Let people power uplift Philippine sports
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-08-21
The martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino that we’re commemorating today is already enshrined in Philippine history and in the hearts of Filipinos. What would be the ultimate tribute to Ninoy Aquino is for all of us to rise above our factionalism and close ranks behind Filipinas, especially now that we have China encroaching on our sovereignty.

Ninoy, through his wife Cory, gave us our People Power legacy. Aquino haters try every now and then to scuttle the spirit of People Power, fearing perhaps that it’ll disenfranchise them anew. Sadly, many Filipinos are easily distracted by the fallacies being peddled by selfish interests and are lured into engaging in counterproductive undertakings.

One common ground that we Filipinos can easily get together on is sports. All of us love sports. We love to see heroes emerge from the sports competitions and we’re regaled by the drama of friendly competition. If we’re asked to unite to uplift Philippine sports and regain our once illustrious standing in international competitions — there would be little controversy and it would generate widespread enthusiasm.

Let’s face it, no Philippine government in the foreseeable future can afford to spend the money that will be required if we’re to uplift our sports performances. That means that we’ll always find ourselves caught in this vicious cycle, after each disastrous international sports competition, like the recently concluded 2012 London Olympics, where the public blame the sports leaders for failing to deliver medals and the sports leaders blame the government for the lack of funding with which to develop internationally competitive athletes.

With China encroaching on Philippine territory, it would be improper if President Noynoy Aqino allocated billions for sports development when the national priority calls for the upgrading of our defense capabilities. Winning that long sought Olympic gold medal isn’t acceptable at all if the price is to lose Scarborough Shoal to China. That’s only the national security aspect of our top priorities. There are the poverty alleviation program and the education program and we cannot seem to have enough money to fund these.

Thus, if we Filipinos want to see more champions like Manny Pacquiao to demonstrate the quality of our race, it’s incumbent on us to do our bit in working for that aspiration. Let our successful business tycoons come forward and enter into a public-private partnership to develop selected sports. Let our ordinary citizens support fund drives and contribute man-hours that will augment whatever resources the business tycoons would contribute. When we Filipinos focus on something that we treasure, like when we repelled a tank assault at EDSA with unarmored human flesh and rosaries, we can realize our fondest dreams.

Something like this was attempted during the Marcos dictatorship — the Gintong Alay (gold offering) Program — where athletes who have demonstrated promise are sponsored for greater achievements. Gintong Alay did not produce an Olympic gold but it showed some very positive results. We should be able to build on the lessons of Gintong Alay.

The idea is very feasible when seen from the perspective of what the stakeholders would want to attain. For big business tycoons like Manny V. Pangilinan, Ramon Ang and Henry Sy Jr. — sports development will build a lot of goodwill that they’re trying to buy through advertising and public relations. Messrs. Pangilinan, Ang and Sy are good starting points because they’re already into sports. For the sports organizations, they will now have the funds the government cannot justify allocating for sports development.

For every Filipino family, a rejuvenated grass roots sports development program will be the best alternative for the youth to drugs and bad habits. For the economy, the more international sports events that we get to host here — the more our tourism campaign is enhanced. If people all over the world keep hearing about sports events that are being held here, that is reinforcement for our “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” media campaign. It must be noted that the sports section is one of the most followed in media.
In terms of our national security image, these international sports competitions would effectively debunk all those negative perceptions of our country, whether we’re under constant terror threat or suffering from a high crime index. Instead of trying to argue against these unjustified imputations, let our sports events demonstrate the opposite of the bad perception.

The benefit sports development will give to public health is an immeasurable windfall. A sport is one of the great unifiers of a society. Look at how united and nationalistic we become when Manny Pacquiao has a bout. A fully propagated sports development program benefitting all sectors and socio-economic classes could be the unifying factor that we need to allow us to finally synergize and reach for the stars.

On this day when a new national hero was made, let’s put our minds, hearts and energies together and start producing a new wave of sports heroes for our country. Let their inspiration spur more heroes in other fields and endeavors in our collective quest for national greatness.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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