Leo Borromeo: Cebuano speedcubing prodigy

PRODIGY. Leo Borromeo got into speedcubing by watching YouTube videos and rose to as high as No. 4 in the world. / CONTRIBUTED
PRODIGY. Leo Borromeo got into speedcubing by watching YouTube videos and rose to as high as No. 4 in the world. / CONTRIBUTED

FOR most people, a Rubik’s Cube is that annoying toy that seemingly only people who sold their souls to the devil can solve, or for a rare few, solving the cube, all colors, is a nice mental exercise.

Then there are rare individuals like Leo Borromeo, a 15-year-old prodigy, who can solve a Rubik’s Cube faster than you can read this paragraph.

Borromeo, a student of the University of San Carlos, is one of the best in Asia and the world and is ranked by the World Cube Association (WCA).

“As a kid, after going to my first competition, I was really motivated to get faster and someday even win a competition myself,” said Borromeo, who is No. 8 in Asia and No. 27 in the world.

Borromeo also holds the Philippine record after solving a Rubik’s Cube in 4.31 seconds at the Cebu New Year Open last Jan. 7, 2023 at the Robinsons Galleria Cebu, Cebu City.

His 4.31-second single solve is also 14th quickest in the world, and his average of 5.24 seconds is one of the best.

His performance in the Cebu New Year Open 2023 was only the most recent achievement in a long list of honors he has earned since he began competing seriously in 2015, when he was only eight years old.

Sparked by videos

Borromeo shared that his interest in competing in this kind of puzzle-solving was originally sparked by some basic YouTube videos.

“When I first discovered cubing, I thought it would just been a fun little hobby on the side, but I really got hooked after discovering other speedcubers and after attending that first competition in 2015,” he said.

He said seeing videos of Feliks Zemdegs, who is a two-time World Champion, made him want to solve it faster.

With two World Championship titles under his belt and over 100 world records set between 2010 and 2019, Zemdegs is a legendary figure among the quickest speedcubers in the world. Borromeo set out to follow in the footsteps of his idol, the Australian great who broke the world record at the age of 12. In order to get better, he kept watching Zemdegs to pick up tricks and strategies, as well as more YouTube videos.

When he turned 12, Borromeo bested Zemdegs in a competition organized by MonkeyLeague.

“To get a grip of the beginner method is easy, but mastering and learning the methods and techniques Feliks uses took me about a year,” Borromeo said about learning from Zemdegs’ videos.

However, it was not just the tutorials that paved the way for Borromeo’s success but a guy named James Benedict Cañares, a fellow Filipino speedcuber who held the country’s speedcubing records from 2007 to 2008.

“I accidentally met Kuya JB at a bar to watch my dad play music with his band. Kuya JB saw me cubing and then he introduced me to the Cebu speedcubing community,” he said in one of his published interviews.

Borromeo’s first taste of competitive activity came about as a result of this coincidental encounter with Cañares, eventually meeting with other speedcubers in the province.

He started competing in 2016, and in 2017, he became the first Filipino to solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than six seconds. He also became No. 1 in Asia in 2018, 2019 and 2022 and was the No. 4 in the world in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

Officially designated a “Rubik’s Ambassador” by the Rubik’s Cube company in 2019, he also competed in the Asian Championships in 2018 and World Championships of Speedcubing in Australia (2019) and South Korea (2023).

Now, a junior high school student, the speedcuber has taken it slow since late 2023, but in July 2024, he is looking forward to the Philippine Championships of Speedcubing, which will take place in Cebu for the first time.

“Now that I have won many, what keeps me motivated still is that drive to improve and push my own limits,” he said.


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