The iconic Baguio Athletic Bowl is one of the city’s most famous sites, but for Team Lakay, it has been the annex of its training facility since the stable’s inception in 2003.
From past to present, each member has spent countless hours on the tracks of the seven-hectare sports complex, doing various high-intensity running exercises to nurture the group’s seemingly infinite reservoir of stamina inside the cage.
After producing seven world champions in mixed martial arts, Team Lakay will forever be etched on the ivory-clad walls of the stadium through a sponsored mural project dubbed “Heroes,” which honors the Cordillera region’s homegrown talents who triumphantly represented the Philippines on the international sporting stage.
The portrait is about nine feet in height and about 24 feet wide, with Team Lakay lynchpin Mark Sangiao on top and seven of his prized pupils who have captured intricately-crafted belts in MMA below him.
Tapped to do the artwork is none other than Team Lakay’s very own Harold Banario, a bantamweight competitor in BRAVE Combat Federation with a professional record of 5-2. He is also the younger brother of former featherweight world titleholder Honorio Banario.
It came as no surprise that Sangiao personally handpicked Banario, who has participated in several local art exhibits and designs houses on the side.
“Actually, I’ve been doing art since I was a child. You can call it inborn talent since four of my siblings are also good at it,” the fighter shared. “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.”
His inclination to painting got much deeper when he suffered his first career defeat in June 2015, using it as a coping mechanism and an outlet for self-expression.
Banario even went viral on social media in 2017 for his Beauty and the Beast masterpiece which featured Hollywood actress Emma Watson as his subject.
“All of my paintings are allegorical paintings or symbolism, and it’s more on human figures and drama,” he said.
He couldn’t help but feel really flattered when the project was offered to him by Sangiao.
“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. It’s an amazing feeling being chosen to do this monumental painting,” he stated.
Sangiao was the brain behind the mural’s concept, but the headmaster gave Banario the freedom to incorporate his artistic take.
“Initially, the concept was Coach Mark’s Idea. 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,” he mentioned.
The official unveiling was supposed to take place during Baguio’s “Ibagiw” 2020 Creative City Festival last November, but its completion experienced some sort of delay due to travel restrictions imposed within the town in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Banario hopes that he could apply his finishing touches before the year ends.
“I’ve been delayed countless times. I completely understand the situation. Our authorities know better. I just wish I can finish it before Christmas or New Year,” he stressed.
Stephen Loman, the BRAVE CF bantamweight champion and one of the eight individuals in the painting, has nothing but good words to commend the artistry of his teammate.
“It’s not yet done, but you can already see that he has made a great deal of effort on this artwork. It’s beautiful,” Loman mentioned.
Creating art on a massive concrete wall is no easy task, but Banario doesn’t mind even if he is doing it all alone as this is his own way of giving back to the team that fostered him both as an athlete and a person.
“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. They mean to me so much.”