The Magazine

We Didn’t Start The Fire: Esquire Philippines Through The Years

An abridged history of scene-stealing, head-turning, and general troublemaking on the printed page.
IMAGE Jasrelle Serrano

We will live on through a new medium. That’s been our battle cry over the past month as we’ve drawn the curtains on Esquire Philippines as a print magazine, and also as we begin to fully inhabit this whole new digital world and its possibilities.

So as we say hello to a new chapter in Esquire’s online existence, indulge us one last farewell to our magazine—the magazine you can hold and touch and turn with your fingers—by looking back at the legacy that it left behind.

Throughout all of Esquire Philippines’ 64 issues and six years in print, we’d like to think we’ve had our moments. From the very beginning, Esquire has always made it a point to deliver stories, opinions, and images that are compelling—to push boundaries, to call things as its editors truly believe they are, and to turn the spotlight to what really matters. And we’re proud to say that we’ve had our fair share of successes to those ends.

But of course, that couldn’t have been done without a few brushes with controversy—of which we’ve had a fair share too. Here are some of the most salient moments in our magazine’s history: the best of times, the worst of times, and all the times that we were really just glad that magazines existed.


The Premiere Issue
October 2011

The very first issue of Esquire Philippines was fronted by Manny Pacquiao, who at the time, was still just a world-famous boxer and the congressman of Sarangani. The cover story was written by American journalist and Esquire US writer Gary Andrew Poole, who considered: “There is a very real possibility that Pacquiao could be president someday. But will Pacquiao be up to the challenge?” His words are only more chilling today, as our prized pugilist climbs higher up the political ladder.

Staying Alive
December 2012-January 2013

Juan Ponce Enrile will always be a controversial figure, so naturally, Esquire put the immortal politician on the cover. JPE was one of Esquire's first truly controversial covers, and the first shoot to feature someone in politics (preceding it was an illustrated cover featuring former presidents Aquino, Arroyo, Estrada, and Ramos; after JPE, the flood). We're not sure if we're surprised that he's outlived our magazine.

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Our First Sexiest Woman Alive

February 2013

In retrospect, we're damn proud of our first Sexiest Woman Alive. To this day, Solenn Heussaff is one of the most beautiful, most desirable women in local show-business. The cover photo showed that perfectly, and is still, we think, the perfect image of her sexiness.


Exercise Your Right to Suffrage!
May 2013

Heart Evangelista had never posed (and may never again pose) for a magazine cover that's this sexy. That it also included a call-to-action for Filipino voters, by way of a small white tank top with the word "VOTE!", made it a uniquely Esquire cocktail of sex and politics.

The Eye of The Storm
December 2013/January 2014

The cover of our year-end issue in 2013 is special in many ways, including that it was the first of our covers to not have featured a person. Instead, it was about something much more important: Typhoon Yolanda had just hit—hardest, of course, in Tacloban—and the entire country was still in the grip of its aftermath. It was a tragedy that demanded the world’s attention, so Esquire Philippines did its part with a stark cover image of the province, with Tacloban marked on it, acccompanying a heartrending story by Patricia Evangelista.


In an interview with The Philippine Star, Esquire Philippines’ former editor-in-chief Erwin Romulo once referred to our December 2013/January 2014 issue as the magazine’s real beginning. “I think, with that issue, we seized the moment by the balls,” he said. “After that issue, Esquire was brave enough to follow where the zeitgeist had been going. And in the end, it actually predicted where the zeitgeist was going to be.”

The Back Issue
February 2014

Our February 2014 issue had one of the country’s finest artists on the cover… through her portrait of John Lloyd Cruz. For the actor’s second cover with Esquire Philippines, we commissioned an artwork by Nona Garcia, in which Cruz is depicted with his back turned. It was a risk, no doubt, to put a famous celebrity on the cover without using his face—but Esquire was never afraid to be unorthodox, especially if it was for the purpose of truly meaningful art.


Let ‘er Rip
May 2014

We’ve only ever used perforations for the cover of our magazine once, and that was for our May 2014 issue, which featured a do-it-yourself paper sculpture by industrial designer Stanley Ruiz. It’s a unique cover, the likes of which has still never been done by a local magazine.


This Little Piggy
July 2014

We’re not sure that everyone understood the bizarre cover image of our July 2014 issue—Esquire’s visual metaphor for the pork barrel story inside. But it was certainly a compelling image, and one for which a corner of Shutterspace Studio became a makeshift pig pen for an afternoon. Also, we’re proud to report that our little cover star was delicious! Erwan might be delicious too, but we don’t know and don’t intend to find out. Also, a less delicious matter in this issue: Then-senator Bongbong Marcos wrote his own State of The Nation Address, published here.

Those About to Rock
September 2014

No other magazine could have brought the Philippines’ greatest rock band together for two new singles and a not-a-reunion reunion concert. Our September 2014 issue, which came with a CD of two new Eraserheads songs (their first new music in over a decade) and a lot of great travel stories (it was our Travel Issue, after all), has gone down as a perennial favorite, and a epic moment for both magazines and music.


Marred by Controversy
November 2014

When Esquire released this cover in 2014, almost a year before Mar Roxas would file his presidential candidacy, we drew flak from all ends of the political spectrum. Roxas’ detractors thought that the cover was an endorsement, while his supporters thought it was a smear campaign meant to draw negative attention. On Facebook, the comments section lit up with heated political discussion (which, two years ago, wasn’t quite as common as it is today). We’re glad, though, that quite a few people were able to understand our choice of cover image, or at least see past it to read the stories inside: illuminating first-hand accounts of Tacloban, a year after Yolanda. This was also the first of our covers to feature one of the presidentiables in the 2016 elections.


Full of Grace
December 2014/January 2015

For our Best And Brightest issue, we teamed up with a guest editor: ad man David Guerrero of BBDO Guerrero, who helped us come up with a unique concept for the cover. It was a reference to one of the most iconic ads of the 20th century—Volkswagen’s “Think Small” print ad—featuring Grace Poe. This was also the second presidentiable cover, though it was released over a year before Poe announced her candidacy.

Put Your Foot in Your Mouth
February 2015

In November 2013, DJ Sasha Grey came to Manila to spin at a local club. We felt that her stay here was a good opportunity to do a profile on the former porn star, so we took it. Of course, we wanted to do things a little differently. The issue also happened to include our Best New Restaurants lineup for the year, which was its most appetizing section for anyone who didn’t have a foot fetish.


The Punisher
March 2015

Looking back, it looks like the third time really was the charm. Two presidentiables had already landed the cover before the fact; and then Esquire Philippines decided that we would fly to Davao to meet then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. And despite everything that’s happened since this issue came out, we’re still proud of it. This story might have made Esquire the first magazine to show the nation what a Duterte presidency would look like (“Killing criminals is not new to me,” he said in that interview). The cover photo, taken by Jason Quibilan and featuring a favorite toy from his own armory, was a reference to Apocalypse Now


Drugs, Drugs, Drugs!
April 2015

This issue was very nearly fronted by Anjanette Abayari, erstwhile Darna who, in the ’90s, was arrested at an airport in Guam for carrying shabu. The issue also contained a portfolio of self-portraits by artists, rendered with and without the inspiration of different drugs. It was just about to become a drugs issue before it was decided that John Lloyd Cruz, who had shaved his head for his role in Erik Matti’s Honor Thy Father, would take the cover instead (his third Esquire cover, making him our very own George Clooney).

Smart is Sexy
May 2015

Karen Davila might not have been the most obvious choice for Sexiest Woman Alive, but it always made sense to the Esquire man. By naming her to the title, Esquire wanted to make a statement: Sexy is many different things, most important among which are intelligent and fearless. Karen Davila is a woman who embodies both of those things quite well.


The Lonely Hearts Club
July 2015

It took a lot of work to bring these 12 personalities together under one roof for a photo shoot-slash-party, but Esquire spares no expense to make a good statement. The cover, which is a tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was meant as an invitation for Ringo Starr to return to the Philippines despite The Beatles’ unpleasant previous experience here.


Stealing Christmas
December 2015/January 2016

You should know that the Santa hat was a last-minute decision, and that we were a little unsure of how then-Vice President Jejomar Binay would feel about it. But he obliged, and so we were able to reference Esquire US’s Sonny Liston cover from 1963. Binay was the last of the 2016 presidentiables that Esquire was able to put on the cover, in what will always be one of our more controversial moves—no sarcasm tags needed.

The Maine Idea
February 2016

Call us oblivious, but we really didn’t see this one coming. We thought it was a fairly innocuous cover, which would have been appropriate as a damper to the previous issue’s shitstorm. At the time, Maine Mendoza was still a pop culture phenomenon that demanded to be examined and dissected. So we did exactly that, in a way that admired her resilience through the throes of a meteoric rise to stardom. And yet in doing so, we managed to irk the AlDub hivemind with just a few words and sentences that weren’t absolute praise. Looking back, this might have been our first real tussle with the unwieldy Internet of today: large groups of zealots who can’t accept truths that they don’t want to hear, and who are all too willing to burn you at the stake if you so much as whisper something unpleasant about their deity of choice. Our favorite bit of flak from this saga? An unpleasant but also oddly specific threat to Kara Ortiga, our associate features editor at the time, who wrote the cover story.


What Democracy Looks Like
May 2016

How many people can you fit in a cover? Our May 2016 issue, which arrived in time for election day, was meant to divert attention away from all the candidates and back at the real subjects of a national election: the electorate. It was our stand for democracy, and for leadership that puts its people first.


Heavy Traffic Reported Ahead
July 2016

Traffic is and has been one of the greatest ills of Philippine cities, and especially over the past few years, it has crippled us substantially. For our July 2016 issue, we invited people to talk about it: ways that we can improve urban planning and transportation, slowly but surely, to cure us of traffic. To cover this issue, we worked with ad man and paper artist John Ed de Vera for this striking cover artwork that got us within a hair of an Adobo design award.

The Obvious Choice
August 2016

2016 was also the year of Pia Wurtzbach, who by taking home the Miss Universe crown, became one of the country’s most beloved celebrities. We’d like to pat ourselves on the back for this one, if only for the fact that she was the perfect choice for last year’s Sexiest Woman Alive, but also for Francisco Guerrero’s portrait of her, which perfectly captured her sexiness without needing to show much skin.


October 2016

We certainly underestimated the difficulty of doing an all-illustrated issue, but we feel like this one turned out great. For our fifth anniversary, we commissioned five different artworks from five different artists in different media. The result was a unique and collectible issue of Esquire that celebrates art in different forms.


Her Excellency
December 2016/January 2017

The timing was perfect: we had decided to live up to our tradition of ending the year with a bang by featuring Vice President Leni Robredo, and by also featuring two controversial champions of the two sides of our political divide: Mocha Uson and Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon.

At the time, the Vice President had been challenging President Duterte’s war on drugs and his imprudent remarks, coming into her own as a symbol of the opposition. She had also been fending off the electoral protest of Bongbong Marcos, who to this day insists that he won the Vice Presidential elections of 2016. Meanwhile, Mocha Uson was becoming more and more prominent as a pro-administration figure, and the war on drugs continued to claim lives. And then, just before the issue was released, the Marcos family buried their late patriarch in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, sparking a series of protest movements. The sociopolitical atmosphere was particularly intense, and it was the perfect time to make a statement. 


All Around The World
May 2017

Our 2017 Travel Issue was loaded with great stories, including a roundtable with photojournalists who discussed the state of truth; a beautiful travel log of Casiguran, Aurora; and an account of Venice with artist David Medalla, among others. With Megan Young on the cover and a solid row of features and profiles, May 2017 was one of our recent favorites.

The Last Letter
August 2017

We'd like to think we went out with a bang. By naming the Filipina the Sexiest Woman Alive, Esquire paid tribute to all the women we love. The issue was fronted by Anne Curtis-Smith, but also included a few others who we've always been secretly in love with: Tweetie De Leon, Agot Isidro, Zsa Zsa Padilla, and Angel Aquino.

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