Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #323 Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon: the calm before the storm

This appears in the Monday, August 14, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon: the calm before the storm
by rick olivares

When Filipino Mixed Martial Arts fighter Kevin Belingon enters the cage, like his teammate Eduard Folayang and his idol Georges St. Pierre, he has this calm presence. Living through firefights not to mention his cage matches will do that to you.

As a youngster growing up in Ifugao province, his town would explode in violence whenever the Philippine Army would roll in. Like a moth to a flame, the New People’s Army rebels would inevitably come down and engage the government troops in sustained firefights. One time when Belingon was only five years old, his father hid him and his sibling inside an empty water tank as the bullets and grenades exploded all around.

“You can say that I got used to the intense firefights. So cage fights are nothing compared to living through combat,” Belingon reveals of his preternatural calmness. 

Belingon fights to represent his tribe (Ifugao), his country, and the Filipino people. It isn’t the usual remark about serving the people. Belingon means every word. He is a Criminology graduate and if he weren’t fighting now, he’d be a cop. “I would love to help bring back the public’s trust in the police.”

Belingon isn’t the only one who exhibits grasshopper calm. His teammate, Eduard Folayang, is the same. Folayang was once a Physical Education teacher in his home city of Baguio. He was already into wushu when his mentor pushed him into getting into Mixed Martial Arts.

Even with three wushu medals in the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games as well as a Universal Reality Combat Championship welterweight title to his name, Folayang keeps a regal sereneness about him. If it weren’t for his sculpted physique, one could still mistake him as a teacher.

Folayang carries with him a small notebook where he jots down things that he picks up and learns everyday from the people he meets to events that surround him. When I inquire about it, he simply said, “To learn. There is a lot to learn in life. Not just MMA. This makes you a better person.”

Over a bistek Pilipino lunch, both Folayang and Belingon talk about mistakes they made in their previous losses. For Eduard, it’s all about doing something in the right as opposed to not doing it. Against Filipino-Danish Muay Thai specialist Ole Laursen, Folayang was suckered into a ground and grappling game. While known as a stand up striker, Eduard isn’t beyond going to the canvass when need me. “I should have done it to him first,” he regrets. “It’s a huge learning for me to leave everything in the ring so when I exit there are no regrets.”

He pauses to accentuate a point, “Things – even a loss – happen for a reason. They teach you hard lessons to learn and to be humble.”

Belingon saw his win streak stopped at nine when he lost to Japanese fighter Masakazu Imanari in the first round of One FC last March in Singapore. “Wrong move on my part,” he rued. “Mistakes are part of life. You have to make sure that you do not repeat them. You have to get over the loss and fear if you want to stand up. That’s life.”

Inside the air-conditioned and plush Manila Peninsula, people are insulated from the beating that nature has wrought down on Metro Manila. But Folayang and Belingon think about their hometowns and loved ones.

Folayang is nicknamed “Landslide” for his sudden fury inside the ring that evokes the disasters that occasionally beset Baguio City. Both fighters talk about people they know or heard of who have been victims not just of the rains and flooding but also landslides. “We all try to give back in our own way,” pointed our Eduard. “When the time comes that I can make big money then I can give back to more people. Some times, all I can do is represent them in the cage. To give them glory as well as to honor them.”

On August 31, 2012, both fighters will be a part of the biggest Mixed Martial Arts event in the country to date. One Fighting Championship, Asia’s biggest MMA fight organization, will bring 24 of Asia as well as Pan-Asia’s best fighters to the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Folayang will be up against Japanese-Peruvian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai specialist Felipe Enomoto (6-1-1). Enomoto beat Folayang’s conqueror Ole Laursen and it would be interesting to see how the two tangle with one another.

Belingon will take on 20-year old Korean Soo Chul Kim who has a pro record of 4-3 having lost his last two One FC fights against Leandro Issa and Gustavo Falciroli.

“August 31,” summed up Folayang. “I hope we can really make the nation proud.”


Get your tickets to One Fighting Championship: Pride of the Nation at today! It’s gonna be packed in more ways than one.

With Kevin Belingon, One FC CEO Victor Cui, and Eduard Folayang.

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