To honor Team Lakay and its contributions to Philippine sports, Baguio City put up a giant mural inside the Baguio Athletic Bowl. The venue is one of the city’s most famous sites and it has been the annex of the mixed martial arts team’s training facility since its inception in 2003.
Team Lakay founder Mark Sangiao chose Harold Banario, one of his protégés, to do the mural. The latter is not just a professional MMA fighter but also an experienced and very talented artist.
Dubbed Heroes, the sponsored mural project is about nine feet in height and about 24 feet wide. On top is Sangiao, who himself was an MMA champion, and below him are seven Team Lakay fighters, including five ONE Championship athletes and two BRAVE Combat Federation athletes.
“Initially, the concept was Coach Mark’s idea,” Banario revealed. “I just added and altered the composition since I always want movement in my artworks. I don’t like stagnant or no movement at all in my works.”
All of the seven fighters joining Sangiao in the mural have been an MMA world champion at least once. They are former Pacific Xtreme Combat Bantamweight Champion Crisanto “The Slugger” Pitpitunge, inaugural ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, one-time ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, one-time ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and reigning BRAVE CF Bantamweight World Champion Stephen “The Sniper” Loman.
Harold is Honorio’s younger brother. Like Loman, Harold and Pitpitunge compete in BRAVE CF.
“It’s not yet done but you can already see that he has made a great deal of effort on this artwork,” Loman said of the Heroes mural. “It’s beautiful.”
For Harold, doing the mural is his own way of giving back to Team Lakay and he does not mind doing it all alone. He said, “They’re family to me.”
“It’s almost a decade since I joined them and they helped me a lot in many ways, morally and ideologically,” Harold continued. “They mean to me so much.”
The mural was supposed to be officially unveiled at the Ibagiw 2020 Creative City Festival in Baguio City in November 2020 but its completion was delayed due to travel restrictions related to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Harold hopes that he could apply his finishing touches before 2021.
“I’ve been delayed countless times,” Harold shared. “I completely understand the situation. Our authorities know better. I just wish I can finish it before Christmas or New Year.”
When Sangiao offered the mural project to Harold, the latter was flattered. The BRAVE CF athlete said, “I can say it’s an obvious choice since they’re my teammates and coaches but perhaps they trust me and believe in my talent.”
“I’m very delighted since this is my first time doing a mural this big,” Harold continued. “It’s an amazing feeling being chosen to do this monumental painting.”
As an MMA fighter, Harold has been competing professionally since 2012. Years before this, he was already into arts.
“Actually, I’ve been doing art since I was a child,” Harold said. “You can call it inborn talent since four of my siblings are also good at it. I think it was way back when I was in elementary, particularly in my first grade, where I drew random things and submitted it to my teacher. I was awarded for it.”
After Harold’s first professional MMA loss on June 13, 2015, his inclination to painting got much deeper. He explained, “All of my paintings are allegorical paintings or symbolism and it’s more on human figures and drama.”