Known for his excellent work ethic and his flaring temper, De Leon once had the reputation of being the “bad boy of Philippine celebrity photography.”
Many were actually surprised when he recently traded in his two packs of cigarettes for the more subtle electronic alternative, as he paired his passion for photography with his new-found advocacy for healthy living.
De Leon said he received the wake-up call from his youngest son, 10-year-old Irijah sometime in 2011.
Although he had developed the habit of working out regularly, smoking was the one vice De Leon couldn’t seem to do without.
His son’s appeal, however, proved to be quite compelling that he decided to kick his decades-old habit drastically—going cold turkey before 2013.
On the last day of 2012, the chain-smoking de Leon tried to satiate himself by smoking one too many cigarettes, hoping it would reach the point where he’d hate the taste and couldn’t take it anymore.
Instead of lighting up his last stick, De Leon said he broke it in two, shot it and uploaded it on Instagram.
“I then showed it to my son, who was then having breakfast, before greeting him ‘Happy New Year.’ He broke down and simply said, ‘Dad, I’ve been counting the days. I’ve been counting the days.’”
Inspired by his newfound passion, De Leon teamed up with Kape Teybol Buk publishing house co-founder Al Agra, and gathered 50 of the Philippines’ elite health enthusiasts to come up with a new coffee table book titled, No Body is Perfect.
“Nobody is perfect—but that should never hold us back, the book’s message is one of moving towards the dream of perfection—or at least close to it, via the healthiest means possible,” said Agra.
The 120-page tome was launched in an exhibit on June 27 at the Bonifacio High Street Central Ampitheatre, and was attended by prominent health advocates featured in the book.
De Leon said they wanted to show that healthy living is possible despite leading busy lives, as some of the most famous names in the entertainment, business, sports and fashion industry continue to look fit despite their hectic schedules.
“For many of us who have to content with busy schedules and numerous daily tasks, it seems that making fitness a priority us next to impossible – what with all the time and effort you’d need to invest to achieve this,” he said.
From showbiz celebrities such as Judy Ann Santos, Iza Calzado, Solenn Heussaff, Lovi Poe, Sam Pinto, Piolo Pascual, Vice Ganda, Derek Ramsey, Angel Aquino, Angel Jacob, Robin Padilla, Matteo Gudicelli, and Kim Atienza; athletes Freddie Webb, James Yap, the Xavier school football team, the Ravena family, and Armand del Rosario and wife Georgia; families including Laureen, Liz, and Vince Uy, Edu, Luis, and Lorenzo Manzano, Maricel and Benjamin Pangilinan, and the Tulfo brothers; Publisher Ernie Lopez, Editor Myrza Sison, Rep. Gilbert Remulla, and Chef Carlo Miguel, many other noted personalities willingly became part of the project.
“These individuals are successful, distinguished, and influential in their respective fields, yet they recognize their imperfections and limitations and don’t allow these to stop them from becoming the best versions of themselves—they made the choice to change their lifestyle into one that is ‘nearly perfect.’” shared De Leon.
Agra added, “Its message—what it stands for, and most importantly, what it hopes to impart to others – is indeed very timely. Both Jun and I, have in fact recently become more conscious of living better and maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle. Because of this project, and the stories of those involved in it, we discovered that regardless of age or
profession, this goal is achievable when you commit to it.”
Besides sharing their health secrets, De Leon used the Tanita body composition machine to reveal his subjects’ supposed metabolic ages alongside their actual biological ages.
Sam Pinto, who hosted the event, maintains an 18-year old body despite her 23 years of age, as measured in the Tanita machine.
“In our business it’s so hard to eat healthy. But I take my veggie juice every day, and I’ve been working out lately which is something new for me,” said Pinto, who was voted as FHM Magazine’s sexiest for 2011 and 2012.
Other impressive results were for Piolo Pascual aged 36 with a 21-year-old metabolic age, just like hunk Derek Ramsay; Tweetie de Leon, 46-31; Iza Calzado, 30-18; Joey Mead, 38-23; Judy Ann Santos, 34-27; and Ernie Lopez, 49-34.
Agra and De Leon’s results were inspiring as well. From 235 pounds Agra was able to shed off as much as 60 pounds before his 50th birthday in April and now has a metabolic rate of 36-year-old man. Meanwhile, the 59-year-old De Leon is able to maintain the metabolic age of 42 by hitting the gym and wakeboarding with Irijah.
Also featured in the book is Department of Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag who was also present at the exhibit to express his gratitude and congratulate De Leon for advocating health awareness to the public.
“I really want to thank him for coming out with this project. We’re sending out a message, collectively, those who are included in the book, that Filipinos can choose to be fit and healthy. Behind those photos are many of us who struggle and face challenges, while the others are smooth-sailing since they acquired good habits when they were young. It’s not too late. Filipinos can strive to be health and fit,” the government official said.
Even as Tayag acknowledged that De Leon’s subjects are coming from the rich and elite class, he believes that healthy living should be attainable for everyone.
“Although they are famous personalities, I just hope that all Filipinos can actually get the message. It’s not only for the rich people, although nakikita nga natin yung crowd dito [we can see the crowd here], I just hope everyone can find time to look after their health and be healthy and fit also,” Tayag stated.
An astounding image of former basketball player Freddie Webb ends the 50-health inspiring personality collection, who at the ripe old age of 70, has successfully maintained his 55-year old metabolic age.
It may take a lot of hard work to achieve optimum health, but De Leon and his subjects proved that nothing is impossible, especially when it comes to fitness and health.