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Investing in gold

After earning the country’s first Olympic gold medal, Hidilyn Diaz is suddenly being showered with millions of pesos worth of prizes from almost every Tom, Dick and Harry, who is either truly appreciative of her efforts, or simply capitalizing on the weightlifter’s sudden popularity in a nation that has long been aching for real life heroes and positive role models.

Diaz will receive a P10 million cash incentive from the government through Republic Act 10699 signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III. P10 million each was pledged by tycoons Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan. P3 million from partylist representative Mikee Romero, P2.5 million from the local government of Zamboanga City where she hails from, P5 million cash and free fuel for life from Phoenix Petroluem chair Dennis Uy, P3 million and a house and lot in Zamboanga from President Rodrigo Duterte, a P14 million condominium from Megaworld, a P4 million house and lot from Century Properties, a house and lot in Tagaytay courtesy of Philippine Olympic Committee President Bambol Tolentino, lifetime free flights from AirAsia Philippines and 80,000 free miles per year from Philippine Airlines. More are sure to jump on the bandwagon in the coming days.

The prizes and rewards are certainly appreciated, especially after all the hard work, sacrifice and struggles most Filipino athletes endure in their journey toward Olympic glory. However, it must be noted that while rich Filipinos and government officials are now falling all over each other to throw praises, money and awards at a gold medal winner; our athletes are generally on their own when it comes to scrounging much needed funds and support for training and development.

Hidilyn’s case is a prime example. She may be flush with cash and prizes, adoration and respect now, but even as a Silver medalist, nobody defended her when she was somehow included in the notorious ouster plot matrix. Despite that betrayal, Diaz continued to doggedly train for the Olympics, even with minimal support. Furthermore, when the pandemic stranded her in Malaysia, the person who came to her aid was not a Filipino but a Malaysian weightlifting official who offered her a place to stay and space to train in his open-air carport.

We won’t begrudge the people who are currently fawning over Hidilyn and her gold medal, showing their appreciation by giving her gifts she absolutely deserves, especially after everything she’s been through.  However, the country has many more athletes who can achieve the same feat and legitimately go for gold if they only had more support from both the government and private sector. We hope that Hidilyn’s prizes are just the start of a new groundswell of support for Filipino athletes, particularly in their training and development where investment remains sorely inadequate.*

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