MANILA - Mariano Flormata Jr. is still getting used to attention.
Thanks to his background, the 29-year-old from Tondo has become an early favorite in the Misters of the Philippines pageant, which will be held at the Grand Theater of the University of Makati on September 7.
Flormata, who joined the male pageant as Neil Perez, is a police officer under the Aviation Security Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
He is a bomb and explosives technician.
In a statement, the PNP on Tuesday threw its support behind Flormata, who it described as "an epitome of the true Filipino gentleman." A Facebook page supporting his bid in the pageant has since garnered over 4,600 likes, as of writing.
"Na-shock talaga ako at hindi ko akalain na kakalat siya online at maraming mga media na interesadong kumausap sa akin," Flormata told ABS-CBN News' Mario Dumaual on Wednesday.
He thanked his colleagues in the police force, as well as PNP Director General Alan Purisima for backing his decision to join the pageant.
"Supportive naman po 'yung kapulisan natin. Full support po sila," he said.
Flormata is a graduate of BS Criminology at Manuel L. Quezon University Manila. He has been a cop for 6 years.
He said his father inspired him to pursue this career.
"Pagpu-pulis po talaga ang pangarap ko noong bata pa ako, kasi bata palang ako mahilig na ako sa baril," Flormata said. "Gusto ko rin ipagpatuloy 'yung sa father ko, kasi retired na siya. Ako na ang susunod."
If showbiz opportunities come along, Flormata said he would not turn his back on being a police officer.
Asked why he decided to join Misters of the Philippines, Flormata said he hopes to "promote a healthy lifestyle, at saka para ipakita ko rin ang iba kong [kakayanan]."
Another reason, Flormata added, is to represent the good qualities of the police force. He stressed that he is only one role model among the many cops who are similarly in good shape.
Flormata shared that his unit in the PNP keep fit not only through training, but through other activities such as basketball. At the time of the interview, Flormata showed an injury he sustained from a game he had just finished.
"[Gusto ko] po ma-encourage ko ang ibang pulis na maging physically fit. Sa kasalukuyan naman po, maraming mga pulis ng guwapo, malalakas, matipuano at magaganda ang katawan, pero ako po, sumali dito para magkaroon ng [magandang imahe] ang PNP," he said.
While he now has his share of admirers, Flormata said he is happily in a relationship. Asked to described his girlfriend, he only said: "Simpleng tao ho tulad ko."