BAGUIO CITY – And the gold keeps piling up.
Jearome Calica made good his return to the South East Asian Games and won the gold medal in the Muay Thai Waikru and Taksa competition at the Subic Bay Exhibition Convention Center in Subic on Wednesday.
After winning the gold in wushu sanda in the 2001 edition of the biennial meet, the 37-year-old movie stuntman joined forces with Joemar Gallaza for a 9.95 point performance to walk away with the gold medal.
The win came after the Igorot-Visayas pair of Rusha Bayacsan and Ireden Lepatan did wonders as they worked their way to a silver medal finish.
It was a performance noteworthy as they were just .02 off the winner -- Thailand -- after scoring 9.45, against the Thai duo that scored 9.47 points.
Vietnam was a far third after checking in with 9.02 points.
Although delayed by at least a day due to typhoon "Tisoy", the pair came in prepared for the event where they face a Thai duo.
“Warrior spirit ang mga yan (They are in a fighting mode),” said Brenda Tarnate, mother of Bayacsan, and a former muay Thai competitor who is now a coach.
Tarnate said the two ladies have a good relationship with Lepatan now practically her “adoptive daughter”, who she calls an Igorot due to her muscled legs.
The 29-year-old Cebu beauty has been often mistaken as a highlander, that elicited laughter from the former Muay Thai competitor.
Most of the time, she prepares the duo before competitions – braids their hair, put on makeup and sees to it that the dress would bring out the beauty of the two while still looking like warriors.
“I had to learn all of these by watching YouTube,” she said with a laugh during a pictorial of the waikru pairs at a photo studio here prior to the group's departure for Subic.
The victory of the pair was the first for the muay Thai squad coached by Billy Alumno, one of the more famous practitioners of the sport in the Cordillera and a former boxer.
Alumno earlier said the duo could well have a chance to win it all but will face a tough Thai team.
“I’m not really banking on them winning the gold but the duo will fight it out,” the former Palarong Pambansa player said.
Alumno is now looking at Calica and Gallaza.
“The two has a better chance than the girls because there is no Thai team,” he earlier told the Philippine News Agency on Dec. 3.
Divine Wally exacted her revenge on Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Chinh to win the women’s 48-kilogram wushu sanda in a near sweep of the event.
It was Nguyen who beat the 25-year-old MAPEH UC student in the World Wushu Championships held in Shanghai last October.
“I’m very happy and grateful,” Wally told the PNA in a Facebook message from Manila Tuesday night after taking her second SEAG gold.
Tuesday saw four of her teammates win: Clemente Tagubara Jr. (men's sanda 65 kg), Francisco Solis (men's sanda 56 kg), Arnel Roa Mandal (men's sanda 52 kg) and Jessie Aligaga (men's sanda 48 kg).
The four took the top spot in the Chinese kickboxing as Aligaga defeated Permana Ade of Indonesia, Mandal downed Pratama Laksamana of Indonesia, Solis edged Widiyanto Yusuf of Indonesia and Tagubara got past Suksanguan Kittisak of Thailand.
Only Gideon Padua failed in his bid in his very first SEAG as the 19-year-old recent graduate of senior high fell in the finals to Bui Truong Guang of Vietnam in the 60kg.
"First of all, I want to thank Lord Jesus Christ who gave me strength… and to my family, friends, teammates (who were) there since day 1. Nahirapan ako sa iniinda kong body pain (It was difficult especially with the body pain I had),” he told the PNA.
“Babawi na lang ako sa susunod (I promise to do better the next time),” he added.
Team Wushu has a total of seven golds after Agatha Wong's victory in taijijian (straight sword form) and taijiquan aside from two silver and two bronze medals.
Jones Inso on his SEAG debut took the silver in taijijian, while the soon to be retiring Daniel Parantac took the bronze in taijiquan. The men’s duilian trio of Inso, Thornton Lou Sayan and Jonezeth Gajo finished third.
It was the second time Team Philippines took the overall title in the event after the success of the Eduard Folayang-led squad in 2005 which was held in Manila.
Folayang, who went to see his cousin Wally play and encourage the team, led the 2005 squad to 12-4-2 gold-silver-bronze performance.
It was the second of his three SEAG gold medal after his 2003 success and 2011, after a heartbreaking debut in 2001. (PNA)