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Real Steel: A Day In The Life Of Bakal Gyms In Metro Manila

In dingy neighborhood gyms everywhere, Filipinos work to build big Schwarzenegger-like guns for as low as P20 per session. This is what a typical day there looks like
by Pong Castillo | Nov 13, 2016
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While everyone else drops serious bucks for gym memberships and fitness classes to get robust—or at least appear like it on Instagram—there are some who prefer to get real work done where it is hot, dark, and dirty. FHM goes around the metro to find places where getting buff is done on a budget.

Chester Gym Fitness Center, Libertad, Pasay City

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"Wala kaming treadmill," explains gym caretaker Jojo."Kaya rin puro lalaki ang customers namin, kasi panay buhatan lang. Pag babae kasi, ang hanap agad sa gym pantakbo."

Daily sessions cost P35; annual memberships go for P500 per member.

While looking around, Jojo assists a security guard and a college guy. Both may or may not be playing hooky; the two are in leather shoes.

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On the white board, Jojo has  written a program for "leg day." 

"Bukas iba na naman, tsaka sa susunod na araw," Jojo explains. "Kelangan sa weightlifting may variation."

On this payday afternoon, Jojo expects around 30 more customers to come in before closing time.

Punzalan Gym, F. Manalo, San Juan

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For P40 per session, you get to enjoy enough gym equipment  to work out your muscles and make your body sore. Operations Manager Sitoy Ramirez says peak hours start at 6 p.m. "Yung mga customers kasi namin dito, pumunta pagkatapos ng trabaho nila.  

Ramirez points out that enthusiasts who frequent premium gyms also visit their establishment. "Dumadayo sila para sa bakal. Mas solid dito, mas mabigat."

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A man walks in wearing a basketball jersey top, cargo shorts, and slippers. He picks up a barbell and stretches. Before Team FHM finshes taking photos of the gym, the guy leaves, passing by Ramirez without a word.

Apparently, "pwede ang utang," the operations manager says. "Community na kami rito."


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Lerma Fitness, España, Manila

Right in the heart of University Belt, on a side street near Far Eastern University, is a cramped hole-in-the-wall bakal gym—ripped mats, misplaced dumbbells, and all.

Lerma Fitness, according to caretaker and trainer Ariel Mendoza, has been operating since 1990. "Dati boy lang ako rito...taga-linis. Hanggang sa nahiligan ko na rin pagbubuhat. [Kaya] naging trainer ako." 

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Mendoza says that from noon until early afternoon, customers are mostly workers who are on their break. They lift weights, then smoke cigarettes at the nearby sari-sari store after.

"Pero sa gabi, puro estudyante na. Gusto nila dito kasi mura (P20 per session) lang tsaka malapit sa school," he says, before enthusiastically adding. "Dito nag-train si CJ Lara."

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Lara, we found out later, was featured in the Cosmopolitan Bachelor Bash a few years back.

Hammer Fitness Gym, Bagong Ilog, Pasig City

About 30 men can easily crowd the 700-square meter gym Brian Espiritu co-owns with his brother Dek. They inherited the business from their father in the mid-'90s.

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"Na-stroke yung father namin nun, so we had to keep the business going. At the same time, wake up call siya sa amin to keep healthy."

Espiritu believes their business will endure. "Iba ang ang quality ng weights sa mga bakal gyms. Iba ang thickness." Apart from their regular customers, Espiritu partners up with nearby computer schools to have students make use of their gym during P.E. class. 

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When asked if he plans to continue the business running for another 20 years, he says, "Yes. Ang okay kasi dito, personal na libangan mo muna siya bago naging hanapbuhay."

Check out FHM's November Issue for more on this special feature and other great reads.


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