Maharlika Manila has tapped Cebuano Lawrence Baguio to join its squad for the second half of the PFL season. Baguio, a former College of St. Benilde standout is joined by Jappeth Piñero and Alimar Ambong as the three additions of the squad.
“We see this three as the foundation of the squad,” said club founder Anton del Rosario, who suited up for the national team for nearly a decade starting in 2004.
Baguio played for Abellana National School before getting recruited by Marlon Maro to play for Benilde.
Baguio is a late bloomer in football, having picked up the game in high school through the urging of his brother, who told him the sport can help him get an athletic scholarship. He played for Abellana under Francis Ramirez before leaving for Manila in 2015.
“Among paningkamuton nga makadaug mi sa second round,” said Baguio during an online press conference where he was introduced.
Del Rosario also formally announced that Arman Esteban will be taking over the head coaching duties from Derick Keongil Kim.
Esteban led Maharlika during its 1-0 loss to Dynamic Herb Cebu, which came 10 days after it lost, 5-1, to the same squad.
Del Rosario, known for wearing his heart on his sleeve as a player, said he was impressed with how Esteban kept the team fighting.
“They were very confident and it was very nice seeing them compete,” said del Rosario.
The former Azkal said that although his team are made up of volunteers, they showed that they can compete with players who are getting paid.
Del Rosario added that while he sees the three as the future of the squad, Maharlika won’t stop them should other teams hire them after the season.
“We are very transparent about how we do things before we sign a player. Maharlika is all about giving opportunities to those who don’t get them,” said Del Rosario, who mentioned two players who got stints abroad after playing for Maharlika.
Baguio would be a perfect fit for Dynamic Herb Cebu, who are looking for homegrown talents for its squad. Most of its homegrown players grew up in the private school system, and as a public school product, Baguio could help with the team’s move to get under-privileged kids into its program.
Though the team sits at the bottom right now with an 0-7 record, Del Rosario is confident they can turn things around.
“We may not be a championship team this year, or next year, but we are confident that in Year 3, we can run with the big boys,” said Del Rosario. “All it takes is one game.”
Del Rosario also said Maharlika Manila has been trying to get in touch with the Manila government to become the LGU’s official team.
“It would be great to represent Manila. To work with teams like Tondo FC which has done great things for the sport,” said Del Rosario.