Today, I join my colleagues and the entire nation in honoring our Olympic medalists: Hidilyn Diaz, who brought home the gold, Nesthy Petecio (silver), Carlo Paalam (silver), and Eumir Marcial (bronze), and for this historic record haul.
As I’ve said before, these athletes, these medalists did not get their Olympic medals by the stroke of luck. It was grueling hard work, prioritizing training, early mornings, forgetting their love lives, maybe even compromising family responsibilities. These are sacrifices that they made for over a decade to get to where they are today, to bring pride and honor to our country.
These are the struggles that they dealt with and will continue to deal with in the years to come as they continue to represent us.
As I’ve said, when they walked onto the Olympic floor, onto the stadium, that medal was already hung over their necks because of the years of practice and training and sacrifices that they have made.
Let me quickly start by commending 23-year-old Carlo Paalam, who grew up in Cagayan de Oro City, and started training in 2009 as a young boy to help his family live a better life. Salamat sa ginawa mo para sa ating bansa, ipagpatuloy mo ito, Carlo.
And then, 25-year-old Eumir Marcial, who also started boxing at a very young age, with his father as his first trainer, becoming one of Asia’s most highly regarded young boxers. Salamat sa binigay mong karangalan sa ating lahat.
And now, Mr. President, I would like to bring a women’s…a gender perspective, to my short speech. Mr. President, our Filipina athletes have come a long way. Obviously, the whole nation rejoiced when Hidilyn brought home the gold medal, the first gold medal of our country, brought home by a woman.
But let me give a little bit of history. I personally got interested when and how women started competing in the highest level because as a runner in college, I would always tune in, as a young kid, I was already tuning in to the Olympics. And when I was a varsity player in college, and a runner already, I found out that it was only in the 1984 Olympics that there was a category for (women’s marathon).
So basically, the first (women long-distance runners) joined the Olympics only in 1984. And at that time, that was shocking to me because women were running, they have been competing. But the Olympics only recognized women as serious long-distance runners in 1984.
So I decided to research about boxing and weightlifting, the sports where our women athletes also brought home the medal. And Mr. President, this is quite interesting.
When our silver medalist, 29-year-old Nesthy Petecio, made the lineup for the women’s national boxing team at 15 years old, boxing wasn’t even recognized for women in the Olympics yet. So can you imagine that? Sumubo siya, maybe knowing or not really knowing, kasi at that age, laban ka lang, pero if things did not change, there would not even be women boxers in the Olympics. Well this changed in 2012, only 9 years ago. So Nesthy Petecio is really a history in the making kasi wala pang 10 years na nagko-compete ang mga kababaihan in boxing at the highest level in the Olympics.
Now what about weightlifting? Consider this. When Hidilyn was born, weightlifting for women was not yet a sport in the Olympics. Pang-lalaki lang. You will notice that… from my research, it appears that anything that is extremely strenuous, so obviously, including long-distance running, weightlifting, and boxing – women were regarded as too frail to compete. So in the sport of weightlifting, it was only in the year 2000 that it became an Olympic sport open to women. And from what I know, Hidilyn started training when she was 10, so she was training around 2001. And that was just one year since the Olympics recognized women as weightlifters.
So it’s interesting how far we have come, how our Filipina athletes have led the way in promoting their sports at the Olympic level and bringing recognition to women athletes. Mr. President, our women athletes face a lot of obstacles. Sometimes, more than men, many times, more than men. Precisely because even at the highest level, their participation was not even recognized until lately. And as I had said in my earlier speech when we also honored the athletes, I can just imagine, even in my sport as a runner, there are questions and criticisms on how a woman would engage in that sport. What more for these athletes, who are breaking down barriers, who are cracking the glass ceiling by competing in a sport that is traditionally known to be the sports of men?
So they represent the future of women in this country, not just in sports, but in all aspects of women’s lives. I have always been a believer that men and women must work together in order for us to have a better country. And this is already a significant breakthrough, to see that 2 out of our 4 medalists are women.
And even in the lineup of our Olympians, quite a number of them are women. So I’d like to end by honoring all the athletes who represented us in the Olympics.
And before that, Mr. President, I would like to point out that I know my colleagues and I are of one view that we want to continue to support the athletes.
As we approach the budget season, let’s remember that if there was any glimmer of hope during this pandemic, if there was any light at the never-ending darkness of the COVID tunnel, it was our Olympians. We suspended the session to watch the Olympians compete, to watch them live. They brought us hope, they brought us joy for a few minutes in time, we forgot our misery of living in this time of COVID.
I hope that we remember that, their feats, the joy they brought us during the budget season. I hope that we can provide the kind of support that has been shown after the medals were brought home. I hope that we can provide this kind of funding in the budget so that these athletes can continue training and doing what they do best: bringing hope and honor to our country. God bless you. Mabuhay po kayong mga medalists natin, mabuhay po lahat ng Olympians, at pati po ang coaches and trainers.
I forgot, I need to add one more thing. Unfortunately, wala tayong Paralympics participant that brought home a medal. However, I’d like to honor their participation as well. They also need more support because it’s even harder for them, given their disabilities. And I’d like to point out, in RA 10699, which I think was authored by our Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Sen. Sonny… This is the ‘National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act.’ His honor accepted my amendment, which was to make the cash award that we give our Paralympic participants the same as our regularly-abled athletes. This is so important, Mr. President, because as I was going through the news, I found out that in the US, it’s the first Paralympics that they will be giving equal amount to their Paralympians. Nauna pa tayo. So once in a while, actually naman pagdating sa policy, mabilis tayo mauna. It’s really the implementation where we’re a little bit slow. So I hope the next time we honor our Olympians, may kasama na rinh Paralympians. And I hope we can get the support of our colleagues when we review the budget and literally put our money where our mouth is. Ipakita natin kung gaano natin sila kamahal, kung gaano natin nirerespeto ang propesyon nila.
Thank you again and God bless our Filipino athletes. Thank you, Mr. President. #