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The colorful and inspiring life of Cebu’s ‘Duster King’

By: Dale Rosal - CDN Digital | March 22,2024 - 06:30 PM

Duster King

Duster King with other runners competing in the Bohol Marathon in August 2023. photo from Paksit Photos

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Cebu’s active running scene is filled with individuals who stand out.

One of them is Leonecel Arban, popularly known as the “Duster King.”

Arban, a native of Alcoy town, south Cebu, is widely known for his playful running attire and props during running events, which often draws attention.

Arban, who currently resides in Catmon town, north Cebu with his family, recently graced CDN Sportstalk, where he revealed the reason why he wears a duster, or house dress commonly worn by Filipina women, during running events.

“Nagsugod gyud ko as a normal runner. Nag jersey for running, kanang running attire until nakakita mi ug something new and unique. Ang idea kay ako-a nga mag costume ko, nag ask ko ug permission sa akong partner kung okay ra niya. What if mag costume ta sa Cebu Marathon?” said Arban.

(I started as a normal runner. I wore a jersey for running, the usual running attire until we saw something new and unique. The idea was that I’d wear a costume. I asked permission from my partner if it was okay for her. I asked, ‘What if we’d wear costumes in the Cebu Marathon?’)

“Way back, nakakita mi naay nag costume. ‘Kanang something unique’, ni ana ko niya. Mag pa buang-buang ko kay mao pa pag taas sa akong buhok ug bungot, pero ana siya ayaw daw kay naa na nakahimo sa Manila, dili na unique. Mao to ni ana ko what if naa duster sa among yaya sa baby girl namo, kanang ordinary duster naay floral design. Ni ana akong partner nga ‘sige kung ganahan ka.’”

Duster King

Duster King during the SM2SM Run in March 2024. | John Velez photography

(Way back, we saw that there were those who wore costumes. ‘Something unique’, I told her. I suggested I acted as if I were a crazy person because that was the time my hair grew long and I had a beard. But she said not that because she saw someone do that in Manila and it wouldn’t be unique anymore. That’s when I said what if our babysitter had a dress with floral design. My partner said she liked the idea.)

Inspiration behind ‘Duster King’

Later on, Arban realized that wearing a duster was more than just for fun. Arban revealed that he wants to represent “Inatay” by wearing a duster. The term is short for Ina-Tatay (mom-dad) and not the contextual curse word in Bisaya. This is because Arban is the one who takes care of his kids at home while his wife is at the office.

“Ang story aning magsul-ob ko ug duster kay kung unsay gamit pagka ‘inatay’ (ina ug tatay). Kay ako man gud ang naa sa balay ug siya (wife) ang naa sa work. Akong gi represent ang mama plus papa. It was my inspiration to wear duster sa run,” Arban explained.

(The story of wearing a duster is the essence of being a mother and a father. Because I am the one who’s left at home and she’s the one who works. I represent the mother and the father. It was my inspiration to wear dusters during runs.)


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He has been wearing the same costume and added more props to make it more whimsical since 2019.


Arban even recalled a comical situation where marshals apprehended him at a running event for wearing his famous duster.

He said that he needed to explain and show his race bib to the marshals, who thought he was a bandit runner. But everyone laughed off the funny situation in the end.

“It was a funny situation, mao to naka come up ko sa akong mind, ing-ani lingaw sad diay ni akong gibuhat. Makakita ang mga taw mangatawa. Mao to naka ingon ko nga ipadayon na lang ni nako,” said Arban, who started joining footraces in 2017.

(It was a funny situation, that’s why I thought  what I’m doing is actually fun. When people see me, they become happy. That’s why I told myself I will continue this.)

“Makalipay ra man sad kay ang mga feedback nalingaw sila, nalipay. Happy ra gyud ilahang reaction makakita nako. Ang ako ra man, maka inspire ko og people. Bisan laspag na, makakita nako malipay sila along the route.”

(It makes me happy because the feedback is that they are happy seeing me. Their reactions are all happy when they see me. I do this  to inspire people. Even if they’re tired, when they see me along the route, they become happy.)

Life changing

Arban also revealed that he loves running so much that it completely changed his life positively. He admitted to having vices before he started running in 2017.

“Nakahinumdom ko molakaw ko ig ka gabie, mauli ig ka buntag hubog, manigarilyo. Until sa first birthday sa akong girl. What if wala ko didto kay nag bisyo ko? Sa usa ka sulti nako, nabag-o nako akong kaugalingon. Unang time nako nidagan ko ug 500 meters at least nakadagan ko, mubo pa man diay to, pero proud na kaayo ko, nag hinay-hinay ko until taas-taas na nga distances akong nadagan,” he revealed.

(I remember if I went out at night, I returned home in the morning drunk and smoking. Until the first birthday of my baby girl. I thought what if I wasn’t there because of my vices? With one word, I changed. My first time to run was 500 meters, it was short but I was so proud of myself. Slowly I worked my way up with the distances I ran.)

The longest distance he ran was from Cebu City to Simala in Argao town, south Cebu, which was 54.8 kilometers.

Now, Duster King not only runs long distances, he brings happiness and joy to participants in races he joins in Cebu.

His is a story not only of joy and laughter, but also inspiration that people can change for the better while having fun.

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TAGS: athletics, Cebu Running, marathon

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