A wise woman I once saw on tv said: “We are all models on Instagram.”
And we’ve all probably stumbled upon a few self-help videos to find out if that is in deed true. Find the perfect light, add a filter or two, wear just a hint of Supreme; maybe fake a few freckles to turn it up a notch, too. There’s no strict formula in landing a modeling gig these days, as long as you play your cards and your angles right. One look at today’s tech-native Insta boys and girls, and you know that they’re just as capable of disrupting both the fashion insider and the common lurker’s explorer feed with one prized selfie at a time.
Once in a while, however, the real modeling industry anoints a new batch of fresh faces none of us would ever have discovered on our own. After one quick catch-up with 21-year-old Adrian Tongko of Mercator and 17-year-old Jaime Borromeo of Art Personas Management, you’ll understand why it takes more than breaking the internet to be worthy of the fashion world’s attention—and why a little bit of mystery in the age of blatant oversharing still works wonders.
Let’s begin with the elusive Adrian, a Filipino-Chinese-English snowboarder based in Canada, who—in one blink of an eye—could be skiing down the Alps after he’s shot an editorial in the heart of Manila. With a boyish charm rivaling breakout indie actor Timothée Chalamet, nothing about his aura feels manufactured or forced—from his commanding presence in front of the camera, to his effortlessly cool way of life.
CLUSTER: Hey Adrian, where are you exactly and what have you been up to?
ADRIAN: I’ve just gotten home here at Whistler, Canada from a trip to Europe! I was doing a few snowboard competitions in Switzerland, Netherlands, and Austria.
CLUSTER: It looks like you’ve come a long way to model in the Philippines. What made you decide to give it a shot?
ADRIAN: I wouldn’t say I’ve come a long way, but I have kept pretty busy for sure. My dad has
been in showbiz for a long time in the Philippines, and had a friend who is a fashion director. We met and he said that I could do some modeling in Manila, and I thought why not?! He then
introduced me to Mau de Leon of Mercator Talents, and from there I was sent to different types of castings and test shoots. I got bookings the first few months I started!
CLUSTER: What do your friends think of your newfound career?
ADRIAN: My friends in Canada think it’s pretty sweet that I have this kind of opportunity in the
Philippines. And most of the new friends I made while I was in Manila are models—which is
CLUSTER: You’re always decked out in the freshest streetwear for your recent campaigns and editorials. What’s your model-off-duty style like?
ADRIAN: Having gone to a few shoots now, I’ve been able to wear some very interesting and unique clothes, which I think has affected my off-duty style now. But I’ve always liked to keep it simple: baggy denim jeans, plain shirt (usually white), and skate shoes. If I’m going out, simplicity is key.
CLUSTER: Have you always been into fashion? Where do you like to shop?
ADRIAN: Once I got into high school, fashion became a little bit of a hobby for me. I would
usually do my shopping at thrift shops looking for vintage clothing. I really have a connection with 90’s hip-hop fashion, but also love the looks of the teenagers in the 50’s and 60’s.
CLUSTER: We noticed you’ve got a large tattoo on your forearm. What made you decide to get it?
ADRIAN: That tattoo is actually my first tattoo—and it was my mom’s idea. We went on a trip to Hawaii, and we went to a local tattoo parlor to get it. It’s the sun on the Philippine flag, with a Phoenix in the middle, done in kind of a batik style. All the rays get filled in with something that
represents every country I visit.
CLUSTER: On top of modeling—it looks like you’ve got a budding career as a professional snowboarder. How’d that come about?
ADRIAN: My family migrated to Canada from Manila when I was 10—and in the town I lived in, a lot of the families do mountain sports. My parents got me a snowboard after I tried skiing for a year, and fell in love instantly. I’ve been competing for about 5 years now, and would hopefully like to do it professionally.
CLUSTER: What’s the hardest snowboard trick you’ve ever had to learn?
ADRIAN: There’s a lot of different tricks that you can learn on a snowboard—all sorts of rotations and inversion—but the hardest I’ve had to learn so far is called a 1260, and that’s where you spin 3 and a half times.
CLUSTER: Damn! Any plans of joining the Winter Olympics?
ADRIAN: Someday! I’m currently representing the Philippines for any of the competitions that I do from now on.
CLUSTER: In the meantime—have you ever thought of starting a vlog just to document your extreme adventures? I’m sure you could give Casey Neistat a run for his money.
ADRIAN: I’ve always thought about it, and It would be awesome for people in the Philippines to see what I’m doing when I’m on snowboard trips!
CLUSTER: Despite your love affair for the winter chill, what do you enjoy most about the tropics?
ADRIAN: I love the heat for sure! Being on beaches and having a nice cool drink is always a plus for me!
On the other end of the model spectrum is Jaime, your friendly neighborhood Filipino-Brazilian student from La Salle Greenhills—who has clearly made a statement on Instagram by making his account private, away from prying eyes and shady DMs. In a sea of edgy street models who sport disheveled manes and smoldering stares, Jaime has the saving grace of being your typical boy next door (he cooks, too!). A face like his can easily fit into your favorite local primetime tv show—but being the enigmatic guy that he is, Jaime doesn’t seem too interested.
CLUSTER: Hey Jaime, I’ve noticed your Instagram is set to private. Can you at least describe what it’s like to enter the world of @jaimeborro?
JAIME: Well, I’m the type of guy that has a passion for traveling, likes to joke around and be positive all the time, and most especially loves being with his family.
CLUSTER: Since you’ve been keeping it low-key, tell me one thing most people don’t know about you.
JAIME: Most people don’t know that I’m a sensitive and down to earth kind of guy.
CLUSTER: After some rigorous stalking, I’ve discovered that you’re also part-Brazilian.
JAIME: My grandmother on my mom’s side is Brazilian, and she married a Filipino. So, my mom is half-Brazilian and that makes me one-fourth Brazilian. My Dad, on the other hand, though is Filipino and one-fourth Spanish.
CLUSTER: How did Art Personas discover you as a model?
JAIME: I was discovered when I was featured in Candy Magazine.
CLUSTER: A lot of people seem to think modeling is as easy as a selfie. What’s the hardest part about the job?
JAIME: The hardest part for me would be the long waits during an event, or the traffic to get back home when I am so tired. However, all that pays off when I get do what I love to do.
CLUSTER: What do you do when you’re not strutting the catwalk?
JAIME: I’m usually in school, in the kitchen (because I love to cook and of course—eat!), playing football, hanging out with friends, or spending quality time with my family.
CLUSTER: Wait—did you just say you could cook, too? A lot of teenage girls are probably swooning right now.
JAIME: When I moved to Brazil, that’s when I developed my culinary skills. My mom and grandmother would teach me different types of recipes, then I started learning more and more. When I moved back to Manila, I had an elective class in school which was culinary, and I was so happy because I was finally able to apply these skills.
CLUSTER: What would you recommend to a friend who might be unfamiliar with the tastes of Brazilian cuisine?
The one dish that has a special place in my heart is “feijao tropeiro” or in English, Cattleman’s Beans. This dish has beans, sausages, bacon, eggs, cassava flour, and so on—but some ingredients aren’t available here in the Philippines, which makes it difficult to make. This is the type of dish that takes me home with every bite!
CLUSTER: If you could raid anyone’s closet, whose closet would it be and why?
JAIME: I would probably raid Lucky Blue Smith‘s closet! His vintage with a modern twist street style is always effortless and comfortable. I really look up to his fashion sense and career.
CLUSTER: Even when you’re donning an edgy suit by a local contemporary designer, you always seem to exude the coy innocence of a boy next door. Any plans of becoming the next primetime prince of local tv?
JAIME: At this point in my life, I am focusing more on my studies, and when time permits—my modeling. Let us see what the future holds for other opportunities.
CLUSTER: Speaking of tv—what tv shows have you been binge-watching lately?
JAIME: Lately, I’ve been binge-watching on Stranger Things. I guess my favorite show of all time would be How I Met Your Mother.
CLUSTER: Lastly, what do you want to be when you grow up?
JAIME: When I grow up, I want to be an entrepreneur and open up my own Brazilian restaurant here in Metro Manila with my older brother.