We sat down with one of the country's top art influencers, Bigboy Cheng.
As the man behind Ronac Art Center and Secret Fresh Gallery, Bigboy shared with us his prized possessions, expressed his passion for toys, and gave his thoughts about the Filipino art scene.
Peek into his Instagram account and you will definitely fall in love with his massive sneaker collection and designer toys. Despite his vast achievements in the field of art, getting to know him during our short late-afternoon conversation made us realize why he deserves the best things in life.
SA'ICHI: Tell us a little background about You and Secret Fresh Gallery.
Bigboy: I started out as a toy collector. From there, I wanted to take it to the next level, which is designer toys. From designer toys, I started collecting paintings. Our local artists design beautiful toys, so I thought why not start an art movement? Fresh Manila started in Quezon City, then we moved to Greenhills and became an art gallery.
"Bali nagsimula ako, as a toy collector. Nagustuhan ko mag-next level, which is mga designer toys, yung mga gawa ng artist. From designer toys napunta ako sa mga paintings. Naisip ko lang dati na sobrang ganda ng mga toys ng mga designers natin, yung mga local artists. Bakit hindi ako magtayo ng Fresh Manila pa dati? Napunta kami from Quezon City to Greenhills now, naging art gallery na tayo."
SA'1: Around what year did you start Fresh Manila?
BB: Fresh Manila was established 10 years ago. Ronac Art Center/Secret Fresh was built back in 2011.
"Bali nag-start tayo, yung Fresh Manila, 10 years ago. Itong Ronac Art Center/Secret Fresh, 5 years na."
SA'1: When did your love for sneakers and art develop?
BB: Ever since I was young I loved toys and sneakers. One unforgettable moment was when I was 8 years old, I used to shop in Greenhills looking for Nike Cortez and Nike running shoes. Growing up in a sport-oriented family, it came to me naturally as my family loved shoes. Me and my siblings used to buy different types of sneakers, from Diadoras, to Larry Bird Converses, and to New Balance Worthy Express.
"Simula bata palang ako mahilig na ako sa toys and sneakers, hindi ko makalimutan, when I was 8 years old, sa Greenhills, namimili na ako. Hindi pa Jordan 1 ang hanap ko, mga Cortez and Nike running shoes. Sports family kami, it came up naturally sakin na mahilig kami sa sapatos. Kami ng kapatid ko, we buy different shoes like mga Diadora, Larry Bird Converse, and New Balance na Worthy Express."
SA'1: Which sneaker or art piece would you consider as your first love?
BB: I like how Hong Kong-based artist, Michael Lau draws and designs toys. His pieces may look wooden, but he uses vinyl plastic. As for shoes, I'll never forget my Converse Worthy Express and my Jordan 1's.
"Art piece, si Michael Lau, Hong Kong based artist siya, sobrang galing niya mag-drawing at mag-design ng toys. Parang wooden siya, pero he uses vinyl plastic. Sa shoes naman, hindi ko makalimutan yung Worthy Express and yung Jordan 1."
SA'1: How was toy collecting and the sneaker scene 10 years ago?
BB: Wow! It's different, very different. I have goose bumps all over me right now as memories flash-backed. I'm quite overwhelmed with our current art/sneaker scene, it makes me feel proud. As for designer toys, we're now up a notch compared to other countries. Filipinos are very passionate with sneakers as we have groups and we attend sneaker reunions.
"Nako, ang layo. Kinikilabutan ako sa tanong mo, dahil madami ang nag-flashback. Overwhelmed ako sa art scene and sneaker scene natin, it makes me feel proud. Designer toys, angat na tayo compared sa ibang bansa. Sa sneakers ang galing natin, we are very passionate, we have groups, we have sneaker reunions."
SA'1: Do you have a rough estimate on how many pairs sneakers and toys you currently have?
BB: Currently, I have around 1000 pairs of sneakers. As for my toy collection, maybe 500 pieces plus around 100 paintings.
"Sa sneakers, mga 1000 pairs ako ngayon. Sa toy collection, siguro mga 500 pieces, paintings around 100 pieces."
SA'1: With 1000 pairs of sneakers, how do you come up with your sneaker rotation?
BB: They're all scattered right now, some are placed on the floor, some are in boxes. Funny thing is, I spend 10 minutes looking for sneakers, I just don't know what to wear! I just choose depending on my mood for the day and depending on what I wear. When I am in a hurry, I use my adidas NMDs.
"Naka kalat lang sila, nakalagay sa sahig, nakalagay sa mga box, nakakatawa nga pag maghanap ako ng sneakers mga 10 minutes, hindi mo alam ano ang susuotin mo eh. Namimili nalang ako depends sa mood ko for the day, depends kung ano ang suot ko. Kung nagmamadali ako adidas NMD ang gamit ko."
SA'1: If you could wear only one pair of shoes for the rest of your life, what would it be?
BB: Now? adidas NMD! They are very easy to wear and nicely designed. Plus they are very comfortable.
"Now? adidas NMD! And NMD mabilis suotin, maganda and masarap sa paa."
SA'1: Do you have any sneaker that you regret on passing?
BB: A lot, but what I regret most is not taking good care of my older pairs. Of course, back then, I was still young.
"Marami, pero mas nag-reregret ako na hindi ko naalagaan yung iba dati. Pero syempre, bata pa ako nun."
SA'1: Do you have any advice on how to take care of sneakers?
BB: Honestly, here in the Philippines, you need an air-conditioned room. Better if it is temperature controlled. You will also be needing dehumidifiers, at least two.
"Dito sa Pilipinas, honestly, kailangan lagyan mo ng aircon yung room mo, better if temperature controlled room. Dapat din may dehumidifier, kahit dalawa."
SA'1: What is the most inspirational sneaker/art story you have ever heard?
BB: We're making a living out of art, and these helped other artists. Ronac Art Center is built for sneakers, art, fashion, and music - we were able to unify them.
We’re making a living dito sa art. Madami din tayong natulungan na artist. Itong Ronac tinayo ito for sneakers, art, fashion, and music - napag-isa natin sila."
SA'1: What inspired you in connecting art, music, and sneakers?
BB: Actually, these are all my passion since I am also a DJ. Plus, I loved toys ever since I was young. My customers are also very passionate about them. We were able to unify them as one movement.
"Actually, Hilig ko lahat yan, DJ din kasi ako. Plus, nung bata ako mahilig na ako sa toys. My customers, sobrang hilig talaga lahat. Napag-isa natin lahat, one movement."
SA'1: Do you have any tips to aspiring Filipino artists and gallerists?
BB: Do what you want to do and never stop. Be inspired and continue to level up. Do research and do not be stagnant with one thing. To the collectors, be resourceful, always be kind, enjoy the camaraderie and make it fun for all.
"Gawin lang nila ang gusto nila, wag silang titigil. Be inspired, level up lang ng level up, do research, don’t be stagnant sa isang bagay lang. Tapos sa collectors, be resourceful, maging mabait ka, dapat marunong kang makisama, para masaya lahat."
SA'1: Lastly, what makes Bigboy #BESTINCLASS?
BB: I am not really best in class, there's more out there! As for me, I enjoy when I get to meet people, like you guys, like Sole Academy. We are united as we have a common interest. We learn about the history of things. We should strive to be happy collectors. Never be an "angry collector" that feels bad if he/she fails to acquire something. Always be a source of positive vibes within your community. Be happy, share your knowledge, share how you got that art piece/sneaker.
"Hindi, hindi naman best in class, marami dyan! Pero ako, I enjoy when I get to meet people, like you guys, like Sole Academy, we meet and have fun. May samahan tayo, meron tayong napaguusapan, natututo tayo sa history ng mga bagay bagay. Dapat masaya ka lang na collector, hindi ka dapat angry collector, na tipong pag hindi mo nakuha ‘yan, galit na. Positive vibes lang. Be happy, share your knowledge, share paano mo nakuha yung piece na yun."
After the interview, you may ask, what made us realize why Bigboy deserves the best things in life? His humility.
Despite being a name Filipinos can be proud of, Bigboy Cheng stays true to what he does: he shares his knowledge in his field, and still continues to inspire the younger generation. With his empire of sneakers and connections from all over the globe, Bigboy still lines up at sneaker raffles to purchase a pair. What you see is what you get, no filters - just an artist who runs on 100% passion.
For us, Bigboy, you are BEST IN CLASS.
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