A ‘Hidilyn Diaz’ in all of us

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The gold medal victory of Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the on-going Tokyo Olympics has literally turned into a rags-to-riches story. Since winning last week, she has so far amassed more than P50 million in total cash and in-kind rewards from a grateful nation. We are indeed proud for her after clinching the first ever gold medal for the Philippines.

Hidilyn’s victory came at a time while the world, including our own country, continues to fight off the spread of the vicious and deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The 2020 Summer Olympics even had to be held a year later following the outbreak of the COVID-19 contagion. Like in the Philippines, Japan has had several times imposed hard lockdowns including in the city of Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lately its variants that are more transmissible.

Born in Zamboanga, the 30-year old Hidilyn literally carried on her shoulders the hopes and aspirations of the entire Filipino nation to uplift our spirit during these troubled times of the pandemic. Herself weighing only 58 kilograms (kg), she was able to post a new Olympic record of having lifted 127 kg in the “clean and jerk” event of her 55 kg weightlifting division for women.

Hidilyn also became the country’s first-ever female athlete to collect back-to-back Olympic medals. She first won a silver medal in the same weightlifting category during the 2016 Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

While we rejoice with her victorious campaign in the Olympics, trolls in the social media posted an old photo of Hidilyn wearing a gray T-shirt printed with Chinese characters on top of “West Philippine Sea” inscribed in the chest part. In an online news forum here with foreign correspondents a day after her arrival from Tokyo, she was asked what message she wants to convey in wearing it.

As Hidilyn puts it: “Ang atin ay atin.” (What is ours is ours.) As any other ordinary Filipinos, she pointed out, her T-shirt merely reflected something that she believes in. She candidly admitted she is not an expert on international legal matters nor she has any predilection to politics.

Incidentally, Hidilyn was promoted to one-rank higher and is now Staff Sergeant of the Philippine Air Force. From a base pay of P31,484, she now gets the equivalent pay of P32,114, or a measly increase of P630 a month.

We cannot begrudge if certain people see Hidilyn’s victory over her arch Chinese weightlifter rival as some sort of symbolic of our country’s contest with Beijing in our overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea. Others saw it as representing our country’s victory at The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration that ruled in favor of our West Philippine Sea against Beijing’s “9-dash line” claims and other claimant countries in South China Sea.

Looking at it that way would be straying away from the friendship, neutrality and peaceful co-existence that Olympics sports competitions seek to foster among nations. In fact, Hidilyn’s weightlifting Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen is also being attacked by his own countrymen for helping her win the Olympic gold over China’s own bet Liao Qiuyun.

But it is over-stretching Hidilyn’s Olympic victory to geo-politics level when there should be none.

Just a day after her Olympic gold victory, an old issue was also immediately dug up in most recent past when Hidilyn’s name cropped up in a controversial “matrix” of ouster plots supposedly against President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019. Subsequently, Hidilyn was cleared.

No less than President Duterte saluted Hidilyn to honor her feat as an enlisted PAF Airwoman. In the same virtual meeting with Hidilyn, the Chief Executive awarded her a house and lot in Zamboanga and P3 million cash from Malacañang. “Let bygones be bygones,” President Duterte told Hidilyn.

It was then presidential spokesman and concurrent chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo who presented the “matrix” to media. She admitted she got hurt by the bashing and death threats the “matrix” caused her. “I moved forward already. I would rather have peace of mind. As long as I know what is the truth. That’s more important to me. I choose to forgive,” Hidilyn retorted in Tagalog.

What is more hideous and sinister are the on-going attempts by some traditional politicians to ride on Hidilyn’s Olympic victory. Let’s just call them trapos because that’s what they are – filthy rugs. In apparent bid to stop their rivals from surely winning against them in upcoming electoral contests in our country in May 2022, these trapos through – their shadowy political operators – concoct and spread lies.

Their latest victim is Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte who has been quietly but effectively doing her work at City Hall without much fanfare. However, her laser-focused official activities and attention to implement anti-COVID measures in the most populous city of the national capital region are being taken advantage of.

Trapos wanting to wrest Mayor Belmonte’s office at Quezon City Hall have hired trolls to engage in smear drive in social media.

Posters of supposed Mayor Belmonte’s congratulatory message to Hidilyn’s Olympic victory were first posted. Naturally, those who do not know any better Mayor Belmonte made scurrilous comments in social media. Then, the same black propagandists came up with another social media post using the picture of Mayor Belmonte purportedly making a vehement denial at the expense of Hidilyn.

In a self-taken video sent to Mayor Joy, Hidilyn told her she could only relate with feeling as a fellow “victim of fake news.” “Hi, Ma’m Joy!…Basta malinis po ang konsensiya mo, okay po kayo sa tao at kay God,” a smiling Hidilyn assuaged the Mayor. Hidilyn thanked Mayor Belmonte for the prayers for her and other Filipino athletes still vying for Olympic medals.

There is a “Hidilyn Diaz” in every one of us Filipinos. Spoilers of our pride in finally achieving the national dream for the Olympic gold should not dampen our jubilation for Hidilyn. And cheer we will continue for our Filipino sports heroes still in the medal bids at the Tokyo Olympics.

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