Joe Datuin’s Olympic gold
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Joe Datuin is not an athlete. But he is one of a very small number of Filipinos who have won the highest prize in an Olympic competition. In fact, he is the only Filipino in his field to have done so. 

In 2008, in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics, Datuin joined the International Olympic Committee Sport and Art Competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. His entry, “Dancing Rings” was proclaimed Grand Prize Winner in the Sculpture Category. The award came with $30,000. It was the dream of a lifetime for the former art director and graphic artist.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Datuin told The Star. “When I was onstage receiving the award, I could see all those great artists from around the world looking on. It was a great honor.”

Wanting to keep the momentum going and win back to back, Datuin competed again four years later. His piece for the London Olympics contest in 2012, “Time To Shine” was again a finalist. The robotic piece combined equipment from several sports, forming an athlete ready to leap into action. Miniatures of both acclaimed pieces face each other proudly in the lobby of the Philippine Olympic Committee office.

The creative process itself is quite tedious. There are no prototypes; each design is unique. The artist creates a miniature of the proposed piece to present to his client. But along the way, he is often unsatisfied with the initial sculpture, so he changes it, resulting in several pieces that no one will ever see or appreciate. And remember, Datuin works with stainless steel, so the process of shaping the metal, welding, cleaning and finishing is the same for each piece.

“It really evolves,” Datuin says. “There’s always something to add to make it better, more appropriate, until you feel it’s perfect.”

Since 1977, Datuin’s works have been exhibited in galleries all over North America and Asia. Even more impressive is his list of unique works crafted in sports. In 1981, he designed the logo of Project: Gintong Alay, the precursor of the Philippine Sports Commission. He also was design consultant for the 1981 Southeast Asian Games. He designed and sculpted the trophies for UAAP Season 79. In addition, he designed the unforgettable trophies of Chino Trinidad’s “Pagpupugay” Awards, honoring the legends of Philippine sports. Joe has also made trophies for the Philippine Bowling Federation (PBF) for the last two years. Most remarkable of all, one of his graphic designs was used as one of the official posters of the Moscow Olympics.

Joe has also received the “Ani ng Dangal” Award from the Office of the President, The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) award from the Jaycees Senate, and awards from the City of Manila and his home province of Pangasinan.

So what’s next for Joe Datuin? A second landmark in Luneta, a tribute to Overseas Filipino Workers, which he hopes can become the country’s landmark after Rizal’s monument. But he also longs to build an edifice immortalizing Filipino athletes. 

“Filipino athletes also sacrifice so much,” he declares. “I’d be happy to continue helping honor them.”

Amen to that.

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