God was in Tokyo, not at the SONA

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Yes, God was at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, specifically at the weightlifting competitions, where a small (4’11”) 30-year-old Roman Catholic Philippine Air Force sergeant was trying to lift not just the weights with her hands but the collective prayers and expectations of an entire nation with her heart. All 109 million pandemic-distressed Filipinos back home needed a jab of hope that in the end everything will be all right.

Standing in her way in the top five were a Chinese, a Kazakh, an Uzbek, and a Turkmen. Of the five, only Hidilyn knew how to make the sign of the cross, in prayer and in thanks. If God had any biases, you know where they lie. And so the fifth of six children of a Zamboanga man who juggled driving a tricycle, farming, and fishing to make ends meet never failed but once in all her lifting attempts.

For Hidilyn, who herself weighs only 54.90 kgs, to lift an Olympic record total of 224 kgs (97 kgs in snatch, 127 kgs in clean and jerk) or four times her own body weight, she clearly must have had some help. And when she made that sign of the cross following her successful final lift that pushed her beyond reach of her closest rival, you knew immediately deep inside you who she was giving thanks to.

Over in Manila, 3,046 kilometers by air south of Tokyo, specifically at the Batasang Pambansa where Hidilyn's 76-year-old president Rodrigo Roa Duterte was delivering his final State of the Nation Address, God maintained only a passive presence, if at all. Everything was somber, no electrifying ripple in the air. There were just too many words that kill flying from the rostrum that even God probably had to make an exception of omnipresence.

Had God wanted to be at the Batasan it would have been so easy to synchronize Hidilyn's performane with Duterte's SONA. What a great morale booster it would have been if, while rambling through his speech, an aide would slip Duterte a note that Hidilyn had won for the Philippines its first Olympic gold. Duterte probably would have dropped to his knees in random thanksgiving.

That would have made God wince, being placed in an awkward position. So Hidilyn's winning performance came an hour or two after the SONA and I think I know exactly why. While I don’t think God will abandon Duterte but will ultimately save him, he would prefer to be in Tokyo where his creation, in all of their sizes, shapes and strengths, all strive to make a good accounting of their God-given skills even if many thank him not.

You know where God tilted the scales in favor of Hidilyn? He gave Hidilyn the luck of the draw, so that she would come right after her main rival from China. The Chinese lifter and Hidilyn squared off in an engaging tit-for-tat, adding weight after weight after each successful lift of the other. But since the Chinese had to go first before the Filipina, it meant Hidilyn always had the advantage of a final try the Chinese would no longer be able match.

Tied at 97 kgs in the snatch, China and the Philippines went step by step up the dizzying heights of the weights ladder. Liao Qiuyun went for a final lift of 126 kgs in the clean and jerk and made it with ease. Hidilyn went for a kilo higher at 127. She wavered a bit but her heart didn't and she made it. With no more return for China. The Pinoy announcer was shouting and crying. My wife and I turned to each other and didn't realize we, too, were.

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