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‘Pinoy Big Smoke?’ Filipinos find its real-life version in a local Manila history buff

Renacimiento Manila’s Alex Avila, hailed for his uncanny resemblance to the iconic Big Smoke from the Grand Theft Auto series, has recently taken the internet by storm. This intriguing intersection of gaming and real life has sparked a flurry of reactions on social media
Alex Avila, known for his work with Renacimiento Manila, a cultural organization dedicated to conserving Metro Manila’s heritage sites, has recently been thrust into the limelight. A photo posted by Renacimiento Manila shows Avila discussing the different train sets used by the LRT-1. The image quickly went viral, not for its informative content but for Avila’s striking resemblance to Big Smoke.

Big Smoke, whose real name is Melvin Harris, is a character in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” He is a high-ranking member of the Grove Street Families who later defect to the Ballas, making clandestine deals with the Los Santos Vagos and Russian Mafia. Big Smoke’s character is most known for his line, “All we had to do is follow the damn train, CJ!”

Big Smoke

Renacimiento Manila’s post highlighted Alex Avila’s striking resemblance to Big Smoke and showcased his expertise in a completely different realm—the LRT-1 train system. In the photo, Avila is seen passionately discussing the various train sets used by the LRT-1, shedding light on the four distinct types currently in operation. Notably, the most recent additions to the fleet have been manufactured in Spain and Mexico, elevating the discussion beyond gaming fandom.

GTA's Big Smoke
via Facebook

The gaming and transportation worlds juxtaposed within a single social media post fueled an unexpected but captivating narrative. Alex Avila’s dual identity as a Big Smoke look-alike and a knowledgeable LRT-1 enthusiast turned a routine discussion into a viral sensation.

Social media users were quick to showcase their creativity, with comments like “All you had to do is to learn about these trains, CJ!” and “Followed the train literally,” emphasizing the infamous mission where players must tail a speeding train in the game.

In the Philippines, fans added their unique touch, saying, “US: Big Smoke, PH: Malaking Polusyon,” playfully translating the character’s name to Tagalog and infusing local humor into the mix.

The humor extended to fans playfully mimicking Big Smoke’s famous fast-food order, with one user jokingly saying, “Get this man two Number 9’s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, number 7, two number 45’s, one with cheese, and a large soda.”

Big Smoke and Alex Avila Big Smoke and Alex Avila comment Big Smoke and Alex Avila comment Big Smoke and Alex Avila comment

The story of Alex Avila and his unexpected connection to Big Smoke reminds us of how different aspects of culture intersect. Whether it’s the world of video games colliding with local transportation history, these intersections create unique narratives that capture the public’s imagination.


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