Hidilyn Diaz was shown in a TV newscast from Mindanao saying that part of the P5-million check she would receive under the law for winning the silver medal in weightlifting (53 kg) at the Rio Olympics will go to the purchase of a 300-square meter lot in her native Zamboanga City.
On a portion of that lot, the latest Philippine sport hero will build a weightlifting facility that will try to help those who want to follow in her footsteps.
If we were the 25-year-old weightlifter, we would have urged the government to take the lead in building that gym for the country’s future Hidilyns.
After all, it is Malacañang that should foot the bill (not for another basketball court, please, because the idea of Filipinos becoming world beaters in that sport seems far too remote at this time).
We hope it happens during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, when changes seem to be really taking place, so we can move forward and forget the failed promises of his predecessors for incentives for Filipino athletes who had done the country proud, such as the overachieving runners or swimmers of the 1980s.
Meanwhile, Diaz should beware of politicians and other opportunists who would use her fame and celebrity to advance their self-serving platforms of philanthropy.
When Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the country’s second silver medal in the Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta, he received offers from politicians of rewards such as a house-and-lot, on top of what the law mandates the champion should receive.
It was learned this week that Velasco did not get any of the pledges he had received and the poor guy, like a true champion would, just kept quiet about the whole thing.
Those who duped and used Onyok for their own selfish interests are still around, as is Onyok, who, however, has to try to make a living as a part-time comedian in the local entertainment industry to get by.
This is what the government normally does to the country’s sports heroes and heroines: It forgets about them just as quickly after the latest photo op with senators and congressman have been taken and until the next Hidilyn or Onyok comes along.
It is a surprise that so far, a few days since the Zamboanga City weightlifter made history as the first Filipino woman to win a medal in the Olympic Games, we have not heard of people, especially the undesirable, opportunistic ones, making a beeline to the Diazes’ humble house in the city to pull off a similar publicity stunt.
And as far as we know, no one yet has promised her the moon and the stars.
We would prefer it that way.
What Hidilyn has achieved she did using her own might, but the triumph and pride she brought home gave strength to the nation’s hope that the country could, indeed change for the better through hard work and determination while the stars of fortune align in our favor.
Government support must also come now, not next year or until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics starts rolling along.