MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The country lost one of its brightest football prospects when Far Eastern University's Kieth Absalon passed away on Sunday.
Malaya FC confirmed the sad development. Absalon was only 21 years old.
"Our hearts are broken as we bid farewell to a brilliant football player of Malaya FC and FEU men's football team," Malaya FC said on Twitter.
"A born leader, follower of the highest order, a kind, gentle, and respectful soul. Thank you for everything, Kieth Absalon. Rest easy in that big football pitch in the sky."
Absalon was one of two people who perished when an improvised explosive device exploded in Masbate City on Sunday morning. Also dying in the incident was his cousin, Nolven Absalon. Nolven's son, 16-year-old Chrisbin Daniel, suffered injuries.
Initial investigations by Masbate police revealed that Absalon and his cousin were riding their bikes on the way to Barangay B. Titong when they were hit by shrapnel around 6:45 a.m.
Absalon was a standout for FEU's boys' football team, having been named Most Valuable Player of the juniors division in Season 78. He was also a part of the national team that competed in the 2018 AFF Under-19 Championship in Indonesia.
Absalon was a starter for the FEU men's football team in Season 82 before their campaign was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are all still very much in shock," FEU football program head Vince Santos said. "Kieth wasn't just a player to us. He's part of our FEU football family."
In a statement, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) also expressed its grief at Absalon's passing.
"It is heartbreaking to see a promising player's future in Kieth Absalon be cut short due to a painful incident," said PFF president Mariano "Nonong" Araneta, Jr. "We pray for the eternal repose his soul." -- With a report from Jonathan Magistrado, ABS-CBN News.