MANILA, Philippines – It must have been an agonizing decision for Bienvenido Marañon to announce that he is leaving his club, the United City Football Club, more popularly known by its previous name Ceres Negros.
Marañon is finalizing a deal which will see him transferring to another professional club outside the Philippines, details of which he vowed to reveal soon.
He has lived in the Philippines for close to seven years. He joined Ceres Negros in 2015 upon the prodding of Philippine Azkals defender Carli De Murga, who was his teammate in Spain for Cadiz CF.
Marañon looked back at the time he made a leap of faith and flew to a country thousands of miles away his home in El Puerto de Santa María, a municipality in the province of Cadiz, Andalusia, the southernmost autonomous community in Peninsular Spain.
“I had to to adjust to the style of play. Football in Spain is more tactically different and I expected the same here. I discovered that football in the Philippines and in the region is more physical. I also had to get used to the weather. But when I was able to adjust, football became easier.”
Easier might be an understatement from arguably the most prolific scorer to ever play on local soil.
With him leading the offensive attack, Ceres Negros became one of the most decorated clubs even in the international arena. He points to their huge 3-2 upset over Brisbane Roar held at the Queensland Sport & Athletics Centre in Australia in the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League qualifiers as the biggest victory of his club career. He scored two goals in that match.
On March 2020, Marañon made history when he scored a brace in Ceres Negros’ 4-0 victory over Bali United Football Club of Indonesia. In the process, he became the AFC Cup’s all-time leading scorer.
His success on the pitch, though, was secondary to the life he made here which made him want to do more for the country.
“I feel very comfortable in the Philippines. I found happiness. I found people who love me, support me, and respect me,” he said. “So even if there were times in the past that I got good offers from clubs from other countries, I did not move because I felt complete in the Philippines. It also helped that I was playing for the best ballclub in the country and in Southeast Asia, Ceres Negros.”
Unlike other people who spend their breaks on trips abroad, Marañon prefers traveling to different places in the Philippines so he could appreciate better its culture and the richness.
“I don’t like to travel that much abroad. I prefer exploring places in the country I call my home. I have been to Batangas, Ilocos, Coron, El Nido, Iloilo, Boracay.”
In 2021, Marañón was granted Philippine citizenship, thus allowing him to wear the country’s colors as a member of the Philippine football team.
“Since I arrived in the Philippines, I never imagined I would be putting on the Azkals uniform.”
He was coming off a lengthy layoff when he went into his first ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup as a member of the Philippine Azkals last December. His last competitive match had been United City FC’s loss against South Korean club Daegu in the AFC Champions League last July 11.
For Marañon, his debut for the Azkals is a moment that he will always cherish.
“I was waiting for it for a very long time. When I played against Singapore, the game was emotional for me,” he said.
A striker, especially one as astute, crafty, and tenacious as Marañon, will find a way, no matter the circumstances, no matter the rust, to put the ball through.
By tournament’s end, Marañon ended up sharing the Golden Boot with Malaysia’s Safawi Rasid and Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda and Chanathip Songkrasin. Each one of them scored four goals, although Marañon and Rasid needed just four games to achieve the feat and thus had better goals-per-match average.
“I am a scorer. My job is to score,” he mentioned matter-of-factly. “In the game against Myanmar, I think I showed that at any moment in the game, I can score.”
Now that he has earned his Azkals jersey, Marañon has vowed he will be better the next time he represents the flag and country.
“I honestly believe we have one of the best squads in Southeast Asia. If we can play more matches together, I believe we will do great in the next Suzuki Cup.”
Even as he will be transferring his professional base to another country, his thoughts remain Filipino, proof of a genuine love for his adoptive country.
“It is sad. I love the football in the Philippines. But it is very hard for me to play for the Azkals if I don’t get to play for a long time. I think by playing in another country where I can also improve, then I will be better the next time I play for the Azkals,” he explained.
At 35 years old, Marañon feels he has so much football left in the tank. In fact, he feels like the long rest has helped rejuvenate his condition.
“Right now, age is just a number. You see Messi, Cristiano, LeBron James, Rafael Nadal. Physically and mentally, I feel this is one of the best moments of my career,” he said.
Part of his football journey moving forward will always include the Philippines in the horizon.
“I think it is time for me to move forward, try different football, and prove myself in another country,” he said. “For sure I will be back in the Philippines. I have to do many things there. Still I have to do my football academy in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. So my life will always involve the Philippines.” – Rappler.com