It’s time to reintroduce the volleyball superstar as the multi-faceted person she is: model, cook, and mahjong enthusiast.
Majoy Baron puts on a sports bra first thing in the morning. Sometimes, she proceeds to take photos and videos of herself “for content.” Mostly, she watches YouTuber Bretman Rock’s highly-entertaining Instagram Stories as part of her morning ritual. Then she gets to work.
For the professional athlete who plays for both the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers and Philippine National Team, work entails a dizzying amount of physical activity depending on the volleyball season. As it approaches, her focus is on weight training, and coming into the season, the focus shifts to jumps and explosive plyometrics. For the past couple of years though, thanks to the advent of coronavirus, training started looking a little different, especially since they’re conducted on-screen via Zoom. Sometimes, she color coordinates outfits for fun, but most of the time she works out alone. She cranks up a “pumped-up playlist” to get her “in the zone” and gets to moving because after 12 years of playing the sport, her discipline is resolute.
“’Pag naging bum ka lang for a day or two days straight, ikaw din ’yong mahihirapan ’pag balik mo ng workout,” she tells MEGA over Zoom. Aside from what she identifies as “guilt” when she skips a workout, she also credits movement as the endorphin-producing activity that carried her through the pandemic. As long as she starts her day with a workout, her mindset and mental health are OK. “Good mood na ako,” she says.
It’s not just her mental well-being tied to her physicality. For her, bodily movement is also her preferred soul-nourishing activity, and she’d rather stretch doing yoga than more typical activities like journaling or burning sage. Training her body is her investment, yes, but it’s also her catharsis. That said, she definitely knows how to pamper it, citing massages (shiatsu and ventosa), facials, mani-pedis, hair treatments, and lash services as some of her favorite indulgences when rewarding herself for her consistent hard work.
Majoy, now 26, has always prided herself on her grit and determination—even when she was 14 and knew nothing of the sport she was cajoled into playing. As a sophomore in Baguio City National High School, she became the default class representative for her school’s annual intramurals. “Ako ’yong nilagay kasi ako ’yong matangkad,” she shares of her first brush with volleyball, saying she didn’t even know the sport’s rules then. She maintains that her height—she towers at 5’11”—is the same reason she was recruited by the collegiate team that would change her life: the Lady Spikers of De La Salle University.
She had tons of catching up to do when she entered college–skills, body, and knowledge-wise. She says she didn’t even know what the UAAP competition was, nor the intense collegiate rivalries that it roused, before becoming a Lady Spiker herself. “‘Pag pasok ko sa La Salle, nagulat ako kasi sikat pala ’yong mga teammates ko, tapos ang dami nilang fans,” she remembers. But she wasn’t intimidated, she was inspired. “They have this standard of being an athlete na gano’ng level, and, at the same time, they get scholarships, they get all the benefits from La Salle, so parang, ‘Wow, ganito pala ‘yon, pagtratrabahuhan mo pala ’yong fame, ’yong skills.”
She improved year after year. From being excluded from the lineup, she eventually made team captain. She even won the Most Valuable Player Award in 2017. Still, she “never” felt like a success. “I came from the province na walang fame,” she recalls, saying that all she wanted back then was to “give back to La Salle” for her scholarship. “Then pagdating ko sa La Salle, ang daming media, ang daming attention na nakukuha ’yong team … Never ko naisip na magaling ako. ’Yong ibang tao na ’yong nakapansin. Pero ’yong mindset ko: wala lang ’yon, reward lang sa hard work na ginawa ko through the years.” She adds, “’Yon siguro ’yong pinaka natutunan ko sa La Salle; There’s always room for improvement in volleyball,” she says. Since graduating, she’s racked up even more championships and accolades including winning Best Middle Blocker (twice) in the ASEAN Grand Prix. She even almost became an import (her dream) had the pandemic not thwarted the league’s plans.
But spiking and blocking on the court is but one facet of hers. Another she’s pursuing is her first love: modeling. She walked runways in high school in Baguio before stopping to focus on sports but after college, she went back to it, doing shoots and walking in shows like MEGA Fashion Week and Philippine Fashion Week. She even got to walk for renowned Filipino designer Michael Cinco prior to the world’s shutdown. “Ang sarap ng feeling ng sinusuot mo ’yong magandang work nila. Ang talented ng mga designers dito sa Philippines,” she says, citing Vania Romoff and Rajo Laurel, whom she’s worked with before, as some of her favorite local designers.
Her modeling sensibilities, of course, translate to her social media accounts, blessing her fans with expertly-posed snapshots. Even so, her grid doesn’t come across as contrived or perfectly manicured like those of other Insta-famous personalities. In fact, Majoy’s approach to social media feels generous, equipping it as a tool to connect to her fans; as a window into her life.
Maybe it’s because she thinks of her fans as “quality fans” who’ve followed her career since her UAAP days. It could also be that imagery means a lot to her – she even considers posing as art and a way to honor her body. Or maybe she’s just charitable. “Kung ako rin naman ’yong fan, nakakatuwa na it will make your day na makikita mo ’yong idol mo,” she muses.
Her preferred platform for showing a “different side” of herself is Instagram. “Kasi nakikita lang nila kami sa TV, ’yong face ko na lagi nakasimangot. Tapos ‘pag tinitignan nila ’yong instagram ko, ‘Ganito pala siya ‘pag nakaayos, ’pag hindi siya naka jersey,’” she shares self-deprecatingly. “Do’n nila ko mas nakilala and ’yon nalang ’yong platform ko to interact with fans.”
From what she concocts in the kitchen to selfies, she photographs most of her content by herself. Yes, even her posed shots are taken by her, armed with nothing but a clicker. As to the extent of her editing process, she laughs, “Brightness lang!”
Majoy comes across as humble, uncharacteristic for someone who’s achieved what she has at such a young age. Stadiums full of crowds chanting your name at games or representing the country at international competitions should probably boost one’s ego, not to mention having 347,000 Instagram followers at her fingertips. But she’s down-to-earth.
Professionally donning designer regalia aside, she seems like a typical girl-next-door. She even threw out makeup products recently, including eyeshadow and foundation. “Hindi ko naman sila nagagamit,” she explains, adding that the “fresh look” is in anyway and eyeshadow, out. The only items she left behind are brow products, concealer, and lip tints for her now go-to “light makeup” look.
Her skincare routine is even more stripped down. She has one lone step: moisturizer. And only when her skin starts feeling dry. (The not-so-low-maintenance catch is that the moisturizer is by Dior, but only because it was gifted to her.) Similarly, her “outdated” closet has seen a laid-back rehaul and she now prefers athleisure in lieu of jeans. Of the latter, she laments, “Ang sikip, ang uncomfortable!”
The one thing she did amp up these past couple of years–and is proud to share with her community–is her cooking, particularly of Filipino dishes. A major foodie, she loves finding minute-long recipes on TikTok (although, no, she never tried making those viral dishes like sushi bake or Dalgona coffee). What she does enjoy cooking is something fans will never guess: sisig.
It’s probably not intuitive to think of athletes cooking dishes cardiologists warn their patients about, but she doesn’t really have dietary restrictions as long as meals are “balanced.” Plus, she explains, “I’m a Kapampangan so mahilig kami talaga magluto.” She adds, “Ma-fruits and veggies ako,” listing watermelon, melon, and apple among her favorites.
Even Majoy’s travels are centered around food and she was particularly bummed about her last tournament in Thailand. “’Yong national team, pumunta kami ng Thailand for a tournament. Pumunta lang talaga kami para maglaro. Hotel, game, venue, training, then balik lang. Hindi nga kami nakalabas. Hindi kami naka mango sticky rice!” she laments.
The moment she can fly back for leisure–her favorite places are Japan and Hawaii– she’ll likely go back to being an “adventurous eater.” To partake in local culture, she prefers eating over hitting museums–even tasting “exotic” offerings like crickets, frogs, and even snakes. For now, as cities open back up, she just wants to spend “quality time” with friends by trying out new restaurants – her favorite downtime activity. (Though if she’s at home with nothing else to do, she’d probably watch Money Heist and Grey’s Anatomy.) She had been playing a ton of board games, she says, including pictionary, pandemic, and mahjong.
She won’t need to settle for board games much longer. Just last November, her team just won a five-day competition in Lipa, the first PNVF Champions League. And as volleyball games are starting to come back, Majoy’s schedule is tightening again and she’ll get to train and play alongside the people she considers “family.”
Speaking of teammates, would she consider following in the footsteps of Michelle Gumabao, a former fellow Lady Spiker-turned-beauty queen? I ask. “I’m not closing my doors,” she says coyly.
Photography SEVEN BARRETTO assisted by ERWIN BOTIN and DARIEL MIRAFLOR of STUDIO 7 MNL
Creative direction JANN PASCUA
Art direction NICOLE ALMERO
Stylist RYUJI SHIOMITSU, BEA GUERRERO, and MIGUEL CARNIYAN QUILANG of TEAM RYUJI SHIOMITSU
Makeup GERY PENASO
Hair KIERLO VELASCO
Nails TRIPLE LUCK BROW & NAIL SALON
Videographer JR RAMIREZ
Shoot Coordination KZ FRANCISCO and MJ ALMERO
Special thanks to MARLON LUGUE from KINETIX LAB and OGIE RODRIGUEZ from LUCKY NAIL SALON
All smartwatches by GARMIN