Bodybuilding is a sport that made the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Tony Atlas, among others, international icons. In the Philippines, we have seven-time Mr. Philippines Manuel Cabigas, 1969 Mr. Universe runner-up Roland Dantes – who competed against Schwarzenegger, and two-time Mr. Universe Roman Cortuna.
Yes, the sport where the main aim is to develop one’s musculature is a man’s world – it used to be locally, at least. Luzviminda McClinton, Gemmalyn Crosby, and Genevieve Corneta are just three names who paved the way for Pinays to blaze through in the international bodybuilding scene. McClinton is the first Filipinas to win in the Pro Fame Figure World Championship in the United States back in 2010, Crosby is a model, entrepreneur, and International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro, while Corneta is a licensed physical therapist and former Mrs. Philippines Globe Classic titleholder.
And now there’s Loujen Saldo. The 23-year-old looker is the new toast in Philippine bodybuilding and have also started making noise outside local shores. A multi-sport athlete, Saldo reigned in the Slimmer’s World Great Bodies competition last year, booking her a ticket to the Fitness Universe tilt in Florida earlier this month. A first-time USA traveler and a neophyte in the competition, Saldo did not let her nerves – and getting lost from her hotel to the competition venue — get in the way and was pure determination as she strutted and flexed her way to bagging the Fitness Universe and Bikini Universe to be crowned overall winner.
“I competed against bodybuilders who are double my age. They told me to just enjoy myself. When the Philippines was called in the top three and eventually as the winner, na-shock talaga ako. Ayun, naiyak na ako,” Saldo, a Physical Education major at the University of Makati, shared.
With her newfound success, Saldo says she owes it not entirely to her time inside the gym or strict diet – being a self-confessed junk food addict, but more on her state of mind.
“Ako kasi, I believe that sexiness or being fit is all in the mind. Hindi porke’t hindi ka sobrang payat hindi ka na maganda. Just because you have curves on your body, or more muscular than other women, you’re not beautiful anymore. No. Not true,” the former national women’s rugby team player expressed. “Kung paano mo dalhin ang sarili mo, if you have inner happiness and a positive outlook in life, that’s what matters.”
Saldo took the less path traveled en route to the top of the bodybuilding world — just like what Hidilyn Diaz for weightlifting, and she hopes that with her recent victory, more Pinays will shed their inhibitions and get into bodybuilding.
“Don’t be scared of having muscles. Don’t be scared of getting “big.” Go out there, lift weights and get strong,” Saldo enthused. “Isa ‘yan sa pangarap ko, for me to have my own gym and teach women and help them believe in themselves more. We are not the weaker sex. Let’s empower each other. If I can do it, you can, too.”