A former spokesperson in Rio for the Filipino homeless and defender for the 2010 Homeless World Cup, Lexter Maravilla has gone global even before he joined Global FC. His globetrotting skills have earned him mastery of the Luzon terrain, but it was the Rio conquest that got him inside “Bahay ni Kuya.” Despite being a late bloomer in the football field, Lexter proves how sipag, tiyaga and his love for bananas got him to skillfully wield a drilling press, gain a spot on the pitch and earn himself a ticket to Brazil.
Looking Back at Lucban
With his near makatang (“poetic”) Tagalog, Global FC Defender Lexter Maravilla marveled us with his Balagtas-worthy sentence construction. Born and raised in Lucban, Quezon, center of Southern Luzon and Pahiyas, how could he not daunt us with his mastery of the local lingo? Speaking to us with words like pakikitungo, nakaraan, nagtatag, and pananaw, now we know what proper Tagalog is!
Lexter earned his degree in welding from the Southern Luzon State University—finally rendering him a protégé blacksmith aside from the local linguist. Too bad we forgot ask him to translate “Metallurgy” to Filipino. That would really make life a lot easier for mankind.
If you think Lucban is known only for its Longganisa, it is worth knowing that the province happens to be a center not only for gastronomic adventure but for football development as well.
“Kami ang nagtatag ng Quezon United Football Club,” proudly narrates the local hero.
The Quezon United Football Club was founded during Lexter’s time, his status of chairman has yet to be verified, but during the Annual Meeting we will attempt to nominate him as Punong Tagapagsalita ("Official Spokesperson") if the voting majority will hear us. The club is comprised of young boys and girls from the locale who have the passion for football, making Quezon our next favorite province.
Homeless yet Fear-lex
After college, Lexter worked at Concepcion-Carrier Air Conditioning Company in Cabuyao, Laguna for six months and later worked at Hoya Glass Disk Philippines Inc. in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for eleven months. He eventually cast aside the machinery for volunteer work at Ecoworks Philippines in Polillo Island, Quezon. The NGO covers various areas for development such as feeding and biochemicals but it was the football program that caught Lexter’s goggles-free attention. One thing led to another and with side stories involving Ultra and tubang balayan, the end result was worth the wait: being selected to be a part of the Homeless World Cup (HWC).
It is rare to chance upon a member of the Homeless World Cup—Team Philippines, as the group is limited to a selection of only 8 players a year. With quite a tight screening process that involves numerous try-outs (Lex underwent 5 or 6) and unbelievably tough background criteria (if you are not at the very least vulnerably housed or an internally displaced refugee, take a hike) this makes every batch a formidable representation for Team Philippines.
HWC aims to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of the Filipino youth by providing a pedestal to boost their potential career in the area of football. It was through the arduous training programs in HWC that Lexter was exposed to the technicalities of football, where formations and strategies do exist, apart from the objective of just scoring a goal.
Here, Lexter didn’t only get the chance to finally know football, he also carved a path to his future.
Lexter Maravilla (Defender), along with his brother Mark (Goalkeeper), was one of the chosen few to join Team Philippines in 2010, and that wasn’t the only amazing part of it. Their destination was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the venue of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Ole!
A World Cup in Brazil signaled the rise of a challenge, but better yet, this symbolized the ascent from poverty, turning to the course to would be a bright future for Lexter. His team might have lost to Brazil, Chile, and Italy, but won against teams like Germany, South Korea, Norway, Argentina and Finland. The Philippines became the champions of their group, ended at 25th place out of 64 countries and won the Host Cup Trophy (4th trophy) after beating Norway.
Of course, we still cannot help the fact that Lexter did get to visit Rio, so that ought to be crossed off his tabo list, next to Capoeira tryouts.
While it is a given that visiting South America would be an exciting adventure, this experience was further enhanced by the company of his team, a smorgasbord of local talent. Bonding as a batch even before they set foot in Brazil, what was formed was not only a group of futboleros but a solid team and a newfound brotherhood. For the members, especially the orphans and less privileged—which are main criteria factors in joining HWC—this experience meant a lot, if not the “world” to them.
Despite having met the team for three months only, the values they shared and the hardships they battled brought them closer and made them even stronger.
“Natutunan ko talaga ang pakikitungo, kasi galing sa iba’t ibang lugar sa Pilipinas yung mga kasama ko. may Bisaya, may Tagalog,” describes Lexter of his team.
Upon their return to Manila, the group was well received by the press—to the point of even invited as guest stars to local show Pinoy Big Brother (PBB).
This global opportunity led Lexter’s hermano, Mark, to the path of becoming assistant coach to the HWC and later on Head Coach for this year’s Mexico game. Another “Ole!” for the older Maravilla.
As for Lexter, it was time to move from being a housemate to a real ‘mate.
One of the founders of Kaya Football Club (Kaya FC), Coach Rudy Del Rosario, invited Lexter to try out for Kaya FC. Four members of the HWC were recruited by Kaya in 2010, and Lexter was the lucky defender.
In January 2012, he attended the try-out for Global FC, acting upon someone’s prudent suggestion. With his skill and meaningful purpose in life, Lexter was, of course, accepted as defender and to this day maintains the same position for the team.
Global FC proves to be a welcoming environment to Lexter with the Elhabibs as his new bros, Juani being another kind hermano, and recently acquired Jeffrey Christians as a potential doppelganger. The team’s diverse yet family-like culture offers a quaint new home to Lexter—but whether it’s sweet, Lexter isn’t saying.
From observing Kuya Bads and Izo’s sibling schemes to hitting it off with frequent roommate Valentine, Global FC’s hodgepodge of characters can certainly be a handful for someone who started out his football career with the homogenous homeless in Brazil. Lexter, though, loves every moment of it—the unity, crazy moments, the toughness of the training sessions—and considers all these nothing but a blessing, a sign of life’s upliftment.
Each day brings Lexter closer to his dream of success and financial stability. He values the guidance and experiences gained from practice and continues to improve his skills by training with the HWC whenever he has free time.
“Hindi naman ako mahilig mag-mall. Mas gusto ko pang maglinis ng bahay,” says Lexter when asked about how he spends his free time.
Simple, hard working and a rarity for someone who doesn’t complain about household chores—this makes him the guy no one could ever complain about!
When asked about his memorable experiences with Global FC, thoughts of slipping on banana peels or banana eating contests (the guy loves bananas, okay?) came to mind but his was the most enriching answer of all: when Global FC was hailed the champion last season.
That, and how the “good quality training” has bettered his playing performance. Imagine Lexter starting out football at 17 years old, and now at 25 years old, Global FC Defender. This isn’t only a story of mere success and poverty alleviation; Lexter lives up to the Homeless World Cup solution, championing his cause and being a catalyst to change the course of his life.
Less is More
Lexter’s life has not been the most comfortable and neither has his childhood been a walk in the park. During his high school days, he did some construction work and farming at the “bukid” with his grandfather. At a young age he already battled with life’s challenges and emerged as a victor. With his skill and perseverance, he learned football and learned to play it well.
Life gave him a chance to put this talent to good use, and this brought him from Pollilo Island to Brazil and today, with Global FC. Lexter doesn’t only exemplify the model of a good player or rags-to-riches story that everyday plagues the media. His past experiences led him to yearn for a better life and he never let every chance get by without trying. A go-getter and self-starter, he never stopped, never let the obstacles hinder his way to success. We have never met anyone with this desire to alleviate his family’s life from poverty, a character so persevering he’s done everything from welding to selling magazines and balut.
Lexter serves as an inspiration to the Filipino youth, as he exemplifies the values of the ideal athlete, student and worker. He holds the voice of the underprivileged, and he is the rarity whose voice stands out and is heard all the way from Rio.
Perhaps Lexter can attribute his traditional yet pleasant qualities to his roots—namely parents Luz and Jimmy—who have set the perfect Filipino parental style. Their rural simplicity led to determined and responsible children. The Maravillas prove that despite financial deficiency, a supportive family is all it takes to make life matter. To have that solid foundation is what enabled Lexter, along with equally strong siblings Mark and Joy, to pursue whichever dream they have, anywhere in the globe.
Being the local makata that he is, it’s best we leave the conclusion to him. He has all the qualifications being the spokesperson for the homeless in Rio, and well this is his story after all:
Maituturing kong pamilya ang Global FC. Sa pagsali ko sa Global, lubos na nadagdagan ang kaalaman ko sa football. Bukod dito, natutunan ko ring makitungo sa mga manlalaro na nanggaling pa sa iba’t ibang lugar at bansa.
Sa kabuuan, napakarami kong natutunan mula noong naging bahagi ako ng Global, at iyon ang pinaka-importante sa lahat. Sana, champion uli kami sa susunod na taon! - Lexter Maravilla
“Hey, Lex!” is not the best way to call out to Lexter unless you’re his bro or have been to Rio. Being the shy guy, it’s best to talk to him about life, football and all the simple things we’ve tried to extract from him. If geek is your middle name, then you might find it easier, if you start a conversation citing friction stud or boring head. If not, then don’t be a bore.
Follow J.Anne Gonzales on Twitter: @LazyBlack_Cat
Follow Miji Gonzales on Twitter: @mijigonzales