MANILA, Philippines–He oozes with sex appeal every time he poses for the cameras. Off-camera, he makes a living responding to bomb threats at airports.
“Neil Perez,” one of the candidates in the 2014 Misters of the Philippines contest, is actually PO2 Mariano Flormata Jr., a bomb and explosives technician assigned to the Philippine National Police’s Aviation and Security Group (Avsegroup) unit.
In his promotional photos as one of the 26 contestants, the 29-year-old Flormata—“Mar” to family and friends—looks fiercely handsome, with expressive eyes and long eyelashes.
In his blue police uniform, he exudes an entirely different aura—a shy, simple guy whose love for physical fitness has inspired him to join the male pageant.
“I really just want to promote a healthy lifestyle among my fellow policemen. This is all new to me,” Flormata told reporters in Camp Crame on Tuesday.
Flormata has had no modeling experience of any kind and the Misters of the Philippines was his first try to join a male pageant. Fortunately, he was screened as one of the 20 finalists, from whom four winners will be chosen.
The 1.8-meter-tall (5-foot-11) Flormata will represent the PNP and Tondo, Manila, where he grew up.
The four best-looking men in the competition will represent the Philippines in international male pageants.
PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac congratulated Flormata for making it as a finalist, adding the PNP welcomes activities that bring the police closer to the community.
“These extracurricular activities are welcome as long as these do not interfere with his duties as a policeman. Such activities show that we policemen are ordinary people, too,” Sindac said.
He pointed out that the pageant Flormata joined was a no run-of-the-mill contest and that it was a legitimate, respectable competition.
Encouraged by a friend
“This competition, should he win, could bring a good name not only to the PNP but to our country as a whole,” Sindac said, noting that the contest also promotes gender sensitivity.
As a technician at the Avsegroup, Flormata responds to bomb threats at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where he is detailed.
He is also trained in basic aviation security and aircraft counter hijacking, among others.
Flormata joined the contest, sponsored by Prime Event Productions, early this year at the encouragement of a friend.
Sept. 7 finals
His lack of experience in modeling did not faze him—he believed that his mission to promote physical fitness was important.
“I went to the screening at Fishermall in Quezon City. When I was chosen, I told my boss (Chief Supt. Christopher Laxa) about it. He was surprised but very supportive since I wasn’t doing anything bad,” Flormata said.
The pageant finals will be held in Makati City on Sept. 7.
A Facebook fan page dedicated to him had 932 likes as of Tuesday afternoon. It features photographs of Flormata in various poses and outfits.
Since joining the PNP in 2008, he has advocated a healthy lifestyle. He works out practically every day since he is required to be fit as a then-member of the Avsegroup’s special reaction team.
Asked if he has a special diet, the policeman said he eats whatever he wants as long as he works out just as hard.
Flormata cuts a dashing figure in his uniform, which some policemen find hard to wear because of their thick waistlines and bellies.
“I’d like to tell my fellow lawmen that it’s really easy to be physically fit. All it takes is discipline and a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Flormata, however, maintained that his heart would always be with the PNP, despite the prospect of landing a more glamorous job and of a heftier pay if he wins the contest.
Flormata’s dream since childhood was to be a policeman, taking after his father Mariano Sr., who was assigned to the Manila Police District.
“My priority is to be a police officer. In joining the contest, I want to be a role model of physical fitness for my fellow lawmen. I want to encourage them to live healthier lifestyles,” he said.
He attends contest schedules during his days off as a policeman, or by going on leave.
The attention and the promise of fame don’t seem to faze him—more than anything he still wants his job as a cop.
“I really want this (job) more than anything, I like being here. I will not trade my job as a policeman for anything,” Flormata said.