Deaf athletes need public encouragement
Deaf athletes need public encouragement
AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2017 - 4:00pm

“You can have all the talent in the world, but it takes mental strength to be a champion.”

“Work so hard that one day, your signature will be called an autograph.”

These two motivational quotes have propelled a 19-year-old student-athlete to excel in singles table tennis interschool competitions – a district, provincial, and regional champion – since she was in Grade 5 and through high school at the Lord’s Shepherd Academy in Bulacan.  Now a second-year physical education student in San Beda College, she has garnered team-doubles championships in both the NCAA and Unigames tournaments for two academic years.

That’s truly a feat for Abrianne Dominique Camus Nuevo, despite her communication disability: she is deaf.

Abrianne was introduced to me through a letter-appeal for support, dated May 15, 2017, by Lester A. Lagos, president of the Phil-Sports Federation of the Deaf, a nongovernmental organization of the deaf fostering sports activities for national and international participation.

Specifically the appeal is for sponsorship of Abrianne’s lone participation in the table-tennis competition at the 23rd Summer Deaflympics to be held in Samsun, Turkey on July 18-30, 2017. Hosting the event is the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, a member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

It will be the first time for the Phil-Sports Federation of the Deaf to participate in the table tennis category in an international competition. “We believe that if a Deaf is given an equal opportunity similar to the Hearing, (she) can create feats” similar to other non-Deaf athletes,” says Lagos.

Previously, the federation sent the first Filipino Deaflympians to the 21st Summer Deaflympics in Taipei (2009), the 7th Asia-Pacific Deaf Games in Seoul (2012), the 22nd Summer Deaflympics in Bulgaria (2013), and the 8th Asia-Pacific Deaf Games in Taipei (2015). In December 2010, the PSFD hosted its first international event in the country, the 4th Asia-Pacific Deaf Bowling Championship.

That’s quite a record, but very few Filipinos knew about it – myself included, and that’s what caught my interest.

Organized in 2007, the PSFD is a regular member of the ASEAN Deaf Sports Federation and the Asia-Pacific Deaf Sports Confederation. It is also a full member of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

Its declared mission is “to serve as vanguard of Deaf sports in the Philippines” with the objectives, among others, of showing the uniqueness of deaf culture through sports, supporting highly talented deaf athletes in national and international competitions and encouraging deaf Filipinos to participate in sports.

That the PSFD wrote to me (as president of the Makabayan Coalition of 10 progressive party-list organizations representing the marginalized sectors in our society), to endorse Abrianne’s request for sponsorship so she can participate in the coming Deaflympics speaks volumes about the problem of financing the participation of our athletes in international sports events. This has been a major issue every time the country sends athletes, with a coterie of coaches and advisers, to international sports competitions. What more when disabled, or differently-abled, athletes are concerned?

Republic Act 10699, enacted and approved in 2015, expands the coverage of incentives granted to national athletes and coaches.  It specifically mentions as beneficiaries “athletes with disabilities who are Filipino citizens, recognized and accredited by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the National Paralympic Committee of the Philippines (NPC PHIL), and who have represented the country in international sports competitions.”

For Abrianne to qualify for those incentives enumerated in the law, she must first be able to travel to Turkey and participate in the table tennis competition. The financing assistance needed to send her (along with two team officials), to the event this July comes up to a total of P309,000. It includes roundtrip airfare, accommodations in the Athlete’s Village (including three meals a day and transportation), and participation fees for all three.

That’s not a huge sum, but on my own, I cannot produce that amount to help Abrianne. But as an advocate of inclusiveness in our society, I do admire the grit and perseverance of all fellow Filipinos. In particular, I know that Filipinos with disabilities are as talented, hardworking and capable as everybody else – although most of them need a helping hand from us once in a while. 

Perhaps a reader of this column, with financial capability and a caring heart, can enable young Abrianne to gun for an international championship, or at least to hone her skills for future international competitions.

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