Height isn’t might for Pinay muay thai fighter

Published April 1, 2021, 12:40 AM

by Carlo Anolin

Islay Erika Bomogao (Photo from Islay Erika Bomogao’s Instagram account)

“Height is might” goes the famous anonymous quote.

But for Filipina muay thai fighter Islay Erika Bomogao, a proud Igorot warrior from the mountains of Cordillera, height doesn’t equate with might when it comes to martial arts.

Standing at 5-foot flat and weighing 47 kg, Bomogao, 20, stands tall among her peers.

In her younger years, Bomogao’s stature became a source of mockery but that only strengthened her determination to pursue martial arts and prove doubters wrong.

“I don’t let the ridiculing affect me. I just go with it sometimes and even joke back at people who tease me,” Bomogao, a current member of the famed Benguet stable Team Lakay, told the Manila Bulletin in an online exchange.

“I make them believe that big things really do come in small packages.”

Winning several tournaments and bagging medals were concrete proof that even a petite athlete like Bomogao herself can achieve their dreams in no time not only with talent but with hard work, perseverance and discipline. That’s pretty much the case for Bomogao, a muay thai (45 kg) silver medalist in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

In the professional mixed martial arts scene, the 20-year-old Team Lakay stalwart holds a 2-0 record, winning two matches organized by Team Lakay in 2017 and 2019.

Bomogao captured gold medal in the 1st World Martial Arts Masterships in Jincheon, South Korea in 2017 before ruling the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) World Youth Muaythai Championship in Thailand the following year. She also copped silver medal in 2019 East Asian Muay Thai Championships.

Prior to that, she was part of the wushu squad of Benguet State University in high school and the muay thai collegiate varsity team of University of Baguio.

In a previous interview with coach Mark Sangiao, the Team Lakay patriarch lauded Bomogao for the achievements at an early age and suggested that she might take it to greater heights someday, referring to full transition in MMA.

But before that, Sangiao explained that the 5-footer Igorot warrior must gain enough weight to compete, perhaps, in ONE Championship’s atomweight division, where the athletes clash from 47.7 kg to 52.2 kg.

As a female athlete in male-dominated sports — martial arts that is — Bomogao continued to strive as young cub since 2016 with the help of his father-figure in Sangiao and the gentlemen of Team Lakay, such as MMA icons and champions in Joshua Pacio, Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, Honorio Banario and fellow women fighters Gina Iniong and Jenelyn Olsim, among others.

“Representing women in martial arts is very important because it will encourage them to engage in the sport too. It will also help open more opportunities for them in the future,” said Bomogao, whose first name “Islay,” actually pronounced as “eye-la,” was derived from a native Igorot name of her great grandmother.

“Aside from self-defense, the most important thing I learned [in] martial arts is being strong-minded. A strong mind empowered me with more self-confidence, determination and witts,” said the national muay thai team member.

Who knows? The future is bright for Bomogao and soon, fight fans might witness Benguet’s Fighting Princess in the Circle.