Healthy Living

The Philippines’ Strongest Men!

I had the chance to see something pretty cool today – a Strong Man competition here in the Philippines. I have a newfound respect for these athletes, and will start paying closer attention whenever Strong Man events are playing on TV or in my area.

The Philippines’ Strongest Men!Usually, I’m no fan at all of weightlifting as a sport, nor Cross Fit, American Ninja, or others. Sure, I have amazing respect for these guys and what they do, as I couldn’t even measure up as an amateur, but I would never actively seek out to attend one of the “Games.”

Strong Men in the Phillipines

So, it was actually a total coincidence that I found myself at an event – and in the Philippines, no less. In Dumaguete where I live, I usually hit the P & E Fitness Gym near Freedom Park. There aren’t many (ok, none) modern, spacious, and western-standard gyms in Dumaguete, but P & E is the closest you’ll find. It’s also home to some seriously dedicated athletes, as the trainers work there about twelve hours a day, every day! Obviously, they’re working with clients much of that time, but these guys are serious “Gym Rats” and use whatever equipment is at their disposal to get massively stronger and fitter. And P & E is your best bet for serious weightlifting and fitness in Dumaguete.

Anyways, I was planning a trip to nearby Bohol (an easy two-hour ferry ride away thanks to the OceanJet Fast Craft boat) and somehow mentioned it to my buddy who is a trainer at P & E, Mark. He was going to Bohol too, he said, for a Strong Man event in a week.

He sent me the poster, and with that, I booked my trip over to Bohol accordingly. In fact, I ran into Mark and his friend and co-competitor, Carlos, at the ferry terminal, and we enjoyed a few laughs and talked on the way over.

But when it was time for the event, they were all business!

I got a habal habal (motorcycle taxi) from my hotel at Alona Beach back into Tagbilaran City, where the event was being held at Island Mall. After walking around trying to locate it for a while, I found the event set up outside in back of the mall.

I’ve never been to a Strong Man, but there was some serious adrenaline in the air as these massive and ripped Filipino weightlifters walked around with nervous anticipation. The crowd grew, too, braving the hot sun with shade umbrellas or just towels on their heads for a chance to get right up close to the action.

They started with the log lift, then went to the axle deadlift, followed by the truck pull (a VW bug!), and, finally, the atlas stones competition. To pile enough weight on the bars, they used truck tires with the rims and sometimes homemade wraps for the bars. Talcum powder covered for lifting chalk and some guys even wore Chuck Taylors! It was really simple, but these guys were no joke. Some of the bigger competitors – like the Strong Men from Manila – were monsters, and the local boys were cheered on rowdily.

To catch a better view, I stood up in the bed of a pickup truck, as my friends Mark and Carlos gave it their all like true champions. This was just the Visaya (central island region in the Philippines) qualifiers, so the winners of this Strong Man will go on to Manila.

If Mark and Carlos qualify, I might have to take a trip up there to watch their next Strong Man event!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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