Cancer survivor and MMA champ Louie Sangalang has always bet on himself

Feb 18, 2021

LOUIE Sangalang’s life took a major turn when he was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer at the age of 21. But instead of playing the role of victim, he met the challenge head on and hasn’t looked back.

Twenty-two years after being diagnosed, Sangalang’s cancer is now in remission, and he has achieved things other people can only dream of.

Sangalang became a URCC Mixed Martial Arts Champion and competed in marathons and Iron Man triathlons in the Philippines. In 2018, in fact, he became the first Filipino cancer survivor to finish the North Pole Marathon, one of the major highlights of his athletic life.

Now he looks to add one more achievement to his resume – this time in business.


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Sangalang is one of two Filipino candidates (Lara Pearl Alvarez the other) who will appear on the “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition,” which airs throughout Asia starting on 18 March.

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“When I first watched The Apprentice Asia, I wanted to join it, but I admit that I was clueless about their industry, which is more on travel and hospitality,” Sangalang said.

The Apprentice Asia first aired in 2013. Its host at the time was AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes, with Filipino Jonathan Yabut emerging as the reality show's winner.

“So when [The Apprentice: One Championship Edition] came along, I wanted to join. I’m interested in sports, I’m knowledgeable in martial arts and endurance sports, and I’ve always wanted to return to martial arts, so why not join ONE – not as a fighter, but as a member of the organization?”

His approach to this famous high-stakes reality TV show will be the same apporach he’s taken to business: straightforward and without pretensions.

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When asked if he felt like he has an edge on other candidates given his background in sports and business, he simply brushed it off, saying that his focus is on himself, not on the other candidates.


“When I joined, I expected everyone to have a background in sports. I expected the people who applied were the same as I am – with a background in sports and achievements in life,” he said.

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Sangalang continued, “My approach in life always comes from a very pragmatic perspective. I’m not thinking about whether I have the edge or not, I’m just not bothered about my competition, I focus on what I can deliver. It’s like courting someone – you don’t really care about the other guy, I just have to do what I do and if I have an edge, then I’ll discover it.”

That pragmatic approach might rub people the wrong way, but he explains that it doesn’t stem from arrogance. It’s just business – nothing personal.

“I’m not the type of person who smiles a lot. [I’m] not the typical Filipino who’s friendly – I am friendly but not the overly friendly type in facing other people. But what I do, if there’s a friend in need, I look at the situation and analyze,” he explained. “I’m not the type of person who will say, ‘It’s okay.’ So, I think that’s one of the first challenges I have. I was worried about human interaction because I’m not the feel-good type that most Filipinos are. For me, what’s important is you can deliver.”

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    Another challenge he feels he will encounter during the show is communication. It’s no secret that some people can be sensitive, but oftentimes getting straight to the point is how people get things done.

    “I’m just goal-oriented,” he added. “That’s how I communicate. That’s a worry for me, but I’m not afraid to speak up.”

    When the reels start turning next month and Sangalang is presented to the world, he’s banking on his fellow Pinoys to support him as he tries to raise the Philippines flag in the business world.

    “From my end, what you can expect from me is for me to do my best. We’re representing the country, we’re representing the Philippines. We’re not perfect. We have to be honest about our shortcomings, but expect me to be at my best in this show,” he said.

    “I just hope that whatever happens, the country can support me because this isn’t easy. I hope that win or lose, man, the country can support us, me and Pearl.”

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    Catch your local entrepreneurs competing in a high-stakes reality TV show in the upcoming The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition this March.

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