Airnel T. Abarra-ADDU Grade School Sports Officer

First Stop: Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan

With the fanfare of the big Athletics competitions in the capital city and the pomp and festivities in my former hometown in Southern Luzon, I was here seated in the bus with two of my colleagues at the ADDU Office of the Athletics. We wake up early and had our quick coffee before we boarded going to our fellow Jesuit University which is Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in the warm and friendly city of Cagayan which is dubbed as the “city of golden friendship”. With the winding roads in the mountain ranges of Bukidnon, Coach Willy of Grade School Football and Coach Jong of Grade School Taekwondo went with me for a simple mission of connecting with our XU and to bring four boxes of pre-loved shoes to our friends in Mindanao State University, Marawi City. The breeze of Bukidnon and warmth of the coastline temperatures shared in our senses when we arrived in Cagayan de Oro City.

Discussions and Sharing with XU Sport Coaches

We met Mr. Ricky Tadlip, the facilities manager of the recently inaugurated XU Sports Centre which is the new sports hub of our brother Jesuit School in Cagayan. With Coach Ricky is his colleagues in the Basic Education Sports as we started the proceedings of the 1st XU-ADDU Basic Education Sports Skills Sharing Activity. The event is still on its infancy stage as we might have program but it turned out as a fine time to discuss ways in collaboration in terms of sports through building better programs and engagements. Through the sharing of our friends in XU we learned on the possibilities on how we can work together. After the discussions, we headed to the sports center where a new track oval, gymnasium and swimming pool is located. As I walk in the blue rubber surface of the oval, I smelled it, I paused for a moment on if there will be a time that this sport center will be filled with kindred individuals and groups that share common purpose on sport that builds values. I savor the moment as me, Coach Willy, Jong, Jessica, and Ricky started to talk further collaboration between our communities in the near future. Another leg of the track league? Martial Arts Festival or Friendly Football March? Really spending time with people that provides you avenues to things beyond sport keeps you going.

Coach Joseph Layao and Mr. Nasroding Bashier welcomed us in MSU Marawi

We continue our journey to Marawi City. As we know this city was devastated last year due to a siege. Coach Joseph Gieward Layao of the MSU Sultans Basketball Team fetched us in Cagayan as we started a four hour journey to Mindanao State University one of the biggest university in Mindanao and a strong bastion of education, integration, and cultural understanding between different ethno-religious communities in Mindanao. The winding road to Marawi gives me time to reflect again on the vibe and the different perspective of being in the conventional sporting events in my former workplace. I appreciate the simplicity of Coach Joseph and his team whose happiness to see a fellow Filipino. I might be a Tagalog by origin but it was never a setback in Sport. For the past 4 years I’ve been in Mindanao, I learn and love to embrace its diversity, warmth, and sincerity of its people.

Coach Willy Gonzales with the MSU Football Team.

Its past lunchtime that we arrived in the vast campus of Mindanao State University. The refreshing weather of Marawi was complemented by the hospitality of its community. Mr. Nasroding I. Bashier-chairperson of the MSU Department of Athletics welcomed us to his office where we are treated to a sumptuous Maranao cuisine which he personally prepared. The whole department treated us well as we went to the Student-Athletes Orientation. Around a hundred of student-athletes eagerly waiting for us as I was introduced to talk about widening personal perspective in Sport and Life. Through my sharing I let them realize that being student-athlete is a noble task. They should see sport as a stepping stone in life and continuously strive to be better persons. The joyous atmosphere of our sharing somewhat felt that this community in MSU are keen in bringing their community as a true site of peace and understanding. Peace that is not only absence of threat or conflicts but peace through better experience through sport and being educated through sport.

With the MSU Athletics Team

The next day we went early to the MSU CSPEAR grounds as I requested Coach Joseph and the MSU Athletics Coach Ms. Vea Ebardo-Peralta if I can do simple training with the athletes. The morning breeze of CSPEAR grounds provides a pleasant feeling as I approached the near 20 men and women student-athletes of MSU Athletics Team. I taught them basic drills in Athletics on how to check on their respective running forms. I saw in their eyes their thirst for meaningful experiences. Strength and skill-wise the MSU Track Team has the potential to excel not only in the sport but life itself. Their smiles and cheerfulness as we do the drills provides a bliss of what should be done first in Athletics: Building communities with meaningful experience.

Turning-over of shoes from the “Generous Soles Project”

MSU Athletes with sport kits from the German University Sports Federation

As we return to Davao we did also side trip to one of the movers of Mindanao Peace Games in Iligan City. Mr. Rey Mancia of Iligan Medical Center College welcomed us for a lunch and to exchange ideas on how to strengthen the seeds that MPG planted in Iligan in Marawi. We spend a very pleasant and cordial discussions and I saw him what a true “Kaka” or brother in Sport means which is opening possibilities for exchange and collaboration.

Meeting with Kaka Rey Mancia of Iligan Medical Center College.

That night as I spend time in the bus en route to Davao, the images of hopeful athletes lingers in my mind. Their resiliency in the challenges in their midst, the thirst for meaningful experiences, and the kindred individuals that make Mindanao a unique tapestry of people and culture. I know it takes such an effort to build a culture in sport etched on the promise of peace and common understanding to every Mindanawon, this vision can be fulfilled.

Mindanao is truly a land of promise. It can be also done through sport paved in peace.