UNLEASHING spinning attacks and powerful strikes inside the cage, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of Team Lakay is the very definition of aggressive every time he steps into the ring of the ONE Championship stage.
Sure, he’s full of grit and fury whenever he represents his country and his team. His battle-readiness and fortitude stand firmly on a bedrock forged by a rough childhood while growing up in the mountains of Baguio City.
Before he was even born, the 5-foot-7 fighter revealed his parents had already lost five of his older siblings due to sickness.
“Nasa barrio kasi talaga noon sila, nasa liblib na lugar, malayo ang mahihingan ng tulong ‘pag may emergency cases. Pero nung pinanganak ako, from Mountain Province, nakipagsapalaran na kami sa city. Sa Baguio na ako naipanganak, kaya mas malaki na ang chances na maka-survive,” he told SPIN Life.
In the big city, his illiterate father and mother toiled as manual laborer and fruit vendor, respectively, to put food on the table. Together with his other siblings, his family worked hard to at least make ends meet daily.
“As a kid, makikita mo ‘yung difference: ‘Yung mga kaklase mo may baon na pagkain, ikaw kailangan mong gawan ng paraan para magkaroon ng bagay na gusto mo," he said. "‘Yung mga magulang nila, nakapapag-aral kaya may trabaho. Kaya paalala talaga ng parents ko dati na kailangan mag-aral kasi sila hindi nakapag-aral.”
The two-time world champion continued: “As early as 8 years old, natutunan ko gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay para sa sarili ko. Siyempre, nakikita ko mga kaklase ko na nabibili mga gusto nila, naisip ko ano kaya pakiramdam ng magkaroon din ng ganon. Kaya, nagbebenta ako ng mga plastic, sa market, nagbubuhat ng mga package."
Because of what he experienced as a kid, the ‘Landslide’ knew all about the importance of education. In fact, after he graduated college in the University of Cordilleras, he became a teacher. But while his goals were focused on getting a degree, it never crossed his mind that it would be sports that would actually change his life.
“Marami na rin talagang sports dito sa province namin kaya exposed kami. Ako, una ko ang kickboxing nung high school. Pero one time, nagbabasa ako ng newspaper, may nakita akong mga nag-medal from Cordillera sa Wushu. So na-inspire ako, na ah, possible pala ‘to,” he said.
He got into wushu, and eventually became part of the Philippine team from 2001 to 2011. In 2007, he captured the Filipino Welterweight Championship during his debut in competitive MMA.
“Tapos ‘nung 2011 din, don na ako pumasok sa ONE,” he said.
Just five years after his ONE debut, Folayang defeated favored Japanese fighter Shinya Aoki via TKO in the third round of a November 2016 match, winning the promotion's Championship Lightweight title.
“Nung nag-champion ako, maraming nagbago sa buhay ko," he mused. "Mas naging stable financially, and nagkaroon ako ng influence na nabibigay ko sa kabataan."
Up to now, the 35-year-old continues to hustle both as an educator and an athlete. While he is one of the most well-known faces in MMA in the country, he also co-manages the Baguio-based Team Lakay, assisting coach Mark Sangiao in training the country's next generation of fighters.
And now, with a family of his own, he's proud of the road he took to get to where he is now. Looking back at all the trials only fuels his passion to inspire even more people.
“Isa sa pinakamahirap na kalaban ay ‘yung sarili mo and you need to conquer that. Life is also a matter of choices,” he said. “The best way to live, for me, is to live the life of a martial artist. Ibinabahagi ko lang sa mga nagnanais makapasok sa sport na ‘to ang experience ko.”