Americas Columns

Upside (Cherie Querol Moreno) – Fight trainer rises above abuse

A Southern California millennial is crushing the stereotype of the Filipina as shy, submissive and dependent.  On the contrary, Kamille Ysabel Manalo defines today’s FilAm woman: strong, assertive and self-reliant.

Call her Coach Kammmm, the four M’s for her and her mother’s maiden surname Magadia plus two extra for flair, because that’s how she’s known in her profession, perhaps the one least expected of a woman of Asian heritage: She is a world-class fight trainer, developing individuals of all ages in the sport of boxing at Cannonnation Boxing & Fitness Gym she and co-owner Brandon Adams conceived and opened the Santa Fe Springs, California, spot last October.

The Gym cements Adams’ place in the boxing circuit as trainer-owner, having carved a niche as a trainer in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties.  A current WBC (World Boxing Council) boxer, the NABO (North American Boxing Organization) champion goes by “The Cannon,” hence the institution name.

When Adams takes on his comeback pre-title bout May 17 at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, Manalo will complete his corner team, the first pro woman coach at a fight, touts Mike Ares, Coach Kammmm’s photographer and social media adviser.

The Center fulfills Manalo’s aspiration to indulge her passion to train amateur and professional fighters – 65 of every age to date.  That focus has earned her the title “The People’s Coach,” echoed in news outlets that have featured her like Fox11 Los Angeles and Spectrum News1 Raleigh, North Carolina.

Promo videos flash her sleek form, quick moves and firm motivation: “When you’re out there, nobody cares about you – you gotta learn how to take care of yourself, you’re just as good as the boys,” she goads a riveted young girl who spars with intensity.

Every day, Coach Kammmm zips back and forth from her home in Rancho Cucamonga to the gym 44 miles away, gloves up to jab, reach, shuffle and weave from 9 am – 12 pm.  She takes a break and catches up on business matters until 4 pm, when she heads back to the ring to train youths, at 6 pm pro and amateur fighters and then at 7 pm general adults.  Her day is not over until she and Adams debrief and discuss more business until 11 pm, when she hops into her red Dodge Challenger emblazoned with her name on the fender for the hourlong commute home.

Her schedule is tight and she’s on top of it.  A single mom to Jaden, 17, Manalo keeps her priorities straight.

ROAD TO BOXING

Boxing, however, is not what the only daughter of Ruben and Emerita Manalo dreamed of as a child.  Mom was a traveling nurse in the Philippines while Dad was a professional basketball player on the men’s national team of Oman on the Persian Gulf.  Seeking better opportunities, they uprooted with their three children from Manila and landed in Garfield in Bergen County, New Jersey when Kamille was 8 years old.

Ruben worked at a refinery and Emerita resumed her nursing profession in the Garden State.  To save money, the family lived in a residential garage.  Kamille was 11 when her parents chose to drive across the country to Southern California “to unite with extended family” in Fontana.

Like most preteens of 1990s, Kamille imagined herself the star of a concert like her favorites, Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, whose song-dance moves she mastered.  She did land in the spotlight but on a different stage.  Her grace and flexibility nabbed her a slot on the Miami Heat B-cheer squad in 2019, a year after she earned her medical assistant certification.

Sports turned out to be her happy place.  But what catapulted her there was the lowest point in her life.

She and her friends attended a recreational basketball game where a player asked for her phone number.  She declined, but gave in when he asked again at the next game.  They dated after a month and began a 5-year relationship that taught Kamille more about herself and life itself. –  Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NET

Healing from an abusive relationship became Kamille Manalo’s path to becoming a world-class fight trainer.

“He checked all of the boxes – perfect height, athletic, religious, great cook, great job, and so on,” she told author of the man she thought would be her life partner.  They seemed headed to the altar until she took a Skype call for him from a woman.  When she confronted him, he unexpectely dragged her from the bed, on the floor, to the computer 10 feet away and shoved her face onto the screen while lambasting her for her making “an issue” of the call.  He insisted that the caller was “crazy,” minimized her concern because wasn’t he with her everyday?

Manalo was 22 and unaware she was in a cycle of abuse, where a relationship has good times that turn tense and then violent before restarting with the romance, the tension and explosion all over again.  She admits to wanting “so badly to make the relationship work” even when his attacks sent her to the hospital over 20 times, including for pushing her out of a moving car.

“In public he was the perfect gentleman, very loving and affectionate and never talking down me,” she recalls. He was everything but that when they were alone.  He would be loving one minute and indifferent the next, confusing her.

His friends stepped back when they witnessed him treating her badly, saying whatever the issue was not their business.

She began questioning her self-worth, blaming herself for her boyfriend’s behavior, wondering what else she could do to stop him from cheating.

Confidantes’ responses made her feel worse and alone, leaving her no option but to stay in the relationship.  Unaware of organizations that help survivors of abuse, she walked out eventually, but only after two more years of emotional upheaval.

BETTER PLACE

“Coach Kammmm learned that she didn’t have to settle for something less, that she could take control of her life free from the bonds of abuse,” Ares told Inquirer.net.

“Enough was enough,” Manalo decided she deserved better. “I visited a boxing gym in Ontario (California) after the breakup to learn boxing not just to learn self-defense, but to get my confidence and self-esteem back.”  Along the way she met Adams, who recognized her potential as a boxer and coach.  She, in turn, boosted his morale to open his dream gym with her as business partner.

The 5-foot lightweight put her experience with abuse behind her while using lessons learned from it to inform her coaching.

“Just make sure that you have an identity outside of the partner that you are with. Learn to love yourself, so when you find someone who isn’t treating you right, you’ll know when it’s time to exit from their life and be on the road to healing,” Manalo shares wisdom applicable to any relationship.

“Empowerment is you giving the power back for the good of yourself,” she shares what she has achieved in nine years in the self-defense milieu.  “Empowering people is taking that energy curated for yourself, to help others.  You’re helping people learn how to love themselves and take their life back.”

Healing is something she has experienced as well.  Getting there began with forgiveness “not just for yourself but those that caused the trauma.”  It’s the only way to start the path, she concedes.  Self-reflection comes next “especially with the help of those closest to you.”

In the worst of times, trust prayer, she names a source of strength.

Manalo’s success backs up her advice.  She has 328,000 Instagram followers including the son of legendary Manny Pacquiao and a boxing champion for business partner, who trusts her completely by elevating her to her post as his equal and student at the same time.  Together they fulfill their company mission to turn folks into “better versions of themselves.” – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NET

(Philippine News Today Executive Editor Cherie Querol Moreno is founder-executive director of ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment, 4-term Commissioner with San Mateo County Commission on Aging, and program manager of Peninsula Family Service Got Wheels!)