Raising the Bar
AT FIVE feet and seven inches tall, Phil Simon Infantado can present Pencil, Bow and Arrow, Crucifix, and we’re not talking about a Bring-Me game. It’s the ultimate body-twisting, core-hardening, leg-gripping sports art that is Pole Dance. A brief stint in ballet coupled with his stubbornness to go against stereotypes and misconceptions led him to where he is now—the emerging winner of an international pole dance competition and founder of Pole Sphinx studio.
Wearing nothing but a tight pair of shorts, Phil couldn’t imagine himself clad in white even when he bears the credit of a Top Nursing Licensure Passer. The moment his mind was set to pursue the profession of pole dance instructor, he stripped himself off of inhibitions, grabbed life by the horns, and turned his world around. Not once did he regret taking that detour.
Pole dancing—though appearing sensual by nature—is far from being just about a form of entertainment. This type of dance is a fitness routine that builds muscle strength and flexibility, improves stamina and endurance, and tones the entire body. It targets good body coordination and creates good posture. Other than the physique, the dance channels creative expressions, brings awareness to one’s body, and boosts self confidence. With routines and music, glittery costumes and makeup, and yes, leg-spread moves that are very similar to that of gymnastics, a pole dance performer still holds the baggage of wrong notions. Can the art of pole dancing finally put this behind? The vigorous, smart and debonair Phil Simon entertained us with his thoughts on the matter being an instructor, businessman, and partner that he is.
What is the start-up story of your pole dancing profession?
I was working before as an ESL teacher, and at night time, I was a ballet dancer, like ballet on training. I was a scholar in ballet of Montebello at the time. That was three years ago. One of my “ballet-mates” invited me to join a pole-dancing class there at Golds Gym in J Centre. That was the first pole dancing studio in Cebu. We tried, but it ended up only me trying it! (Laughs). There were supposed to be three of us, but I was the only one who enrolled first.
What pushed you to go for it?
Well, I was alreadyinterested in circus arts and aerial arts—acrobatics in general. There are no circus schools or acrobatics schools here in
Cebu, only gymnastics, but then that’s a formal training. So I was very interested in pole dancing because it’s not the usual type of exercise. I see the art in it, more than the sexiness it exudes.
Do you get wrong notions from people about pole dancing?
Here in Cebu, they don’t really think about the sexiness either. It’s already a widely practiced physical activity as fitness and art. The problem is that many are still intimidated. Just like CrossFit, people are intimidated; when they see it, they’d go, “Oh I can’t do it. It’s very difficult.” But like yoga or any other activity, it’s a step-by-step process. In yoga, when you see people doing Downward Dog or a headstand, people get intimidated right away. But you don’t jump into a headstand, you don’t jump into inversions. You do it slowly, at your own pace.
What’s a common misconception do you hear?
I can’t do it. They’d always say it’s not for them especially from first-timers. They’d say, “Nah, di ko ganahan mag-invert. Di nako kaya magbalintong-balintong, hadlok na.”
So, would you say it’s for everyone?
Actually, yes, it’s for every type of body. It’s all in the mind. And since, it’s a step-by-step exercise, there are also variations or movements that can be modified. There are many moves you can choose for yourself.
What’s your daily routine like?
I start the morning checking my phone. (Laughs). Well, on a Monday, I go to my first class of the day, which
is a private class at 7 a.m. I teach Yogilates and flexibility. I go homeafter that and then eat. The other classes are mostly in the afternoon or at night, so I go home first to rest then come back at the studio around 3 p.m. When I arrive, I do all my paperwork and then I monitor the class.
What is it like managing a business and handling classes at the same time?
The challenge there is multitasking. Before
I was just an instructor and it was easier for me.I could focus more on teaching. From the start I already enjoyed teaching. But then, I started this business, so I have to handle that as well. I cannot just leave myself out from practicing pole dancing. Before I would really train myself every day, but now, it’s becoming less.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received from a student?
“You might have done something very good to deserve all this.” A student said that to me. In short, good karma. That was very touching for me.
Have you come across difficult students?
If it’s the attitude of the students, especially newcomers… that is difficult. I can’t change the attitude. (Laughs). I would just keep teaching them. Like one student has a bad attitude. She doesn’t talk to others. She just does her thing even if I teach her this and that. She refuses to listen. Safety is a very big thing for me and sometimes she does things that are a bit scary. I have to constantly monitor her. Some instructors are already irritated. I just
tell them that she’s a client so we should be patient with her. Patience is a virtue. (Laughs).
Tell us about the first international competition you won.
My first international pole competition was held in Singapore. Entries were from all over the world—Japan, Italy, etc. Anyone can join but you have to represent your country. But there was an audition first. There was the amateur category. I was in the semi-pro category and also in the professional. We had to audition, and they would choose who would be part of the competition. There was an audition tape. We had to post it on YouTube, then we send the link to them. That was the rule.
How did you feel when you got chosen?
I didn’t expect it. (Laughs). I saw the others and they were so good, I was like “Oh, my God.” I just told myself that I have to do my best because it is my first. (Laughs).
But you won. Did you see it coming?
Never. I was very anxious a week before the competition. I kept telling myself that win or lose, it’s okay, because I made it this far.
How supportive was your mom?
She wasn’t supportive in my pole dancing before because she’s a doctor and she wanted me to be a nurse outside the country, if not become a doctor.
Those were the only two choices I had. But then, I proved her wrong. She said that pole dancing won’t do me any good, and that it won’t get me far. To her, it’s like a temporary thing. I didn’t listen to her and pursued what I really wanted.
I am a nursing graduate. I really didn’t know what I wanted in high school so nakisabay sa uso ato nga time kay na-peer pressure pod ko sa akong mga friends.
But I made it, at Top 11 pa gyud in the Nursing Licensure Exam—yes, I had it checked.
You don’t brag about it?
No, because I’m not going to be a nurse anyway. (Laughs).
For one who didn’t really like the nursing field, it’s something to be the Top 11.
I got it from my mom. (Laughs).
So what made your mother change her mind about your career choice?
I had a hard time at first. I didn’t have the money and the support. I was a bit anxious also. I was thinking maybe I really couldn’t go there because I don’t have the money to buy tickets. Also, staying in Singapore was very expensive. I was caught off guard when my mom paid for the tickets. She came up to me and said,
“Do you have the money?” I said, no, and the next day she had it prepared. Now she’s very supportive in my pole dancing and this business.
How about your boyfriend, Roger?
He’s very supportive especially in the paperwork. He helps me. Both of us are very busy, and we respect each other’s time.
What are your plans in the future now that Roger is in the picture?
For the meantime, we’re going to be focusing on each of our own businesses.
He’s in the Netherlands, but the goal is for us to be together eventually.
If you had to choose—Roger or pole dancing?
I can manage to have both. Take Gal Gadot, for example! (Laughs). She’s Wonder Woman, and she was pregnant when she took on the role. She loves her daughter and at the same time loves what she does.
Where would Phil be five years from now?
Roger and I will be handling a business together. Business is already in my blood.
Are you looking forward to settling down with Roger?
Yes, I’m look forward to it.
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