Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has demonstrated poor people can fight their way out of poverty, literally, if they have the potential and determination.
And for Ferdinand Munsayac, long retired from the US Navy, those who have the potential to become fighters deserve the same breaks Pacquiao had, particularly the underprivileged youth.
Munsayac, also called the “Papa Goat,” started The Goat Locker Gym (TGLG) in 2011, in Marikina City a place he calls a charitable institution that provides up and coming fighters in the Philippines a chance to excel in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai and Arnis.
Munsayac, who is also currently the vice president of the National Muay Thai and Kickboxing Council of the Philippines in Luzon, also wants promote sports tourism and give back to the community. He thus calls his brainchild the “gym for the less-privileged with dreams” or what he calls “ang gym ng mahirap na may pangarap.”
The gym provides a scholarship program which includes free training four to eight hours a day for six days a week, personal fighting gear, uniforms, vitamins and daily allowance.
“With the program that we have now, we house these guys and they stay in the gym. They live there. They train there and we provide everything for them,” said Munsayac.
“Lahat ng gastos sagot ng Goat Locker. Eto yung mga galing probinsya na mahihirap, so yun lang yung ginagawa nila [All of their expenses are paid for by The Goat Locker. These are kids from the provinces, poor people so all they do is train],” he added.
There are currently 22 prospects under the TGLG scholarship program, 12 of which are full-time prospects. The difference between part-time and full-time is the latter trains more extensively, while the part-time prospects have jobs and visit the gym to train.
Munsayac handpicks the prospects train. The first requirement is the prospect must be poor or living below the poverty line. The then interviews the candidate to gauge determination and the potential to be a fighter.
“We put the word out on social media, on Facebook, or by word of mouth, then people who are interested give us names of applicants,” he said.
“The audition is not as important as the interview. Once you interview the person, you can really find out what that person wants to do, what he wants to happen for him to get out of poverty then eventually help out others, because that’s what we do],” Munsayac added.
A new recruit, Kevin Cabiles said he sees The Goat Locker as his ticket out of poverty. Now a month into the scholarship program, Cabiles stays in the gym to train in the morning and teach clients in the afternoon.
“The gym really is for those with no money. I am okay here. I teach, train, and hope to be in a [professional]fight],” Cabiles said.
Munsayac is also a promoter of underground battles in the local scene. While the common connotation toward “underground” is doing something illegal, he said the underground battles he promotes are legal tournaments where fighters from different gyms compete for pride and prize. There is prize money for the combatants and medical assistance is provided for those who need it. There is also proper certification for those involved in the fights.
The Goat Locker Underground Battle (UGB) was launched in 2013 and eight such events have been produced, the last one being “MMA by the Bay” held at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay City in November 2014.
The reception towards TGLG on social media is generally good because of its unique system, but there are detractors.
Munsayac simply dismisses the detractors as “haters” or “bashers.” He added his program has been around for a little over four years now and is here to stay.
“The difference between me and my gym from the others is that they started the gym to make money. In the name of business. Goat Locker was started to help the less fortunate Pinoy fighters,” he said.
“Even if we don’t earn anything from the gym, we will survive. If they don’t get any more profit from their gyms, they’d go bankrupt and close down,” Munsayac added.
Papa Goat also wishes to branch out and have more The Goat Locker gyms elsewhere in the country. However, there are other organizations that follow the same advocacy being pushed by TGLG, and gyms similar to TGLG can be found in Bulacan, Baguio, Bicol, and Davao that train youth living below the poverty line to become promising fighters.