Spanish-born forward Bienvenido Marañon woke up early Wednesday morning and the first thing he saw was a message that would forever change his life.
Right there, on his phone, at long last, was the confirmation that the entire Philippine football community had waited with bated breath for. It was official: Marañon was a Filipino citizen.
The happiness he felt upon reading the text message saying his naturalization has been signed into law left him in tears.
"Right now, I am the happiest guy in the world. I cried a lot when I got the information," admitted Marañon. "And right now, I am the happiest guy in the world. I cannot describe how is my emotion now. I don't know what to say."
Then came a slew of congratulatory calls and messages that kept his phone buzzing most of the day.
The most personal of all congratulations came not far from where Marañon was. Azkals team captain Stephan Shrock, also a teammate in United City which has been representing the country in the 2021 AFC Champions League in Uzbekistan, himself went to Marañon and expressed how grateful he was that they were going to keep making the Philippines proud be it in the club or national level.
While football fans are excited to see the United City star take his goal-scoring exploits to the national team, Marañon himself is also looking forward to laying down roots in the Philippines. In fact, it's the privilege of growing with his family in the country that made his naturalization even more special.
"Not only because I will play football, I will play with Azkals, but also because my family can be there in the Philippines," he expressed. "We can make a business, I can live there, I can be one more of you."
The law - officially called Republic Act 11570 - was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 2, but was only released to the public on July 7. Now, the final steps are for Marañon to take the Oath of Allegiance and obtain a Philippine passport before forwarding his change of citizenship to FIFA.
According to the 35-year-old, those are simple things and he plans to do the oath at the Philippine Embassy in Spain. If all goes well, he could make his Azkals debut in September.
Of course, that wasn't the original plan. Initially, Marañon hoped to be naturalized before the last international window, when the Azkals took on China, the Maldives, and Guam in the joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, but complications brought about by the ongoing pandemic delayed the entire process.
Still, the extended wait didn't dampen the excitement Marañon feels about the prospect of finally suiting up for the Philippines.
"To wear the Azkals jersey, to play for the national team, for the country, will be the most exciting moment, the most emotional moment and I can't wait to do it," he remarked.
The striker also took time to pay tribute to those who supported him throughout the process and added he is eager to make them all proud as, officially, a Philippine Azkal.
But then again, Marañon refuses to let his contributions to the country be relegated to the football field.
"I hope they can help me now as a Filipino, show me how the country is and I will try to make them proud of me playing for the Azkals and doing something good for the country," he said. "Not only playing football, I like to help people."