Bienve Maranon knows what it’s like to be Filipino.

The Spanish sensation loves family and beaches. He has an intense dislike for traffic. He once turned to packed pancit canton to satisfy his hunger. He even knows the economical advantages of riding a jeepney.

“After we won the league title in 2018, we went out to celebrate and I didn’t take a taxi,” the United City FC star said. “I remember we didn’t have to pay so much money for the ride.”

His naturalization should be a no-brainer, if only for the fact that he grew up in a culture similar to ours.

“The people here, they like to be with family. They’d like to be with their family, with a family have a barbecue and drinking with them. In Cadiz, where i grew up, it is almost similar. I love the weather. I love the beach. I love the culture of a Filipino and how they are welcoming,” Maranon said.

“Even if my face is not like most Filipino, I have a lot of Filipino qualities. Also I follow some of the eating schedule of Filipinos—very late into the day,” he added. “When I think about going away for a few days, I don’t want to go abroad but would rather go visit the islands in the Philippines. I love to travel here, I’ve been to El Nido three times. The islands here are the best. I don’t need to go out to see other countries because there’s a lot of places worth visiting in Philippines. In El Nido, when you get on a boat, there’s no place in the world that is more beautiful.”

And then there’s the deeper reason Maranon should be granted citizenship: He not only wants to represent the country in international meets next year, he also wants to be a force when it comes to growing a sport in a country beyond the passions that flow for the national team.

“I’m here to focus on the youth and the young players—maybe kids 6 years old to 12 years old—and make them love the game more,” said the striker who owns the AFC Cup record with 35 goals and made seven goals to lead this year’s Philippines Football League season. “They can always play football and not just basketball. If we can start having more of that little by little, we can actually have more academies and more players.”

“When I was young in Spain, I played in the streets because my family cannot afford sending me to an academy. I think that really forced me to work harder because I want to help my family since we came from a very humble background. We want to show that there’s a future for football players in the country.”

Maranon arrived in the country in 2015, reinforcing a powerhouse Ceres-Negros side. In his second season, tragedy struck as his father suffered from cancer and eventually passed away.

After that, “I don’t want to play football anymore,” Maranon said. But Ceres coach “Risto Vidakovic convince me to continue playing and so far, I played the best football of my career.”

And he wants to continue pushing his career here as a citizen. In Congress, his papers are being facilitated by Representatives Manny Lopez and Martin Romualdez. Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing for him in the Senate. And as much as he badly wants to be a citizen immediately, he is willing to wait given the health crisis the country is currently dealing with.

“We also have to be sensitive because since there is COVID here, my papers is not a priority,” said the 34-year-old star. “I am willing to wait and I understand the situation, because other more important matters come first before my papers. I don’t want to be selfish. The paper of the people who suffered about COVID should be fixed before mine.”

But he knows exactly what he will do once he is naturalized.

“Maybe around after COVID, I can open an academy in Bacolod for the people of Negros who are close to my heart. I’m very excited about this,” he said, “I want to play for the Azkals in 2021. Because for me, that means a lot to get the citizenship because it is like my dream come true. Because at the beginning when you come here to play, life is okay. But because I have been here for five years, I fell in love with the Philippines so I want to also represent the country.”


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In Maranon, a Filipino at heart even with papers still pending