By EDDIE G. ALINEA
Boxing great and now senator Manny Pacquiao wishes the Filipino athletes carrying the country’s flag the best of luck in their quest for honors in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games which raised its curtains Friday (Saturday in Manila) in the Brazilian City of Rio de Janeiro.
“These Games, coming in the 92nd year of our country’s participation in the Greatest Sporting Show On Earth , mean more to us, in our continued quest for the first Olympic gold medal which is now placed on your shoulders,” the chair of the sports committee in the Upper Chamber said in a message to the 13-athlete national contingent on the eve of the quadrennial conclave’s opening ceremony.
“But equally important though is, you are in the Olympics as our country’s Ambassadors of Goodwill tasked with showcasing to the rest of the world what the Philippines really is and the kind of people Filipinos are. ” the eight-division boxing champion said as told to this writer in an interview following his stint in the Stalwart Team in the opening of the PBA All-Star Weekend last Friday.
“For making it to Rio, you have already shown the courage, the talent and the esprit d’ corps of our people despite our lack in physical attributes,” he asserted.
“Continue showing your peers from other countries those traits and characters that made our countrymen — swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, boxers Anthony Villanueva,his father Jose, brothers Mansueto “Onyok” and Roel Velasco and Leopoldo Serrantes, long jumper Simeon Toribio and hurdler Miguel White — Olympic medalists all,” Pacquiao reminisced.
Anthony Villanueva and Onyok accounted for only the two Olympic silver medals the Philippines has won so far since an obscure sprinter named David Nepomuceno carried the country’s colors for the first time in 1924 in Paris . Yldefonso triumphed back-to-back in swimming in 1928 and 1932. Toribio and company brought home a bronze medal each.
“Then there’s Ariannne Cerdena, who actually won an Olympic gold medal, kaya lang sa exhibition sport of bowling. Nandyan din sina Stephen Fernandez at Bea Lucero ng taekwondo, bronze medalists both, also in exhibition event of taekwondo,” he recalled.
“Ang nagawa ng mga bayani nating ito ay patunay lamang na tayong mga Pilipino ay hindi salat sa lakas at kakayahan para manalo sa larangan ng palakasan,” the now semi-retired athlete said.
“Magagawa din ninyo yan. Focus lang pagdating ng laban. Magtiwala kayo sa Panginoon at hindi Niya kayo pababayaan, he added.
“As I said, you came to Rio already winners. Let all of you enrich further your winning by bringing home, too, medals of friendship, medals of wisdom and experience gained from competing against and mingling with your fellow athletes from all over the world. “
“Let everybody know that we Filipinos, subscribe to the Olympic motto of Swifter, Higher, Stronger in our quest to be the best and meeting the challenge coming from the best in a fair playing field as the Olympic Games,” Pacquiao stressed.