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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, December 2, 2019
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with Ninfa Leonardia

The fire in the cauldron

Ninfa Leonardia

I wish I had some way of sending copies of this little poem to the athletes competing in the ongoing Southeast Asian Games, a.k.a. SEAG, for them to ponder on. This is how it goes:

Dear Lord, in the battle that goes on though life,

I ask but a field that is fair

A chance that is equal to all in the strife,

The courage to do and dare.

And if I should win, let it be by the code

With my faith and my honor held high,

And if I should lose, let me stand by the road

And cheer as the winners go by!


I was only in grade school when I learned that from one of my uncles but never forgot it. He was also an athlete, a boxer, of the Central Philippine University (College then), and a champion at that. His name was Salvador Leonardia, whose parents both died when he was three years old, and my father’s parents brought him up. As children, we learned many things from him, he was very close to us. We called him “Tatay Badong” but he was “Buddy” to his friends.


He was already in his late seventies when he last came to visit us and told us of his experience weeks before when he landed at the Manila Airport after visiting his son in the U.S. At the arrival area, he was bullied by a “cargador” who pestered him when he would not hand his luggage to him. When the man became physical and tried to push him, he let out one of his championship blows and sent the big man sprawling on the floor. All the passengers crowded around them, exclaiming “Ang lakas ng matanda (The old man is very strong)!” It ended with the bully apologizing to him.


I guess these thoughts came to me because of the prominence of the coverage on the ongoing SEA Games. From the sounds of it, our athletes are not doing very badly, and we all hope and pray they will be able to save our country’s name by doing their best. When did we last end up as champions of the SEAG? Never mind if others will call it a “hometown decision,” the public, as well as the participants are all witness to the competitions. I hope the flame on the P50 million caldero will not burn out before the games are over. By the way, stop questioning the price of that cauldron – it’s really a unique one, with the fire in it, and not under it.


`By the way, I have a cute suggestion on how to make more use of that caldero. Let the athletes gather around it after the games and let them roast hotdogs on it. That will make it a memorable experience for both local and visiting athletes who, I am sure, have never seen one like it before. Maybe they will even be joined by our officials led by President Duterte and his fair-haired boy Allan Peter Cayetano.


It must have surprised a lot of Filipinos to hear how the President reacted on what the media – both local and foreign – branded as “SNAFUS” – when it started. Note, though, that he never blamed the supposed over-all chairman of the games, which confirms once again who the fair-haired boy of Malacañang is. Others thought he would blow his top, but that didn’t happen. All he did say was that Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano was not corrupt. As if that is all that is necessary for the event to be a success.


An interesting item I noted in the reports on the SEAG was that the two sons and a nephew of the Sultan of Brunei are among the athletes playing for their country. Is the sultan himself in town for it? I had seen the sultan in some of the international assemblies of leaders while covering our Presidents then, and a lot of us girls had crushes on him. He is not only tall but also dark and handsome and had a very regal bearing. As a fellow media delegate named “Mimi” – I dare not give her full name – describes him whenever he passed by “Hindi mahirap mahalin”. Now translate that as you like.


Today, Monday, is Parents Day. I do not know if this is observed in other countries but I do recall that when we were in grade school, we used to mark “Mother’s Day only, and our teachers told us to pin a red rose on our lapels if our mother is still alive, and white if she is gone. Then it became known as Parent’s Day, and we had to pin two red roses for living parents, one red and one white if the other is already dead, and two white ones if both are no longer alive. I am not aware if schools still suggest this to their students, but isn’t it a beautiful practice?*

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