Out of curiosity, champ Leo Borromeo unlocked the cube’s secrets his way
By Deneb R. Batucan
Images by Rocky Roska
THE click-clacking of the Rubik’s cube might be the loudest sound you’d hear from shy 10-year-old genius, Leo Borromeo, but it’s a great sight to behold. This tiny human can oust adults twice his age as he solves the intricate puzzle cube in just mere seconds. In a blink of eye, the disarranged cube is arranged by color with Leo’s fast hands and even faster analytic brain.
Even when he’s famous from his cube-solving talents — not to mention that he recently annihilated the competition at the Rubik’s Visayas Championship 2017 last Sept. 3 with two new national records for the Philippines (best average time of 7.51 seconds and best single time of 5.96 seconds) for the 3×3 cube — Leo Borromeo is actually just a little boy who’s hobby has turned him into a pro.
Since 2016, where his fastest time ranges from 10 to 15 seconds, Leo has improved so much in just under a year. All his hard work has paid off immensely, and his parents, Sheryl and Carlo, are just so proud.
Leo got into speedcubing in 2013, a rising competitive activity that solves a variety of puzzles, like the Rubik’s cube, in the fastest possible way. His mom got him his first cube, which was a 3×3. Since then, you couldn’t find Leo without a cube near him.
Having an affinity for research, which he does with all the things he’s into — from Stephen King to comic books — he looked up speedcubing videos on the internet. After much studying, and countless hours of cubing, he finally got it right. Leo veers away from pattern solving. He looks and analyzes the cube to know where he should turn and then in seconds, the cube is solved. It’s an amazing thing to watch no matter how many times he does it.
In the two years since Leo first started solving puzzle cubes, a lot has changed in his life. He has been on the local television show, Little Big Shots, has thousands of followers on his Facebook page, and he gets recognized everywhere. People take photos with him and even asking him to sign their cubes.
“For him, it’s just a hobby. He doesn’t really get all the fuss,” Carlo, his dad, said. “Imagine, his hobby ended up making him famous. But he’s a kid. He still wants to have fun.”
Though the parents are insanely proud of their son, there is that worry that all these attention might be too much for a 10-year-old kid. Everyone expects so highly of him. Even a number of companies, local and international, have been reaching out to them for endorsement deals, but Carlo and Sheryl are hesitant because it could require a lot from Leo.
“We’re open to it,” Carlo said. “But it might stop being a hobby and turn into a job.”
“I didn’t want to be famous,” Leo suddenly quipped during the conversation. “I thought it’d be dangerous.”
Even with all the crazy and awesome things that’s going on around him, Leo is, at the end of the day, just a little boy whose extended playtime has morphed into more than just a hobby. On top of speedcubing, he still needs to be the 10-year-old that he is, which means that school is his top priority. Speedcubing has actually heightened Leo’s analytical thinking. His good grades are proof that Leo is on top of his game.
“I want him to like it, but I don’t want him to always be obliged to do it. So he broke the national record. That was just like a week ago. So now he can just relax, just have fun,” Carlo said.
Even if Leo is now considered a pro at speedcubing, he admits that he still gets nervous every time he competes. “My hands shake. My hands are cold, my knees shake,” he said.
But he is determined. He practices solving the cube at every chance he gets and always make it a point that he improves his time. The passion that he has for cubing is commendable. Having to compete with people older than him is nerve-wracking, but Leo is strong and his great skills are the fruit of consistent training.
And if he continues this upward learning curve, who knows what this self-taught Rubik’s cube expert can achieve on the world stage.