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Ex-wushu champ returns to SEA Games after 18 years

BAGUIO CITY – Jearome Calica earned a gold medal in the 2001 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games wushu sanda competition, along with Team Lakay founder Mark Sangiao, but for nearly 18 years, he was practically under the radar until his name popped up as among those competing in this year's biennial meet.


Calica will not be with the Philippine Wushu team this time, but in Muay Thai, a sport that his former teammates like Sangiao and Eduard Folayang were into before shifting to wushu.


He, however, will not compete in the combat side but in the performance category of Muay Thai -- Wai Kru and Taksa, alongside teammate Joemar Gallanza, an Ilonggo.


Calica is confident of their chances to win the gold in that event.


“Dakkel chance tayo ag Gold (in) this SEAGames (We have a big chance of winning the gold [in] this SEA Games),” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) through a Facebook message.


Calica is currently in Thailand wrapping up his training prior to heading home for the 2019 SEA Games competition.


Now 37, Calica, a Muay Thai coach and stunt performer on the side, returned only last July.


“Gradually nagpa-condition ako as athlete since July this year (Gradually I started conditioning as an athlete since July this year),” he said.


“I have been active the past years although there were times when I was off. But then the past years, I worked as a Muay Thai coach and stunt performer (for movies/television) which is related to my event Wai Kru and Taksa, or ritual dance and choreographed fighting with stunts,” he said in a mix of Baguio Iloko, Filipino and English.


Now based in Quezon City where he works as talent at Virtual Playground and actor at Reality Entertainment, Calica never expected to return as a national team member.


“I never expected to return to the National Team or to any combative sport for that matter),” he said in Ilocano.


It was national Muay Thai coach Billy Alumno who called him back to duty.


Alumno is one of the more popular Muay practitioners in the Cordillera in the 90s, who later became Calica’s teammate in amateur boxing, and both belong to the same kickboxing club.


“Then now there is Wai Kru and Taksa in the SEA Games which is in line with my profession/passion as a stuntman or in movie fighting,” he said in the local dialect.


He said Muay Thai is not new to him as he was into it before joining the Philippine wushu team.

“I am not new with Muay Thai, before I even joined the RP Wushu Sanda team, I was already involved with the organization of Muay Thai Philippines,” he said.


He added: “Actually, I returned to Muay Thai in 2006 and trained with the national squad for the 2007 SEA Games but then Robin Padilla took me in for one (movie) project. Then, the Muay Thai event was scrapped as an event from that SEA Games [held in Hanoi, Vietnam]).”


The four members of the Philippine wushu sanda team in 2001 went home with two golds and a silver medal.


Calica won the 54-kilogram crown by beating Indonesia’s Arif Arsoyo, while Sangiao took the 60-kilogram crown winning over Teguh Prestowo also of Indonesia.


Rexel Nganhayna took the silver in the 56-kg division after falling to Vietnamese Diep Bao Minh.

Folayang, then only 18, failed to bring home a medal. After the 2001 SEAG, Calica took a different route even as his three teammates remained with wushu sanda, with Sangiao moving up as a coach and trainer, while the other two continued to fight.


Calica moved to taolu, the first from the Cordillera when it was dominated by Manila-based players of Chinese descent.


“Wen siyak ti maysa pioneer wushu Taolu. Tapos first assigned (with) Wushu Taolu Baguio Team Head Coach. Varsity Coach met lang University of the Philippines tapos naging University of Baguio (Yes, I was one of the pioneers of Wushua Taolu [in Baguio]. Then I was assigned as Wushu Taolu Baguio team head coach at the same UP varsity coach and later at UB,” he added. (PNA)

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