Ferdie is Vice President of NMKBCP (National Muay Thai Kick boxing Council of the Philippines) of the whole chapter in Luzon and also the Muay Thai Director of the World Boxing Council (WBC) in the Philippines.

Ferdie is Vice President of NMKBCP (National Muay Thai Kick boxing Council of the Philippines) of the whole chapter in Luzon and also the Muay Thai Director of the World Boxing Council (WBC) in the Philippines.

Photographs by Noel Ty

One Man’s Fight Against Poverty

Five years before Ferdie retired in the US Navy, he already had big plans for his countrymen, particularly his fellow athletes. Through his advocacy of uplifting the lives of the less fortunates, he is gradually improving their future as well as the general structure of the sport. He shares with Mary May Portez his plans and aspirations as he jabs one adversity after the other.

It’s a tough sport, but somebody has to do it.

“If one man can do it, why can’t the others do it?”

It’s a thin line separating charity from self-apotheosis. Often, goodwill enables a person to look good and inspire others to be the same. Although one’s intent could be justifiable, the terminus is dependent on one’s genuine conviction on benevolence. But the decision to be good—and stay that way—is quite far from just dressing the part. And on rare occasions when these two meet at a common point is, quite frankly, nothing short of inspirational.

There’s a gamut of institutions pledged under the sole purpose of charity. As an organization grows, the need to give back gets more pressing. The argument of whether good intentions intervene with profitability is an issue best solved in grand gestures of civility. For the privileged, big players of society, it’s a sport that entails apathy and candor as they contribute, greatly, in determining the status quo of the nation. Though on cases of sole proprietorship and, in this case, singular beneficence, how successful is one man’s gambit to inspire and change the lives of many? How many does it take to do good and draw good from such actions?

The Tipping Point

I have to admit, my impression on anyone involved in any form of Mixed Martial Arts is often a combination of awe and intimidation. The stereotype amassed from years of watching boxing and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) have fostered a less gentle impression on anyone involved in the sport. Needless to say, same applies to people in the military. It’s a cultural misnomer to associate the armed forces with war and violence—but of course, that’s as personal as subjective opinions go.

Meeting Ferdie however, is a revelation. Here is the man, looking exactly like someone trained to handle any rumpus in strict, technical military fashion, yet he speaks of a Utopian libretto for the poor.

Ferdie Abadilla Munsayac is a person of strong presence: lofty, broad shoulders with tattoos trailing the range of his arms, commanding voice, magnetic gaze; it’s not difficult to feel intimidated in his company. Still, despite this physical advantage, there’s a gentleness in him that heaves sincerity in its purest form. On regular days, you’ll see him exchanging genial banters with his staff he warmly call his family.

“Our atmosphere here [in the gym] is a one big, happy family. We treat everybody as equals.”

Ferdie’s journey is definitely one for the books. Raised in a middle class household, his life was neither scant nor extravagant. Growing up, he had the privilege of a good education and an abled life. As a fan of Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali, his Martial Arts background goes back to his adolescent years. And like any teenager, his discerning years post-high school was marked with interesting turnabouts: He shifted from one course after another trying to find his purpose.

“I didn’t really see myself as someone who would graduate college. I was more of an entrepreneur” says Ferdie with a playful smile.

His pivotal year was in 1988 when he got recruited in the US Navy. He served for twenty years and retired as a Chief.

Ferdie talks about his life at sea and everything in between. His face lights up on a more personal topic about his “hobbies.” He collects cars and tries to bring the mechanic side in him through customizing his collection. He points out a tattoo of a Porsche 944 marked on his right arm and shares how this German car with an American muscle sported with a 510 horsepower is a personal favorite. Evident in his manner of speaking, I could sense that he is quite the passionate type. I could only imagine how enthusiastic he would get when we start talking about his advocacy.

The Goat Locker Gym: Ang Gym Ng Mahirap Na May Pangarap

It’s an unusual name for a gym, yes, but definitely a catchy one. Ferdie explains that the term Goat Locker represents the US Navy Chief community. The odd ring to the name is what he refers to as, personal character.

The idea of putting up a gym in Marikina was initially an effort to promote “sports tourism” in the city. But the greater initiative was drawn from his epiphany after coming across one of his old friends who happened to be a retired boxing fighter. This friend was once a successful athlete but is now unfortunately gone to waste. Seeing this, Ferdie thought of all the athletes possibly enduring the same predicament. And in an effort to inspire change, he decided to put up a gym that would address the training needs of any fighter bereft of the resources to pursue their career.

Tucked amidst the lush greenery of Parang, Marikina is the 1000 square meters alfresco gym. This fight gym has a professional size boxing ring, similar to what Manny Pacquiao uses and an MMA standard size mobile octagon cage which was personally designed by Ferdie.

“This mobile octagon cage only takes an hour for an 8-man team to disassemble and two hours for the same team to put it together,” says Ferdie proudly. “We can easily transport this cage using a 6-wheeler, 14-footer closed van and not a 40-footer container van.” He adds.

“The most unique feature about this cage is that it has zero bolts and zero nuts. So it’s just like putting Lego blocks together.”

The charming thing about the Goat Locker gym is, perhaps, its distinct rawness. Unlike your typical air-conditioned fitness centers located in high-rise buildings this gym resembles Muay Thai training camps in Thailand where people can get to relax and enjoy the training away from all types of pollution in the metro. The atmosphere is more cordial and less constrictive.

“We are currently working on our first franchise in Baguio City and a possible franchise in Cebu,” shares Ferdie. Although, he points out that these franchises should never go astray from his initial vision: that it should primarily be a charitable gym.

The Goat Locker Gym currently has a hundred and forty-three students and seven trainers.

The Chief Who Cried Help

“I wanna plead to anyone who’s capable.”

As ideal as it sounds, Ferdie’s efforts can only go as far as his resources would let it. Regardless of how much he roots to ameliorate the current situation of his scholars, further support will always be preferable. He explains how benefactors need not be from a big-time company as a Php 5000 a month can sufficiently sponsor a fighter: this amount goes to his / her gears and uniform, footwear, transportation, food, and vitamins. He relates how his friends would send USD 100 – 300 and how these would amount to an adequate fund for his scholars.

The scholarship program which started last January 2011 is open for ages twelve and above. Interested applicants need to meet his three basic requirements:

  1. You have to have the skills to become a fighter but you have to be poor below the poverty line

  2. You have to pass the interview given by the HMFIC (Head MoFo In-Charge) and must have heartfelt goals and dreams

  3. You must pass the medical exam to ensure that you are physically fit

Successful scholars would initially come under a 1-year contract.

“Our training program has two sections: One for the young students or ‘part-time’ fighters and another for the ‘full-time’ fighters,” adds Ferdie.

Part-time fighters are required to train four hours a day, six days a week; while full-time fighters train eight hours a day, six days a week.

“Every three months, they compete in other tournaments and are also graded accordingly. If they perform up to par after the first year, they get to renew their contract for two years.”

Ferdie explains that their fighters get to keep all their prize money, something most trainers usually frown upon. For him, the trophies and medals are more valuable than winning percentage.

“The gym started with two scholars three years ago. Now, it has thirty-two.

For our full-time fighters, we have five International Fighters who already signed up with OneFC, the biggest Asian MMA League today,” says Ferdie proudly.

Pay It Forward

Ferdie is turning 50 this year. His ultimate dream of getting our local MMA fighters the global acknowledgement as one of the best out there and get paid accordingly is something I personally vie for. At this point, ideologies encumbering far-fetched, personal pursuit for change seem less substantial.

One man’s fight for good is definitely an opportunity to inspire change.

It might take years for the results to materialize, but as long as there are people like Ferdie who are willing to be goatherds to initiate change, better things are inevitable.

Like everything else, it all starts with a simple dream.

“When you dream, you might as well dream big.”

-Ferdie Munsayac

The Goat Locker Gym is open for any form of sponsorship. If you wanna join Ferdie in his advocacy, please call +63 927 869 6141 or email tglbg1911@gmail.com

For more information visit teamgoatlocker.com

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