It’s 10.30am on a Monday morning and I’m at the airport, waiting for Borgy Manotoc Marcos’s arrival. I have visions he’ll come sweeping in alongside his statuesque lady love Georgina Wilson, with a truckload of designer luggage carried by his 10-men strong entourage. Amidst the camera flashes and frantic fan mobs, I escort them to their awaiting limousine. We have seen it all on television, and as high rolling celebrities go, Fernando Martin Marcos ‘Borgy’ Manotoc is Philippines’s very own Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
It’s 10.47am and I overhear his name in a conversation between two Filipino airport security officers. Borgy has been spotted.
It’s 10.48 and I notice him in a sea of passengers. Girlfriend? Not on his arm today. Ten men entourage? Not a chance. I brace myself for the camera flashes, but they never come. Dressed in a micro-printed long sleeved brown shirt, navy chino shorts and blue suede brogues from Doc Martens, Borgy is completely unassuming and without airs.
He introduces himself with a polite handshake and we walk off, just the two of us.
As I enter his suite at the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa the next day, he stands to greet me. His slick hair is side-parted and skin bronzed enough that it accentuates his angular cheekbones. Our shoot goes by in a quick blur, in part due to his graceful professionalism. He has been modelling since age 15, and he has gone on to grace billboards in nothing but his almost-nothing Bench skivvies.
However, the 28-year-old’s claim to fame was not earned through a flashy underwear campaign or a swashbuckling action movie. Instead, he was born into a famous political family, with the former Philippine president the late Ferdinand Marcos as grandfather, the infamous Imelda Marcos of the thousand pairs of shoes as grandmother, and Governor Imee Marcos as mother. At age three, his grandfather was overthrown and his family was exiled during the revolution in 1986. After the exile, his family travelled extensively across the world through London, Portugal, USA and Singapore before returning to the Philippines in 1991.
On the day of the interview, we are sitting in the veranda of the Larkhill Terrace Suite, overlooking an infinity pool shrouded in manicured green shrubbery. Snacking on a can of mixed nuts, he leans over to show me the screen saver on his iPhone; an image of a beautiful home on a farm. “My home in Portugal will always hold a special place in my heart.” He adds that his childhood memories began around the time his family settled in Portugal. It was there that his mother finally had the chance to express her creative impulses by designing a beautiful home, and as a young boy, he had the space to run around and ride his bike together with his younger brothers.
What was it like when he returned to Philippines six years later? “It was quite a shock to be nine years old, and walking through the arrival hall to be greeted by a wall of cameras and strangers that knew more about my family than I did,” he says. “Memories of that time are pieced together from pictures and stories from family and sometimes even strangers.”
“People either loved or hated our family. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I have never felt the need to defend my family to anyone.”
Your real name is Fernando Martin Marcos Manotoc. How did ‘Borgy’ come about?
When I was born, I had a hole in my heart as well as an irregular and slow heart beat. At the time, I shared this physical trait with the iconic tennis player Bjorn Borg and so, my father, Tommy Manotoc (sportsman) coined the name Borgy for me.
You are the grandson of the late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, and son of re-elected Ilocos Norte representative Imee Marcos. What was it like growing up in the world of politics?
My parents did not make us fully aware of our family history early on. It was not until we returned to Philippines that my brothers and I realised the role our family played in our country. When we moved back to the Philippines, it became evident that we would not have an average childhood. People either loved or hated our family. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I have never felt the need to defend my family to anyone. My brothers and I have never been pressured to pursue a life in politics; however, we all feel our own unique responsibility to the Filipino people.
After the exile, you travelled extensively across the world through London, Portugal, USA and Singapore before returning to the Philippines to resume your studies. What do you remember from this period of time?
There is so much that I can recall from my childhood that I do not know where to begin. Sometimes I feel envious when people talk about the best friend they had since grade school, but I would not trade anything for the experience of travelling the world at such an early age. My mother is a walking encyclopedia so at every turn anywhere in the world she is overflowing with history, art info and funny anecdotes. It was hard to appreciate at a young age but to this day I call her when a search engine fails me.
Studying in East Harlem for a few years would have been an eye opener. What was your experience in New York like?
I learnt about work in New York City. The energy of the people there is frightening. I constantly felt like I needed to do more. I found a modelling agency and a part time job before I started school, and I was running from downtown to East Harlem twice a day. Harlem has such a rich culture and I was fortunate to meet some great people that opened my eyes to their community. I used to hang out at an organic juice bar on 125th street. We would eat, talk and imagine what adventures we would find ourselves in that evening. I learnt to adapt to many environments.
“Anonymity is a gift I gave away the day I chose not to aspire to a desk job and stood in front of the camera.”
When you used to return home for the holidays, you were thrown back into the high society lifestyle. How did you come to terms with having two different realities: one in East Harlem and one in Manila?
Living with that duality really defines me. Fame can be like a disease; it can devour you. I knew early on that I could not take myself too seriously. We are what we make of ourselves, not what people make us out to be. It was great being someone, and no one at the same time. Now I crave for that duality to keep me sane, and that is why I live to travel. Anonymity is a gift I gave away the day I chose not to aspire to a desk job and stood in front of the camera. Every time I travel to far away lands I get a small dose of that East Harlem life.
Was fashion always on your mind?
I have always been very concerned with clothes and fashion. I know there is more to life but I am deeply affected by aesthetics. Modelling has given me a chance to see the realities, and the spectacle of the fashion world. Europe makes everything feel beautiful. New York showed me the business. However, there was a point when I wanted to get involved in the work to make a greater contribution.
You went on to become a television host in a show called It’s A Guy’s Thing. However, you didn’t make that natural progression to becoming an actor. Why not?
Television is a lot of fun, but I have never felt the desire to act on television. I was happy to play myself on a men’s lifestyle show with my buddies. We were not taking it so seriously to keep it fun. For me, film is a little more interesting. I love movies. I get so sucked in and involved. It may be something I would try given the appropriate opportunity.
Tabloids made a splash about your involvement in a series of bar brawls and altercations in the past years.
I had several altercations in my late teens and early 20s. I did not know how to walk away from a bad situation. And I lived my life in front of a camera from an early age. The media enjoyed playing with the stories, but in the end I regretted how my actions reflected on my family.
“Fame can be like a disease. It can devour you. We are what we make ourselves, not what people make us out to be.”
You have evolved from a commercial model to entrepreneur, opening Bunker, a footwear boutique alongside another boutique called Obey. What made you decide to make that leap?
Opening a store happened out of necessity. There were few footwear alternatives for trendy young men in Manila. I thought maybe I could add to the retail mix and cater to kids that didn’t want to be like everyone else. It began with buying trips, and an appointment store in a studio apartment. It is great to see the small business grow into a burgeoning industry and culture.
What made you decide to open the first Doc Martens flagship in the Philippines?
I was fortunate to be introduced to the Doc Martens Singapore team through common friends. We began the discussion of how to reintroduce the brand in the Philippines. Tradition and heritage is a very strong theme in times when purchases have to last. Doc Martens has been able to create great new products and yet maintain its core values. We thought it would be best to open a concept store to control the entire experience. The brand has a great story, and it is important to tell it well. I wore my first pair of Doc Martens in grade school in Singapore, and I have had a pair ever since.
Tell us about your production team called Discipline that spreads itself across editorials, campaigns and creative branding.
Discipline is a collective of creative people that occasionally get together to work on a project. A few friends and I wanted to work under an umbrella, and select work based on creative freedom and content. We have done some advertising campaigns, and contributed to a number of fashion stories.
Your mother, Governor Imee Marcos, is also currently the president of the Creative Media and Film Society of Philippines. You have helped her out with the marketing of films. How does it feel to be behind the lens?
My mother’s film society is a labour of love, and I am proud of how good it is. I am trying to add merchandising to complement the imagery her team has created.
You have expressed interest in acting recently. Will we be seeing you on the silver screen anytime soon?
Over the years, I have met a number of film personalities and I have seen the independent film industry take hold in Manila. I would love to be part of an original Filipino story. Now I have to learn how to act, and then maybe I might have a shot.
Do you have any new projects for 2012?
I want to create a professional business out of the things I love to do. We are beginning to get a good brand mix in the Philippines, and people are recognising our huge untapped market. I am excited to get involved with marketing some of these local and international brands. A group of friends and I began a digital marketing firm earlier this year. It is a great platform with more and more possibilities. But I am very focused on distributing the brands we carry now and maintaining a constant presence.
Photography: Kean Wong
Photography Assistants: Derrick Ng & Alfred Pang
Styling: Wei Lun
Styling Assistant: Hilman Nasir
Grooming: Lolent Lee using M.A.C Cosmetics
Hair: Ark Lin using L’oreal Professionel
Location: Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa