Palarong Pambansa: A bright spot on Philippine sports

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“Nasa kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” – Jose Rizal

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Today marks the last day of the 60th Palarong Pambansa held in San Jose, Antique. More than 12,000 delegates participated in the annual event.

The Palaro, as most people call it, has been the breeding ground of great athletes as it caters to the youth. The competitors are elementary and secondary level students from all eighteen regions of the Philippines.

Olympians like Lydia de Vega, Elma Muros, and volleyball phenom Alyssa Valdez are some of the products of this competition. Every year, new sporting events are introduced, which means more opportunities for better education, character building and even a source of livelihood.

And as it comes to an end, I would like to expound on the merits of the Palarong Pambansa by sharing with you some of my experiences back in 2007 in Koronadal, and 2008, in Puerto Princesa.

One of the most important values that Palaro athletes learn is humility. Being part of this national competition made me treat fellow athletes and other delegates with respect. Everybody that I saw during that week was the best in their field and they worked hard to be in that spot. Sure, it seems like it’s all about having fun as you travel the Philippines to play the sport that you love, but at the end of the day, it meant business. It wasn’t the most glamorous trip that one could ask for. In my experience, our team, which represented the NCR Region in the girls’ volleyball event, was composed of players from public and private schools, Chinese-Christian and Catholic schools. My teammates and I learned how to wash our own jerseys, board a ship for a 30-hour commute, slept on cushions in public school classrooms (unless your coaches or parents would provide a better board and lodging option). Everybody well understood the fact that we went to these provinces not for a vacation but for competition.

Another thing that the Palaro provides us athletes was a unique way to bond and socialize. Its not everyday that you get to be stuck with your new teammates for 30 hours on a ship on your way to a tournament, or that you spend at least an hour trying to figure out how to remove stains on your jersey that you just wore and will wear again the next day. For some of my teammates then, we still laugh at the memory of how we kept painting our nails and having our own photo shoot while we were in transit! This event gave me and my team a way to have a solid bond just in time for the event.

The competition also teaches discipline. For most of us, it was our first time going out of town to compete and there would usually be some who would forget about the main reason why we were there in the first place. I was probably one of those girls who got carried away and got a stern reminder that we did not travel as tourists! Looking back, it was a good experience having been trained in such a way early on in our athletic careers. This was one of the values that stayed with me up to now as I play professional volleyball.

Lastly, the Palaro makes one become more passionate about the sport. As I mentioned earlier, this event isn’t the most glamorous competition one could be part of. Aside from the living conditions, the competition venues aren’t usually the best of its kind as well. For our event, which is volleyball, it is ideally held in an indoor arena, but back then, the games were held outdoors on a concrete pavement. We would play during noon when it would be the hottest time of the day. We’d pray to play in the better side of the court where the sun and shadows would be to our advantage. Back in 2007 in Koronadal, I remember that we were so happy when it started raining during the championship game and we had to play in a wooden indoor court. This taught me passion for the sport, that no matter what the conditions are, tuloy ang laban.

I truly believe that the Palarong Pambansa is a good grassroots program. I am grateful to those who still believe in this event, who invests their time and effort into making this event happen and be successful every year. To all the coaches who go through a thorough process of selecting athletes to represent their regions, to all the players who pour their hearts out in every match, to the organizers and other delegates who unrelentingly support this event, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. See you all next year!

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