Beyond The Facade.

I am a Red Dot Juanderer. And this is my Singapore story. 

With a massive following on his personal Instagram page (almost 50,000 followers as of publication date of this blog post), Jonathan Ventura, 36, is popularly known as Mr. Perfect Body: the guy who regularly flaunts his six-packs (and sometimes eight!) on social media for everyone’s delight or inspiration (depending on how you perceive it). He has joined eight bodybuilding competitions in Singapore and has won several categories in these events. But unknown to many, Jonathan is actually a self-confessed geek. He studied Industrial Engineering back in college (University of the Philippines Diliman) and has also completed his MS Applied Finance at Singapore Management University. He is currently working as a Regional Senior Analytics Manager for Procter & Gamble.

For a person who might strike you as someone smug and condescending, Jonathan is exactly the opposite when you meet him in person. He is pragmatic, down-to-earth, and best of all — self-aware.

My Singapore Story:

I consider myself a nerd so I don’t really like being in front of people and being up on stage. In order to overcome this, I joined a lot of body building competitions in Singapore. I felt very nervous when I first joined such an event back in April 2015. The biggest competition I’ve attended so far is NABBA Singapore where I won second place in the Short Category and third place in the Over 30 Category. It was challenging for me to join at first because I started bodybuilding at a very late age and I was competing against people who are still in their early twenties.

My Daily Fitness Routine:

Maintaining a good physique entails a lot of discipline. I owe a big part of it to my diet. When I learned how to properly diet, then I saw changes on my body.

I wake up around 6 or 7 a.m. and I regularly prepare my food for at least an hour. After work, I go to the gym and train for about 2-3 hours every day (one hour for weightlifting, another hour for cardio to bring down my body fat, and then abs workout for 30-40 minutes). Once I reach home, I then cook again as I need to eat before I sleep. I train for at least six times per week.

What Do I Eat?

It’s not necessarily bland food as I try to make it as palatable as possible. I’ve read a lot about sports nutrition and then I try to apply it to my diet. Depending on your goal, you have to adjust your diet to be in synch with your training. So if I wish to bulk up, I need sufficient amount of carbs. You need to calculate how many calories you need in a day — I split it among carbs, fats, and proteins. I used to eat a lot of salmon, but now I eat more of chicken breasts. For my carbs, I eat low glycemic index (GI) rice (which they also call ‘rice for diabetics’). I first discovered this low GI rice while shopping in Mustafa, Little India.

Dining Out With Friends:

I still try to be sociable. If I go out with my friends or with my colleagues, I really don’t care as much. But if it’s competition time, then I really try to adjust. I usually tell them which restaurants to go to and which cuisines I can eat. Normally we end up in Japanese restaurants so I can have my sashimi and salad.

The Challenges And Rewards of Bodybuilding:

The most challenging part is really the discipline. Just imagine the amount of time I spend on training on top my regular work. It’s very easy to break my routines — especially if I’m tired and I don’t want to train, or if I would like to eat something from McDonald’s. It’s really about the consistency and perseverance. Before I started bodybuilding, I just wanted to have an outlet where I can exhaust all my energy. I had so much energy and I don’t know what to do with it! And so I poured everything out on bodybuilding and weight training.

The rewarding part is the growth in self-confidence — the confidence to stand in front of many people. It has also helped me with my work when it comes to social skills.

The Value of Rest:

Rest counts — your muscles grow during your rest time. If you don’t get enough rest, you may have a high cortisol level which makes your body store fats.

My Kind Of Cheat Day:

I like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I try to limit myself to just two doughnuts though! I remember there was one time before a competition, I almost finished a whole box. When my training coach (Levi Pangan) learned about this, he got the shock of his life.  Typically, your body is deprived of carbs pre-competition and when you take carbs for the first time, your body tends to expand. I didn’t know that  — it was really crazy. Haha!

Popularity On Social Media:

I try to keep my page updated regularly and it’s a huge amount of effort (i.e. to take selfies and photos). But I also use my page as a picture diary, and I think of these photos as memories that I wish to keep.

I’m still not used to the “popularity” I get on social media, but I guess you can use all this to create a positive impact on people to get motivated and to get inspired.

When you post photos out there, you become exposed to public criticisms. My body has changed so much and I always get criticized no matter what: if I get bulky, they will say: “Oh, what happened to you?; if I get shredded, they will say: “Oh, it makes you look old and this is too extreme!” They ask about my sexuality. They ask, “how much are you?” They talk about my package and it’s always mixed reactions: it’s either “Oh that’s big!” while another person will say, “Oh, that’s small!” I really don’t understand. Haha!  I just ignore all the bashers and I never fan the flames.

Misconceptions About Me:

People have physical expectations of how I should look. Sometimes they get surprised when they meet me in person and they will say: “O, bakit ganyan — where are the abs?” It’s as if I have six-pack abs every single day. And the fact is, napapagod din ako! Or sometimes they will say: “Yan na ba yun? Parang ang liit niya? Parang sa picture mas matangkad?” Haha! Those are the physical misconceptions.

Also sometimes, people think I’m very inaccessible and that I’m snobbish. So I try to fix this whenever I upload photos on my page — I try to smile more and I show a bit more of my personality.

What People Don’t Know About Me: 

I’m a guy from the province (La Union) and when I started university, I only had a small circle of friends. When I was young, my parents were very protective of me and they don’t usually let me go out of the house. Back then, I never learned how to bike or swim and so I spend most of my days reading encyclopedias. I like reading a lot and I eventually got into fiction. My house is like a library and there are about a thousand books (not counting those on my Kindle!). I also wrote and published a short story back in university (2008) for a magazine called Story Philippines and it was about a life of a simple man living in the Philippines.

Favorite Author:

One author I really admire is William Faulkner for his classic short stories. For contemporary literature, I like Annie Proulx who wrote “Brokeback Mountain” and a couple of other short stories. I read a lot of short stories because I like the intensity in them and they are also very concise.

Best Lesson I’ve Learned In Singapore:

Never forget your roots! I get annoyed a lot if you encounter people who have lived and worked in Singapore for just a couple of months, and they’ve completely changed as a person. Nakatira lang sa Singapore ng isang buwan, akala mo sino na mang-criticize ng ibang tao!

If you go to a foreign city and you don’t know who you are as a person, you easily get lost. Sometimes you try to pretend that you’re somebody else because you’ve already lost your identity. It is very easy to lose your identity. So never forget your roots!

What If I Could Live Anywhere In The World, Where Would It Be?

Wherever my partner is, that’s where I will be.

Venue Location: Mercure Singapore Bugis

About the Red Dot Juanderer:

We are constantly on the lookout for inspiring, aspirational, and relatable stories from our fellow Juans living and working in the Little Red Dot. If you know any Filipino in Singapore that should be our next Red Dot Juanderer, email us at [email protected] // Interviews and photos by Paolo Avis; Assisted by Jaypee Quitco

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