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HomeHomegrownHOMEGROWN | Sheer will and a bullworker: A Bacolod muscle man's rise...

HOMEGROWN | Sheer will and a bullworker: A Bacolod muscle man’s rise from skinny to sinewy

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IN A NUTSHELL
  • Samuel Solon, fitness gym owner and bodybuilding competition champion believes that physical fitness has become more important amid a health crisis
  • Transformation, he says, is the motivation behind his fitness gym’s continued operation amid the economic slump

It is easy for Samuel John Lenling Solon, owner of Sam’s Slim Gym to make up an ala MKK story, one that can make everyone cry.

In an age of hashtags and rants against bullying, he could simply say he was bullied growing up as a young boy in this macho-centric capital of Sugarlandia.

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

He chose to be honest.

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He was skinny as a kid, he admits, but he was not bullied, “just underestimated.”

He was called “bitokon,” and “one who does not have “a chance in life.”

Or as the thugs would say in tough neighborhoods: “wala tsansa mag champion (no chance of becoming a champion).”

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

Bitokon is Hiligaynon for a parasite-infected tummy.

“Give them Combantrin,” mothers would say.

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Sam Solon was like that.

Until one day in 1990 when he started working out at home with his father using a bullworker.

In those days of Olivia Newton John and Jane Fonda in tight leotards dancing to “Let’s Get Physical” and Richard Simmons doing aerobics, the bullworker was as ubiquitous as the washing machine.

The only thing you need, marketers said, to keep fit with isometric exercises.

Four years later, the backyard regimen became formal workout sessions in a real gym.

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November 4, Sam recalls, 16 years ago was the first time he stepped inside a gym.

At first, Sam just did not want to be left behind when his two younger brothers work out.

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

That tag-along motivation took a serious turn when Sam noticed he was able to gain 45 pounds in only six months, no easy feat for an ectomorph or someone who had a lean and long body type.

Buoyed by his newfound physical improvement, Sam joined and won a college beauty search and soon after, in 1996, joined a local bodybuilding tilt.

He did not win anything but he says he “enjoyed the experience”

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

Undaunted, Sam continued to lift the irons and, in 1998, won in that same competition.

Two years later, on 1 April, Sam opened his first gym, a year after he became an all-in-one employee, taking care of scrubbing the floors to counting the earnings.

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

Differences with the owner over strategic directions made him resign and open his own gym, a new venture that saw Sam running a one-man show at first.

“I customized the equipment, bought them myself,” he says.

His brother, Alvin, soon joined him to assist in the operations.

Alvin is now a fitness trainer at the Platinum Health Club in Kuwait.

Twenty years after the first client sat on the bench press and did the curls inside Sam’s Slim Gym, Sam is now a Certified Personal Trainer of the International Fitness Professionals Association.

Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.
Photo from personal collection courtesy of Samuel John Solon.

While holding a degree in Electronics Communication Engineering from the Technological University of the Philippines-Visayas, he also has a lot, not a few, champion’s belts in national and international bodybuilding competitions, making him eligible to be a Professional League Judge of the International Federation of BodyBuilding.

It is not only rippling muscles, bulging biceps and macho intentions that fuel Sam.

To him, his real motivation is to give “real results from real workout,” a philosophy reflected in their motto “Building bodies, building lives.”

Sam Solon continues to believe in a mission.

Not bad for a skinny kid who started with a bullworker.

Sam’s Slim Gym has branches all over Bacolod City: Sam’s Slim Gym-East at the Veranda East Block, Circumferential Road | Mandalagan branch at Monfort Warehouse (Behind BPI Mandalagan), Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City.

Sam’s Slim Gym-San Enrique, SMDK Bldg., San Enrique, Negros Occidental.

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manoy
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.

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