The Philippine Swimming League (PSL) announced during its 107th leg series that the PSL has been officially accredited by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as a swimming association. The PSC approved and resolved the decision during the board meeting of the PSC Board of Commissioners.
I have been in swimming for 57 years now and was five years old when I became aware that the National Sports Association (NSA) for swimming was Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA), now the Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSi).
The president of PASA then was Col. Arsenio de Borja who also became the Director and Secretary-Treasurer of Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF).
Borja was a fantastic president.
From that period up to the time of my last participation in the Asian games as a swimmer, which was 1974, we were winning in the Asian Games, an international competition where 45 nations including Asian countries compete.
The Southeast Asian Games with nine active participating countries was considered only an invitational competition then. I remember well that every swimmer sent to that meet always comes home with a medal.
Then, I retired as a swimmer in 1976.
Moving forward, I got phone calls from stakeholders from the local swimming community bemoaning the predicament of swimmers that are not members of PASA.
Non-members cannot compete in competitions not sanctioned by PASA. And PASA tankers were threatened with suspension if they compete in competitions outside of their NSA.
The stiff membership fee of PASA is also an issue because not many can afford it.
It is an unfortunate thing for many Mindanao swimmers who are good but can’t afford to pay such fees. In coastal communities in Mindanao, children can swim before they can walk.
These are the likes of Jairulla Jaitulla, Amman Jalmaani, Leroy Geoff, Roosevelt Abdulgafar, Kermalpasar Umih and many other Mindanaoan swimmers whose feats are hard to duplicate.
There are many good Filipino swimmers but because of the restrictive policies of the Psi, we failed to win medals in Asian Games until now.
This happened all under the watch of Mark Powell Joseph, who had tainted the name of Philippine Amateur Swimming Association. He changed the name of the latter to Philippine Aquatic Association, and again to PSi (people often confuse PSi for PSL).
In the past, Joseph has enjoyed the support of influential politician most especially Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President, Peping Cojuangco.
I came out of retirement and I got involved in swimming again. It was then that I saw the complete picture of what is wrong with Philippine swimming.
I realized then that those who can follow Joseph’s rule are the ones with money and can afford membership fees but the less fortunate ones are left out.
Then I have witnessed how PSi exploited its membership requirements by collecting stiff membership fees. Basically, the PSi dictated that you must be its member if you want your swimming career to flourish.
The ordeal of Loren Dale Echavez and her sister at the Arafura Games in Australia is worth mentioning.
Echavez, then 12 years old was stripped of her medals after Joseph called the Arafura Games organizers telling them that Echavez is not a member of PASA, having failed to pay the 400.00 membership fee.
Echavez’ parents said that Echavez is a member of PASA because she paid the P400.00 membership fee.
But why did Joseph make such action?
The only reason I can think of is Joseph simply wants to display the power he had at that time.
He could have just let it pass considering Echavez has brought honor to the country.
And even if Echavez failed to pay the P400.00 membership fee, is it reason enough to ask the games organizers to strip her of the medals she won?
Remember, she was already a member of PASA.
To note, the record will show during that time that Echavez’s record was better than Ma. Claire Adorna and Jasmine Alkhaldi.
But whatever happened to Echavez’s swimming career after that?
(To be continued)