By KATAREENA CARYSSE ROSKA
CEBU CITY -- The air was hot and heavy, a hallmark of the place I call home: Cebu City, Philippines.
The sky was a gloomy gray. For the first time in a long time, my morning was free and unburdened by the stress of the life I momentarily left behind in the United States by way of California.
It was the start of my third day back home in the Philippines. I am what they call a balikbayan, a native-born Filipino returning to the archipelago.
Coming off a two-day food frenzy full of Cebuano delights that America could never replicate, my father and I decided to return to a passion we both shared.
One of the three B’s of Filipino fanaticism --- boxing, basketball, beauty pageants --- the sweet science is fueled by the fighting spirit of those who are downtrodden and constantly faced with life's challenges.
So it’s safe to say that we had absolutely no trouble finding a gym to practice at.
Enter boxing legend Edito "ALA" Villamor and former WBO Oriental Philippine Boxing Federation (OPBF) champion Michael Domingo, exhibiting classic Pinoy hospitality and making room for my father and I to train.
THE VILLAMOR BOXING GYM is tucked away in the verdant greenery of Pagsabungan street, Mandaue city, Cebu.
Welcomed like royals, my father and I entered the gym surrounded by dozens of boys ranging from what seemed to be around the ages of five to 17.
All students are under the guidance of Edito, free of charge out of the generosity of his heart and taken in from a young age in the hopes of fostering hidden potential and raw power.
Donning basketball jerseys and tank tops, any one of the kids training at Villamor Boxing is on their way to being capable of a Pacquiao kind of knockout, thanks to Mike’s and Edito’s careful polishing of these diamonds in the rough.
As we settled in and got ready to train, a tropical mist from the cloudy sky set in over the open air gym, providing temporary relief from the humidity and setting the stage for a dramatic few rounds of boxing.
While coach Mike began my session that could be likened to a workout fit for a movie star (or in my case, near-torture), coach Edito began prepping the kids for their training as well.
FOCUSED, THE KIDS the kids diligently followed Edito’s military- style callouts with discipline and utter precision. Edito is kind of like the cooler, younger, Filipino version of Mr. Miyagi.
Overflowing with patience, coach Mike instructed my father and I on basic exercises and routines. While I fumbled more than once, my clumsiness was met only with a smile and playful jokes.
While I observed the surroundings of the gym, I noticed that there’s a certain kind of homeyness that lines the tin roof of the gym.
A bed lies in the front office, a framed newspaper article of “ALA” hangs in the corner covering his service in inspiration to Manny Pacquiao, and a poster hangs in the back reading “A champion is one who is remembered. A legend is one who is never forgotten.”
The rain continued to pour heavily throughout the rest of my workout, foreshadowed by the morning’s sky but somehow not predicted by my weather app.
As quickly as the onslaught of rain arrived, so did my ever-growing respect for ALA and Michael with their care and dedication to their students.
I thank for sharing their wisdom in the world of boxing, and their accommodation of my father and I.
It’s people like them that continue to pass on the gift of boxing to the younger generation, paving roads of opportunity while molding the minds that need it most.
If you’re ever in Cebu, head to Villamor Boxing and learn to box like you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to fight for.
Salamat kaayo, Villamor Boxing!
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