Philippine News

Man with many hats

MANILA – Who is Marlon Rivera? This is a question not easily answered, as the man has several hats. A teacher, fashion designer, copywriter, make-up artist, production designer, costume designer, and director, Rivera also has a flower shop and events company.

Not surprisingly, Rivera is used to being asked how he manages to be so many things at once. His answer is simple: “People always ask me this question, and I’ve always given the same answer — ‘Kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw may dahilan’ (If there’s a will, there’s a way, if not, there’s a reason).”

His ability to handle several creative pursuits began early — as a student, Rivera was already working as a props man at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).


“The circumstances of my life have been built around having multiple interests. Doing more than one thing has always been my brand equity,” said Rivera, who grew up all over the Philippines. Because where he lived depended on where his father, a civil engineer, would have projects, Rivera became used to moving and presenting himself in a different way.

However, all the moving around did not seem to affect his capacity to stay in one place for long. Rivera worked in advertising from 1988 until he resigned from his post at Publicis Manila in 2013. Before advertising became his staple career, he also worked at Regal as an intern, and at Channel 4 as a production assistant.

“When I decided to go into fashion, I already knew how to sketch and do patterns from breaking things apart and learning how to cut them.”

Rivera shared how a film changed his life. “When I was young, I loved the natural sciences. I really thought I was going to be a doctor. Then I saw Fame and it changed everything for me. I wanted to get into the performing arts. I went to the CCP, did workshops at Bulwagang Gantimpala and directed plays for the culminating activity,” he told adobo in a previous interview.

It is his thirst for learning that fuels his passions. Rivera said that while his ability to switch roles may look effortless, the hard work to make things happen actually begins much earlier. “When I decided to go into fashion, I already knew how to sketch and do patterns from breaking things apart and learning how to cut them. But you don’t want to tell that to people. You want to come out like, ‘I just did it today’. But actually that’s not true.”

According to Rivera, the secret to multitasking is to not multitask. “When I’m doing something, it’s to the exclusion of everything else,” he said. 

Whether it’s doing a fashion shoot for MNR or Folded & Hung, or handling a class, or shooting a movie, Rivera is 100 percent there. Back in 2011, Rivera took a leave of absence to work on Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank), which went on to win Audience Choice, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Director in the Cinemalaya independent film festival. Earning 38.4 million pesos, the film became the highest-grossing indie film in the country.

It was also Ang Babae sa Septic Tank that opened opportunities for Rivera to do films, which was part of the reasons influencing his decision to leave Publicis Manila, where he was president and chief creative officer. “I take a long, long time to incubate major decisions in my life, so the timing of my resignation is just the end point of a long process,” Rivera said.

Noting that he had spent 10 years in the post, and was approaching 50, Rivera continued, “the digital age has arrived, and the way the business of doing advertising has change.”

Although he did not reveal his next move in the advertising world, he offered, “I can say this much though, I still believe in advertising as a discipline but the way the business is built around it is something I want to change to suit my way of life.”

Change is something very important to Rivera. He shared a famous quote from one of his mentors, Antonio Mercado: “When you stop changing, you’re dead.”

Since his resignation, Rivera has come out with My Little Bossings for the 2013 Metro Manila Film Festival, and is building a house. Whether in or outside advertising, seeing more of Rivera’s work is a sure thing. “I think I will always do some form of mass salesmanship. I’m really interested in digital, contagious work, conversation-changing work. I might stop doing agency work, but I’ll always be part of the conversation,” he said.

Words: Carmela Lapeña

This article first appeared in the Jan-Feb 2014 issue of adobo magazine. Hear more from Marlon Rivera at the adobo Festival of Ideas on November 22, where he will be talking about work/life balance. Visit for more information, or book your tickets at

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