just doing the work. This was way before Youtube reached its point of ubiquity, and at the time it did not occur to her to check for VCD tutorials. (Photography books intimidated her, she shared.) Instead, she did self-portraits when she did not have anyone to practice on and shot until the camera felt like an extension of her. Prior to the Instagram age, she'd keep photos she liked to keep as a reference. It's something she does daily, and one of the things that trained her artistic eye.

Shaira's current approach to work is then, in a sense, a synthesis of all she had learned. She separates her work into categories – creative and collaborative editorial shoots, commercial and advertising work, and personal work – noting that with the three, it is important to know how to shoot in different styles and to let a part of the control go to other people. It's also here that the distinction among the three makes sense, as they are all different. But even with their differences, they're all still very personal in nature – containing a piece of the photographer due to what she invests in it. And it's this passion and investment that adds value to her work, and perhaps the reason why she is sought out that much.

Shaira Luna wearing the Nike Duel Racer

Shaira Luna is a photographer who came before the social media boom, a position that's given her an advantage in some ways. More so with her Fast Pack, where she's able to go the distances she needs to go for what she loves. The relationships she built way back have assisted her in this day and age, for one. But moreover, it's helped uncover the grit within the woman, the kind that endears her more than ever. 


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