Sangiao reflects on tough year, hopeful for 2021

THE HIGHS AND LOWS. Not practically a good year for Team Lakay, head coach Mark Sangiao is bullish 2021 will be better, not only for the team but also for the Filipinos affected by Covid-19. (ONE photo)

FILIPINO mixed martial arts pioneer and Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao looks back on what has been a difficult year, not just for his Baguio City-based martial arts outfit, Team Lakay, but also for all Filipinos in the country who suffered through the effects of Covid-19.

The 41-year-old, who many consider a father and a brother, has had to lead his team through hardship and defeat while navigating a world filled with uncertainty.

“The year has been tough, good, and terrible at the same time. It’s been a mix of all things. On the positive side, we were able to spend more time with family and bond. Nature got to heal itself, and I’m sure we’ve all noticed how beautiful nature has flourished,” said Sangiao.

“On the negative side, of course, our economy took a huge hit. A lot of people lost their jobs. At the same time, we’re happy that ONE Championship is back and we’re able to work,” added Sangiao.

Team Lakay suffered a series of painful setbacks over the past 12 months. Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang, former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon, and rising star Lito Adiwang all fell in their respective matchups.

It’s not the first time the team has had to deal with a string of losses, and Sangiao is confident they can bounce back yet again.

“Of course, we have to make a few adjustments here and there. We’re very fortunate that we can train in Baguio City, one of the most beautiful places in the world, especially for martial arts training. We had to deal with some lockdowns which made it difficult to train, but we made the necessary adjustments,” said Sangiao.

“I can’t guarantee the result of next year, but I can promise you we will try our best always. Every athlete wants to win, even our opponents, but there will always be two sides. We’ll try our best to get back on the winning side and stay there,” adds the former wushu champion.

Team Lakay’s motto is “we either win or we learn,” and Sangiao was quick to point out the biggest lessons they learned in 2020, more importantly, outside of the cage. Sangiao was also proud of Team Lakay spearheading a series of donations and help drives to assist those who were affected by both the pandemic and calamities surrounding Baguio City.

“The biggest lesson we learned this year is to cherish our loved ones. We have to show each other our love because life is fleeting. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. Health is very important, and we have to take care of our bodies so we are healthy. Covid feasts on the weak, so we have to be strong. Lastly, we have to trust in God and have faith,” said Sangiao.

Sangiao, despite the series of lockdown also spearheaded a donation drive during the pandemic with the help of Benguet legislative caretaker Eric Go Yap and handed out vegetables and other relief packs to the needy.

“I think our biggest accomplishment this year has been to help our Filipino people suffering through this pandemic in our own little way. Team Lakay has been able to give back to our people, and I think that’s really important,” Sangiao said.

As always, Sangiao will continue to lead the Philippines’ premier martial arts team into the new year.

“Next year, it’s all about going back to work and getting back to the win column. This game is hard, but I have complete trust that we can get back to our winning ways,” Sangiao concluded. Roderick Osis


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