This multisport athlete beat cancer —and made it to the North Pole
Luisito “Louie” Sangalang II is a kick-ass multisport athlete.
Last April, he made history as the first Filipino cancer survivor to finish the recent FWD North Pole Marathon. He was also the sole flag bearer of the Philippines for the race.
He said this event was one of the biggest and toughest races he has joined so far. With the help of his family and friends and his coaches, Miguel “Ige” Lopez and Romi Garduce, he was able to finish the classic 42K race distance under extreme, subzero weather conditions. He finished 44th among the participants in the men’s category.
As a kid, Sangalang was always into sports—team sports like basketball, football, track and field, and even dragon boat rowing tilts. He eventually developed a love for martial arts.
“I started with a martial art called tatsu do, which is a bit of tae kwon do, but using more of the hands. Then I did arnis and tae kwon do,” said Sangalang.
He pursued these competitive sports even when he was in college. He also made sure he did good in academics, as he took up Physics, later shifting to Humanities, minor in Physics.
During his senior year in college, Sangalang faced one of the biggest challenges of his life. He was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called acute adenocarcinoma of the appendix, or appendiceal cancer.
“I think I was 20 or 21 years old when I found out that I had cancer,” he recounted. “In college, there was a point when I neglected my health. I was eating unhealthy and drinking alcohol heavily. One day, I woke up with intense pain in the lower left side of my abdomen.”
He had to be operated on for appendicitis. Three weeks after the surgery, he was back to battle a more serious disease.
“I underwent an operation called a left hemicolectomy, which is basically removing the affected parts of my large intestine, about a foot long. In addition to that, I had to undergo six cycles of chemotherapy and 33 cycles of radiotherapy,” said Sangalang.
As a cancer warrior, he fought five times in the mixed martial arts (MMA) ring in different weight divisions. He also secured two belts in his latest MMA fights, proving that he can still do what he loves.
Aside from being an MMA fighter, Sangalang also joined triathlons as a way of staying in shape. In 2008, a colleague introduced the sport to him, and he was encouraged by a strong podium finish in his first race.
“When I started joining triathlons, I just wanted to test the waters,” he recalled. “They allowed me to interact with people, not just with other triathletes in the race, but also with the locals.”
In 2015, he joined the Sante Barley Tri-Team and since then, has joined several triathlons in different race distances.
He also quit his job in the corporate world and ventured into entrepreneurship. He joined a boxing franchise, and is launching a sports and lifestyle apparel brand. He teaches at Jose Rizal University, while continuously blazing trails in various sports.
As an active sportsman, he’s often bagging podium finishes as a triathlete member of the Sante Barley Tri-team, one of the best in the Philippines. He is also planning to go back to the ring as an MMA fighter.
Sangalang, together with the other members of his triathlon team, is set to join several events this year. The team is now composed of 44 triathletes of all abilities and ages.
“Now that I’m 40, my bigger goal is to continue inspiring people to become more conscious about their health and well-being,” he said.
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