Seriously divided

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

It was sad to watch the spectacle of a seriously divided nation that should have been celebrating as one in the triumph of one of our own in the Olympics.

I blame the President for this. He has never tried to unite the country. Like Trump, he is happy to cater to his loyal followers while ignoring everyone else. That makes it difficult to work and celebrate as a nation.

Duterte may not particularly like Hidilyn Diaz and considers her an enemy. Perhaps, he believes the matrix presented to him by his subordinates that tagged Diaz as among those who are plotting to oust him.

But as President, he should have been gracious enough to warmly congratulate the gold medal victory of Ms. Diaz. It was wrong to delegate that duty to Harry Roque.

Duterte was reported to be attending a post-SONA dinner party when the news of Hidilyn’s victory was broadcasted. Surely, it must have been reported to him. His first reaction should have been to get Malacañang media to tape a short statement from him congratulating the Filipina weightlifter.

Doing that is a duty for Duterte as the supposed father of the nation. It was a rare occasion for national jubilation and unity amidst morale-crushing developments we have all been suffering for quite a while.

Maybe it is because Duterte is a man who holds grudges despite his repeated denials. Maybe he was convinced Hidilyn is not a supporter, and most likely an enemy.

And instead of apologizing on behalf of his administration for causing Hidilyn to fear for her life, Duterte urged her to just let bygones be bygones.

Luckily, Hidilyn, speaking like a true Christian, said she has forgiven those who caused her anxiety even without them asking. It was that fear for her personal safety that led her to train in Malaysia.

On social media, it was the usual bitter battle between the Duterte trolls and those who oppose him. The Duterte trolls tried to claim the Hidilyn win for Duterte. They pointed out that the first Olympic gold was won during Duterte’s watch, as if Duterte had anything to do with it.

Past social media posts of the Duterte trolls demonizing Hidilyn were resurrected. The venom in the posts of the Duterte trolls explains the Olympian’s concern for her safety.

Memes also sprouted to point out that the P10 million the gold medal winner will get from the government is not out of the goodness of Détente’s heart, but mandated by a law signed by the late president Noynoy Aquino.

I remember times in the past when victories like this united the Filipino people, even if just for a moment. This happened regularly when Manny Pacquiao won his fights. The social class barrier evaporated as every Filipino shared the glory of victory of one of our own.

But Duterte aside, Filipinos are mighty proud of her achievement because we have waited almost 100 years for it. As someone put it so humorously on a Facebook post, “Enrile was just three months old when the Philippines first joined the Olympics (Paris). He is now 97. That’s how long we waited to achieve our first gold medal. Thank you so much, Hidilyn Diaz!”

The story of Hidilyn on the road to her Olympic gold is an inspiring one. In a way, it was like the story of Sen. Pacquiao. Sheer guts and determination, with little help from the government.

These are the kind of stories that ought to be told to our young people to inspire them to aim high, not expect government help in their efforts to break out of the miseries of their poverty-stricken existence.

It is sad that victorious moments like this don’t come often enough for us. That’s why Hidilyn’s victory is so sweet. She set a new Olympic record in her event and she defeated her Chinese rival.

The more serious problem I see from all these is how divided our country has become. We need a leader who will unite our people and inspire us to believe that despite our problems, we will, like Hidilyn, overcome. The next president should hopefully be able to heal what divides us.

Our athletes

Filipino athletes who are doing well in international competitions in recent months are making their mark with little or no government support. Some manage to get corporate sponsorships or they come from families who can afford to support them.

We have been getting great performances from our athletes in golf and tennis. But those are sports identified with the more well-to-do class. They bring honor to the country and they can thrive without government support.

Athletes like Hidilyn, who do not have the means to support a proper training program, must have significant government support. Winning internationally shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy in society.

I have heard sad stories of how our government, through the years, treats national athletes… some living in horrible conditions and not even provided with the kind of food they need to get the nutrition athletes need for top performance.

I understand things have improved somewhat in how our government treats our athletes. But the proof of how well our sports programs are being carried out will be determined by our medal standings in international competitions.

Consider this comment on Facebook that sums things up in terms we can easily visualize:

“I was never as proud of being a Filipino, but deep inside me boiled the indignation that when Hidilyn Diaz imprinted her place in history with her first Olympic Gold – her red and dark gray athletic uniform was disheveled, it reeked of being ragtag and cheap – symbolizing the corruption she went through inside this government. It took all of Hidilyn’s innate and learned dignity to stand above China ramrod straight and proud despite the apparent disparity in uniform.”

But that’s us. That’s the nature of our politicians who exploit even our poor athletes. We seem comfortable with all the corruption. And that’s sad.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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