HOME FOR TEAM LAKAY. Benguet caretaker-congressman and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap (6th from left, standing) poses with Team Lakay members at the team’s gym in Pico, La Trinidad, Benguet on Thursday to discuss means to give the team its own gym. Also in the photo are (from left) Brave champion Stephen Loman, former ONE champions Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio and Eduard Folayang (4th from left, standing), head coach Mark Sangiao (5th from left, standing). (PNA Photo by Pigeon Lobien)

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Benguet caretaker Rep. Eric Go Yap on Thursday promised to help Team Lakay to have its own gym that could be compared to the best found in Thailand in Southeast Asia.

Visiting the Team Lakay gym at Barangay Pico, Yap will seek to get a piece of the lot at the Wangal Sports Complex to house the mixed martial arts team’s gym.

The visit in Benguet is Yap's second since his appointment as caretaker Congressman in January after the death of Rep. Nestor Fongwan in December last year.

"I will seek for a lot measuring 1,000 to 1,500 square meters where a building can be constructed to house the gym,” said Yap, an ACT-CIS Party-list congressman.

Yap, who played basketball while in school, said he will do his best to source out funds for the construction of the gym, which will also house other sports events.

He said he has met with Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas to grant the segregation of the said lot with the sports complex.

“We want something close to world standards,” said Yap, who enjoyed Benguet coffee and kamote prepared by his host during Thursday visit.

Briefed by Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, Yap promised to pay the monthly rent of the team, promising to give financial incentives to members who make good or even win belts.

Yap will also seek sponsors to help fund training and allowances for members who are slated to compete.

The soonest will be former featherweight champion Honorio Banario, who will fly to Singapore on February 24, to fight.

“I have done the moral support, now is the physical support – give Team Lakay its own gym,” added Yap, who received a pair of gloves signed by the members of the team like former champions Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon, and Banario and Brave champion Stephen Loman.

Yap said the effort aims to make Benguet famous all over the Philippines through Team Lakay.

Gusto kong makilala ang Benguet bilang bahay ng matatapang, bilang bahay ng mandirigma, martial arts gusto ko magkaroon ng legacy at identity ang Benguet (I want to make Benguet known as the house of the brave, the house of warriors and martial arts. I want Benguet to have a legacy and an identity),” Yap said.

Yap also envisions that the popularity of Team Lakay and the art of mixed martial arts in the Philippines would help decrease the illegal drug use not only in the region but the whole nation.

Bihira po akong po akong nakita ng aktibong atleta na may pangarap, na papasok sa droga (I barely see active athletes who dream victory but would be using drugs)," Yap said.

On February 10, Yap filed House Resolution No. 707 where Congress formally commended and recognized Team Lakay’s contribution to the nation.

The House resolution, Yap said, serves as a “salute and gratitude to the successes” of Team Lakay which is considered one of, if not, the best teams in the ONE Championship, Asia’s foremost mixed martial arts competitions.

“We salute you Joshua Pacio (current ONE strawweight champion), Stephen Loman (current Brave Combat Federation bantamweight champion) and Eduard Folayang (former URCC welterweight champion and former ONE lightweight champion) that have big contributions in the field of martial arts in the country," he said.

"Thank you very much for being an inspiration to much Filipino youth who have dreams to pick up in their own field," he added.

The three Lakay members and Sangiao went to see Yap in Congress to receive a copy of the House resolution and had snapshots with the congressman.

On his Facebook wall, Sangiao said: “Taos puso pong pasasalamat kay Cong. Eric Go Yap sa pagkilala sa aming kontribusyon sa bansa sa larangan ng Martial Arts ([It is with] Sincere gratitude [to] Cong. Eric Go Yap for recognizing our contribution to the country in the field of martial arts).”

He added: “Maraming salamat din sa inyong bukas na kaisipan na isulong an gaming mga matagal na adhikain para sa pangkalahatang pag-usad ng Martial Arts sa bansa at patuloy na paghubog ng mga hinaharap na henerasyon ng mga mandirigma (Thank you very much for your open thought to promote our long-term aspirations for the general progress of martial arts in the country and continuously molding the generations of warriors.)”

The four Team Lakay members drove early to Manila after another training session at the Baguio athletic bowl especially for Banario who will be seeing action on Feb. 28 against Shannon Wiratchai to end a three-game skid. (With a report from Jeffryl Jallen Epler, OJT/ PNA)