CLEAN SLATE: Learning from the mistake of forgetting our para athletes

When Davao City took part in the 1997 Philippine National Games (PNG) in Cebu City, we were fortunate to be included in the delegation.

That means that the City Government of Davao shouldered the expenses for media coverage and all we had to do was to pack our bags and bring our manual typewriters. Yes, boys and girls, there were no internet services at that time.

So, at the Abellana Sports Complex, our brothers in the profession, Nimrod Quinones of Freeman Cebu and Jun Migallen of Sunstar Superbalita made our media coverage comfortable with the availability of a Press Room and fax machines that are ready to use.

Nimrod, who is now a general manager of a major golf club in Cebu, even made sure that sportswriters, all of us, are accommodated at a local hotel for a comfortable stay. Peter Alegre of the Journal Group of Publications was my roommate at that time, who I cannot forget because after a long night of drinking, he brought a meal for us to share late in the morning. And after that, off we go back to work.

I was dispatching sports stories then for the Daily San Pedro Express and The Manila Times and with the main events played at the Abellana, it was easy to gather results.

After the regular games were held, we were ready to go home but I later realized that PNG Para Games followed next.

The Philippine Sports Association for the Differently-Abled (PHILSPADA) organized the event for our differently-abled athletes.

I felt bad, really, that we had to rely on our Cebu media friends to dispatch stories to Davao and we did not have the chance to personally take care of the sports coverage, owing to the fact that we were already one week away from home and it is about time to go home.

Ang pagmahay, naa sa ulahi, noh?

Carlos Seccion, I remember, was the PHILSPADA guy in Davao at that time who was, in fact, a bronze medalist in the Southeast Asian Games Para Games’ wheelchair basketball.

Good thing, he did not complain.

But when we realized the mistake, we made sure that the next time PHILSPADA athletes were competing, that proper sports coverage would be done.

In sports, according to then Davao City sports chief William “Butch” Ramirez, we have to take off our hats, forget our ranks, status in life, for everyone is equal.

The Davao Sportswriters Association (DSA) then headed by manong Ferdie “Batman” Lintuan made it sure that the Para Games athletes are part of the coverage. So, we closely coordinated with PHILSPADA officials like Professor Nieto Vitto, who organized events in coordination with the Davao City Sports Council Inc. then headed by manong Vic Sai and secretary-general Belen Kempis-Taala, then head of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) in the Davao Region.

I cannot really blame the Davao sportswriters and photographers at that time for not really putting in their calendars the events of PHILSPADA-XI because there was no clear coordination then.

Wala mag sabot ba. Wala nag istoryahay. Eventually, that was fixed as we started to reach out to PHILSPADA-XI by inviting them to our weekly DSA Forum.

So, after that, sports coverage has been “equalized”, so to speak.

I am also glad to know that even though we are not at the 4th Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China, our friends from the PSC-POC Media Bureau have been continually dispatching stories on a daily basis.

And because of that we learned about the gold medal winning performances of Dabawenyos Ernie Gawilan in swimming and Henry Roger Lopez in chess.

We have indeed come a long way in making sure that after the regular games, the para games are included, always in sports media dispatches.

If you notice too, our community papers have allocated good space for our para athletes.

We have learned our lessons as sportswriters.

Everyone is equal in sports, a regular athlete or a differently-abled athlete.

Truth is, it is even more inspiring to follow the exploits of our para athletes with all the physical challenges they have to go through.

It makes me wonder too why we have not heard of any statements from the Sports Development Division of the City Mayor’s Office these days?

Kinsa may mga starring ani ron sa sports development sa siyudad?

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