Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon may ply his trade inside the ONE Championship cage, where nerves of steel are a pre-requisite for success, but earlier in his life the Filipino star had to face significantly more serious tests. Ones that threatened his life.
Belingon grew up just outside Baguio City in a rural area that, though picturesque, also served as useful cover for local militants and bandits.
“Clashes between militants and local authorities were frequent, so even though we generally enjoyed a quiet, peaceful life, there was always the possibility of trouble,” Belingon told ONE Championship.
“The people living in the area are always on alert, because you want to get to safety right away should anything happen.”
The clashes tended to take place away from civilian areas, but there were instances when innocent people were caught up in the trouble. Belingon was one of those people when he was just four years of age, when his village became the impromptu battlefield for a running skirmish between militants and local authorities.
Moments before the violence erupted, Belingon’s father grabbed his family and hit them away in a nearby water tower.
“I was so small back then,” Belingon recalled.
“My father carried me in his arms, and brought me, and the rest of my siblings and mother to safety.”
It was pitch dark, with only a little water and no food, but the family stuck together during a harrowing time.
“It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, and I can remember every detail so vividly,” he explained.
“Peeking slightly through the cracks, I could see bullets zipping through the air, riddling our homes with holes. Some people fled with us, while others chose to stay. I could hear screams and shrieks. It was a war zone, and it was happening right before our eyes.”
Belingon’s family were far from wealthy, so his father actually returned to the house to guard the family’s belongings in case the house was broken into. It was a brave decision, and one that had young Belingon worried for his dad’s safety.
“I was so scared for my father. We had no way of knowing whether he was okay or not, or if anything had happened to him,” Belingon continues.
“I will never forget the experience for as long as I live. After all of it, we felt extremely lucky to be alive.
“I was just a kid back then. I did not understand any of it. I was just scared. But when my father came out, and was safe, I was so happy. He was our hero.
“As I got older, I came to terms with what had happened. Instead of fielding emotions of anger and hatred, it actually inspired me to pursue my dream of martial arts even more.”
With the memories of that day burned for eternity into his mind, Belingon knows that he can face any challenge inside the cage.
Ahead of his upcoming main event bout with Bali-based American Andrew Leone at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, the Filipino star says he wants to prove that someone from such a tough background can make it to the top of the martial arts world, and in the process, inspire others in a similar position to do the same.
“I never want anyone else to go through what I did,” he said.
“If my position in martial arts can help bring my people closer together, then I will continue to fight for my country, and to fight for our future.
“Winning is more than just winning for me, and the belt is more than just a belt – it is an opportunity to inspire my fellow countrymen. That is why I want to be a world champion.”