For the past two years, the Ateneo de Davao University Track and Field Team and through its primary engagement which is the Mindanao Blue Knights Track League has been providing meaningful experience for Athletics in Mindanao. From the hard work of all its members, the team was able to secure spike shoes from Europe and from local partners. Early this month, an anonymous donor whom seen our post in social media pledged nearly 190 pairs of brand new shoes. As much as we want to announce the identity of the benefactor, they requested that they kept in anonymity. This week, upon sorting the shoes, I came to a stop and look at the piles of boxes and realized the humble situation of grassroots Athletics in the Philippines. So far I reflected on three key points that the shoes can be a microcosm of Philippine Athletics.
Shoes are the first ones that most athletes endear the most. Whether it comes from ukay (rummage) or simply purchasing brand new, I’ve seen that most athletes really take care of their shoes even they are just worn out. Its not always the case for most as we’ve seen many runners doing barefooted. Others treat is as story of hard work but I believe that the conducive conditions in Athletics should be considered and never romanticize the dire situation of our athletes. I hope our friends in media will not always put on the context of “rags to riches” or “hard work” just to gain mileage. Its the mindset and the structure that permits this behavior for the athletes.
Shoes can be a tool for engagement. After seeing the response of different individuals and groups on our request for assistance to ship the shoes in Davao, we are quite surprise on the generosity of people who doesn’t need any limelight. In fact, majority of the donors on the shipping fee of shoes want to remain anonymous and they just want that the shoes to be delivered to the most deserving athletes. The engagement we build through the shoes, is a strong manifestation that the values of “bayanihan” (communal voluntarism) still exists in the country one way or the other.
Shoes can make us better persons. Connecting to coaches and athletes through the shoes provided meaningful exchange of ideals, aspirations, and values. The shoes made us better persons. Why? Because it made us more principled and empowered one way or the other. We realize our own potentials and more secured in our own skin. There are some that try to question our motives and thrusts such as why we focus on engagement and not simply for training etc. Remember the situation of athletics as a microcosm of the society. Without this kind of initatives, we just only getting the bad cycle going.
As we packed the shoes for our promising athletes in Mindanao, I hope that it won’t be just about giving and thinking it as dole-outs. I hope through the receipt of this simple shoes, it can make a person more confident in facing challenges in their life even outside Athletics. That our colleagues in different sectors work together and look on the peripheries that really work hard from scratch. The local coaches who built the promising athlete. The grassroots events that has no vested interests. The system that when the right time comes we can be proud and won’t default on romanticizing the dire situation of our sport community just like having an excuse of not wearing shoe because you get used being barefooted.
Help us reach more communities than just giving shoes but also building events and communities in Athletics that are self-sustaining and independent.
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An article by Airnel Abarra.