Former ONE lightweight world champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki didn’t exactly know what to expect when he flew to the Philippines last week to visit rival-turned-friend Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in Benguet province.
But when he went home, his heart was full and had a new perspective on life.
Aoki spent a few days with Folayang and the Team Lakay squad. The Japanese star trained, saw the sights, and enjoyed the food in the serene mountain towns of Baguio City and La Trinidad.
“There’s no specific reason I came, but I thought if I come here to see Eduard and visit Team Lakay, I can feel something or I can find something,” he said.
“That’s why I came. And now I got so much power and motivation from them.”
On his first day, Aoki worked the mats at the Team Lakay training center in La Trinidad, rolling with the entire crew as he taught some valuable lessons to his newfound Filipino friends.
The next day was more exciting. He finally experienced Team Lakay’s outdoor training sessions, running the trail in Camp John Hay while sparring outdoors.
He then went sightseeing with the squad and enjoyed excellent local food like pinikpikan and dinakdakan.
“When I visited the Philippines in 2018, I didn’t realize that food is nice here. In the past few days, I had a lot of good food,” he said.
“Maybe it’s because the people who bring me [out] to eat are nice, so I can enjoy eating here. Also, people here are really kind and nice. Maybe Manila is too busy, but the countryside has slower life so people seem nicer,” he added.
While he enjoyed the food and sights, what Aoki is most grateful for is how he ended up with bonding with Folayang and the entire Team Lakay family – something that looked far from possible when the two lightweight greats met for the first time in 2016.
“I really appreciate how he treats me and how he sees me as a friend,” Aoki said. “Not only Eduard but his teammates also showed me respect. It’s so amazing.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES