A group of Filipinos in Toronto lifting up their community
Like most folklore, the exact origins of a story are hard to pinpoint. The story morphs, twists and matures into something that barely resembles reality. It generates a life of its own, and the further away from reality the folklore gets, the more the legend seems to grow.
The Adobros story can be traced back to the summer of 2016, but in reality it began a year earlier with a shoe, the pink-aqua Nike LunarEpic joints. “Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it's age old pain, its ancient tale of being apart or together,” and this story is the type of shit Tagore wrote passages about—kindred spirits finding each other and spreading love. Whenever I’m around Mango and Hawaii, I’m in awe of their chemistry, like they’ve know each other their whole lives—but remarkably they only met three years ago. They have cultivated an enriched back-story before having even known the other existed.
Back in 2015, Mango was a solo runner, he had no home and lived out of a bag. He’d show up to Gladstone to do his own 25km run then use a group run as a cool down. That bag was his dojo. Running was in some ways his escape from art, an outlet he indulged in so he wouldn’t overdose on art. He clocked miles all on his own until his sibling reached out to him to tell him about a co-worker that was “another Mango” as he describes it. Even now, years since Mango first met Hawaii, his eyes light up telling the story. He was unique in everything he did, so for there to be another Filipino, creative-type, that is also a runner, to be out in the ether was baffling. He knew he had to meet him.
Hawaii, hung-over, and tired, on his way off of a flight, made it just in time for a crew run. That run kicked it off. Mango pulled up right next to Hawaii and said ‘nice shoes’. He jammed and hunted for his soul’s reflection that night—because that is what these two are. They are a reflection of each other. They have to be. How else can you describe their friendship and admiration? I spent four hours in total interviewing them and the past three years being around them, and this is the best way to describe them. A reflection—not truly the exact same, just like a mirror things appear backwards, but in the end it’s a similar image.
They spent that first year painting a perfect running picture.
Filipino culture is worn like a badge on the sleeve of both Hawaii and Mango. It informs them and provides a lot of inspiration for each of them. You see it explicitly in Mango’s captivating artwork. As a Filipino, it’s a point of pride to see two positive Filipino role models. Both of these artist-athletes always find ways to pay tribute to the homeland.
In year two the party stopped, if only for a moment. Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines in 2013 and led to massive devastation. Hawaii couldn’t sit back; he wanted to do more, he wanted to contribute towards a solution. Hawaii’s first site visit was in 2014 and it was here where the true devastation of Yolanda became apparent. He got to work. Love Tacloban was started that year and the project raised 3,000 dollars for relief projects and school supplies. The Love Tacloban mission continued on for the next two years, with supplies and shoes being sent over to affected people. Of course, in true Hawaii fashion, this wasn’t enough. In 2016 he came up with an ambitious idea and sent out the bat-signal to all the Filipinos. 80km to raise money for those affected back home. Out of the woodwork, people started stepping up to join in. Jeggi and Geb, Filipinos from NYC, jumped on board. Soon, it wasn’t just Filipino runners anymore. This gesture of extreme endurance, to pay respects to the people affected, while raising money to provide relief struck a chord.
“When we first started, we had no idea what we’re doing, we didn’t know about track workouts, speed work, proper clothing, we just knew to run long and together”
In 2017 they not only ran the 80km North Face Endurance Challenge again but added the half marathon the next day, bringing their weekend total to 101kms. The Adobros were all out in force. One of the Adobros even won the 80km race—Rejean Chiasson. In 2018, Hawaii ran the 100km Niagara Falls race solo with, who else by his side, Mango to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Canada in honor of his father.
In total, the Adobro project has raised $11,381 since 2014 for different philanthropic efforts. The money has been spent on relief goods, art projects, Christmas gifts and societal donations. Having personally seen the living circumstances of Filipinos throughout the country, I know the impact is tremendous. That amount of support is not often provided to these people, who already face dire financial circumstances. That love and support is the backbone of the Adobros.
Hawaii and Mango describe that first 80km run like a cathartic pilgrimage. It was moving, painful, and full of joy. No time expectations, no splits. Just go out there and feel everything.
The Adobros have not only been there for each other in these ultra-races, they are a community that travels. If an Adobro is out racing, more often than not, there will be another Adobro there racing, pacing, cheering or supporting. It is in this environment that they fostered their legendary folklore across the running community. It was so much so that when one of the Adobros walks into a run group in certain areas, you’ll hear constant whispers 'that’s an Adobro, man'.
It’s not just the community that Hawaii and Mango have built, Hawaii has managed to bring together a unique collection of Filipino runners. A set of individuals who, in their own right, have contributed to the Adobro namesake. Most of the core is known by a single name: Rejean, Dean, Aries, Sam, Kortnee, Geo, Wally, Geb, Jeggi. The Adobros are made up of multiple Boston Qualifiers, sub-three marathoners (Mango recently put down a sub-2:45 effort and Sam has a newly minted 2:52), accomplished ultra-marathoners, a former Canadian pro (most recently winning the 2017 edition of the Erie Marathon), one former Canadian University basketball player of the year, and a lot of great hair—the hair is almost a prerequisite.
Rejean and Mango recently experimented with a one of kind running-art space just off the infamous West-Toronto Rail path, nicknamed the Dojo and known as M.X.C.A.A- Marathon of Contemporary Art and Athletics. From the jump the space shocked and confused the running community. Their opening show was true Adobro expressionism. It was counter-culture to traditional running spaces. It was punk. It was hip-hop. It was rebellious. Art is supposed to make normal people uncomfortable and abnormal people feel comfort.
Mango said, “…when the piece ended, they just stared at me and Rejean”. No one could really make sense of what they just saw. It’s like watching Steph Curry unleash a crossover-stepback-hesi-three-point bomb from 40 feet out. You’re in awe, but unsure if this is real life. But if you were an Adobro or an aspiring Adobro the entire experience made sense. This space was Adobro expressionism brought to life. These boys and girls are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to give, mad to express. The space had no artist statement, it was a lived experience and only understood once you’ve immersed yourself in the experience, whether through their Sunday long runs, beautiful expressions of running and art, the Bachelor of Hawaii in Fine Arts, workshops, Filipino cookouts, and enduring running workouts. While the space only existed for 18 months, it has left an impact. Stars don’t live forever; they burn out gloriously.
The Adobro experience still lives on and runs counter to the traditional running experience. Hawaii said, “when we first started, we had no idea what we’re doing, we didn’t know about track workouts, speed work, proper clothing, we just knew to run long and together”. Running is all an experiment for the Adobros, while simultaneously bringing along that philanthropic spirit.
You’ll often find Hawaii and Sam shirtless running races with Dean and Aries in tow (time of year is not a factor) and Mango has and continues to leave his mark around the city through his art and running.
The closing of the Dojo was a tremendous loss to local running culture in Toronto. The dojo provided a sort of unprecedented intimacy into the world of its creators, unlike any other running hub. It was like meeting to run within the hearts and minds of these individuals. The community is quietly awaiting the next big Adobro project, if and when it comes.
What’s next is still unknown. They’ll of course be invested in the community; raising money and awareness for relief projects, and showing out at the Terry Fox Run. Mango will be back with more moving art pieces. The men and women of the Adobros clan will still be pursuing their own running goals, inspiring each other in the way that close communities do.
The Adobros is one big art show augmented with sexy hair, sexy pace and sexy tattoos. It’s a beautiful chaos.