WUSHU, LAKAY, EDUCATION. By joining wushu, practitioners of the Chinese martial arts could get free education and may later become members of Team Lakay as a full time mixed martial arts practitioner. Thanks to Team Lakay founder Mark Sangiao, Divine Wally and Danny Kingad will soon finish their degree, Education major in MAPEH. (Photos from the FB Page)

BAGUIO CITY – Two top martial artists here, one in the amateur and another at the professional level, are on leave now from fighting and even training as they try to complete their college degree.

Former world wushu champion and recent Southeast Asian Games gold winner Divine Wally and Team Lakay’s Danny Kingad are back to school and are actually on their on the job training (OJT) to be able to graduate this summer.

Wally is a practicing teacher at the Westmont Academy at Camp 7 while Kingad is at the University of the Cordillera Laboratory School for his OJT. Both are taking up Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education major in Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH).

Balik kami sa school para sa aming OJT at para makatapos na ng kolehiyo (We are back in school for our OJT to finish college),” said the 25-year old Wally.

Wally told the Philippine News Agency that he was also asked by Kingad if she will go back to school for her OJT.

Ate san ka mag-OJT (Big sister where will you have your OJT),” said Wally about Kingad, 24, who immediately went back to carrying his books after his successful the January 31 outing.

Kingad defeated Wei Xie of China via unanimous decision in the ONE Championship Fire and Fury to bounce back from the Grand Prix semifinals loss to Demetrius Johnson on October 12 last year.

In the same fight, Joshua Pacio successfully defended his ONE strawweight title against former champion Alex Silva, Gina Iniong followed up her SEAG gold win with a victory over Asha Roka, but Eduard Folayang lost to Pieter Buist of The Netherlands in a split decision.

“I really need to finish now my schooling because I am not getting any younger,” said Wally, who like most of the Team Lakay and wushu players are from the University of the Cordillera (UC) and are into Education, major in MAPEH.

Wally was even happier late last month when she finally got her PHP25,000 Christmas bonus from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) since she will have school money.

Hay salamat at may pang-allowance na ako habang nag-aaral (Yey thanks and I have money for my allowance while going full time to school),” said Wally after the PSC released their bonus last January 26.

Wally has close ties with Team Lakay, especially with Folayang, who is also an education graduate from the UC, her cousin, who encouraged her to take up wushu instead of boxing, her sport in high school, so she can go to school for free.

Team Lakay top man Mark Sangiao, who finished the same degree, sees to it that members of the UC wushu team get a scholarship from the school.

The former Wushu Federation of the Philippines head coach has recruited players to become wushu sanda players, get free schooling and later join his gym.

“I make it a point that they get proper education and if they want to join our team once they finish schooling,” Sangiao said, who remains UC’s wushu sanda coach.

Now the regional head of the Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas for Northern Luzon, Sangiao helped Lakay members improve their lives through education and MMA.

His younger wards include Geje Eustaquio, his assistant coach at UC now, who has a master's degree under his belt beside the ONE flyweight belt he once held.

Pacio was one of the younger players who also got schooling thanks to being a member of Team Lakay gym.

“I was asked if I could help Pacio then, I saw him play and saw that he has a future, so I told him that he could go to UC, be part of the UC wushu sanda team and go to school for free,” he recalled.

“I am very much happy because they listen to me,” said Sangiao, who after winning gold in the SEAG 2001, was the first to go to mixed martial arts, in 2006, particularly in the Universal Real Combat Championship where he was a former bantamweight champion.

Then Folayang followed, Honorio Banario, who was from the Cordillera Career Development College, Kevin Belingon and former URCC strawweight champion Rey Docyogen, now a full-time architect/contractor.

Then he founded Team Lakay with that core group, where they are now the incorporators and a group of younger members who now “manage the operation” of their gym.

By April, Wally and Kingad will be wearing their toga after years in school, all for free, thanks to wushu and a coach like Sangiao. (PNA)