This fitness instructor was close to leaving the Philippines but eventually detourned  because of the love and acceptance he received from the fitness community

By Nicole Ganglani | Art by Saii Shah | Photo courtesy of Arsenio Solinap

When I was browsing through local fitness studios and instructors on the internet, I’d be first to admit that Butts Solinap’s profile caught my attention right away—and for the weirdest reason. It wasn’t his Instagram feed filled with inspiring fitness related clips that caught my eye (his account was private in the first place) but because of his name. At that time, I also needed insights on the local fitness industry for the Pride month articles I was working on. So, being the curious person that I am, I messaged Butts on Instagram via direct message. 

“Yes call me Butts,” was his straightforward response to me when I asked him if it was his real name. The 35-year-old was accommodating, sharing to me his experience and insights on the local fitness community and industry. I appreciated the knowledge he provided me about the history of gender discrimination and streortypes in the community but more than that, I was also in awe to hear his story about why the fitness community was the main reason he stayed in Manila when he had the choice to leave.

“I was born here and moved to Australia when I was four for school,” said Butts. The Electric Studio and Bare Manila instructor grew up in Sydney along with four of his siblings. He and his family flew out of the Philippines in 1989, after Ferdinand Marcos’ era to settle in a safer environment. But eventually, the father of two returned to Manila in 2013—and decided to stay because of the love he received and gives to the fitness community on a daily basis. 

Here’s my conversation with Butts, who told me more about why he stayed in the Philippines to pursue fitness and why gender discrimination should have no place in the industry (our conversation in the first place.)  After hearing his story, all I can say is that I’m glad that Butts’ name caught my attention at first. It just goes to show that everyone has their own inspiring story and experiences to tell, no matter how big or small, they’re all feel-good stories we need to hear right now. 

 

How did you find a fitness community here in the Philippines?

I started teaching at Electric Studio late in 2015 as this was my first endeavour in the fitness world. I am also a trainer for Bare Manila and a partner and trainer for Electric’s new rhythm boxing studio. I got into the fitness industry because of Electric. It literally saved my life here in Manila as I was ready to go home to Sydney, where I’m from. In it, I found an amazing community.

What were the challenges you experienced when you got back to the Philippines?

It was difficult to adjust culturally for my work, since I grew up in Sydney, and I struggled to find a community of like minded people here. But in Electric Studio, I was able to forge life-long bonds with many people.

Has the fitness industry always been accepting to its audience?

The fitness industry always had a difficult history. People have felt alienated or judged because of it. However, as time passes and people’s attitudes have changed, hopefully we can scrap the whole concept that this sport is only for boys, and this sport is only for girls and really make sports and fitness inclusive to anyone and everyone.

Speaking of gender discrimination, does this still exist in fitness community?

I understand why people sometimes think certain sports are only for certain genders and it stops them going through the door. Some men are intimidated to try Electric or indoor cycling because they think it’s only for women, or Bare is only for blokes, but they’re for everyone—fitness knows no gender. It’s about pushing your limits and reaching your goals, no matter your gender or sexual preference.

As an instructor, how do prevent the presence of gender discrimination in the community?

As instructors, we strive to avoid gender discrimination. What we’re doing now is creating an environment that is accepting and nurturing. We always point out that no matter what area of fitness you want to learn or thrive in, you’ll be able to reach your goals without being judged. We work on empowering people through their workout. It’s really about acceptance and urging people to not be afraid of who they are. It’s about fostering an environment where we are all allies and where fitness is genderless .

To us it doesn’t matter what weight you are, or how you look—we focus on your goals, and work out as a team. We try to create an environment where we encourage others to be their best all the time because that’s what really matters.

Can you share some advice for people who are still being discriminated against in the community? 

Just be you. Learn to accept yourself first. Tune out the noise, and make your fitness journey about your personal goals and nothing else. If those around you see that you’re comfortable being yourself, then they will too. It only needs to start with one person in order to make waves that can move mountains.