LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Joseph N. Villareal, a grade 3 teacher at Maramba Elementary School in Oas town, used his own money to train “orthopedically handicapped” athletes for the Para Games or persons with disabilities (PWDs) event of the Palarong Pambansa.
The Para Games are the biggest national sporting event in the country for elementary and secondary student-athletes with disabilities.
Villareal is the trainer of two orthopedically impaired student athletes representing the Bicol region for the swimming competition.
He said they went through a week-long training at the Guinobatan sports complex without the help of the local government unit.
The school provided food and transportation allowance, while a complete set of uniforms was provided by the Department of Education regional office. The rest of the expenses were taken care of by Villareal.
The 26-year-old teacher served as big brother to PWD student-athletes. He carried 8-year-old amputee pupil Jeric Taladro during the course of training in Guinobatan town. He did this too for the duration of the week-long competition held at the Bicol University Sports Tourism Complex.
He trained grade 8 student, Jhon Paul R. Perneseta of Maramba National High School, and 8-year-old Jeric Taladro of Maramba Elementary School. Both schools are in Oas town.
Perneseta, an orthopedically-impaired athlete, bagged two silver medals in the Para Games swimming event – one for the 50-meter breast stroke and another for the 50-meter backstroke categories. He trained 5 days before the Para Games.
“I’m very happy because Jhon Paul showed off his prowess in the swimming competition under the orthopedically-impaired category despite not [having] enough training. Not bad for the neophyte. Next year we will aim for the gold,” Villareal said.
Taladro did not win but he was given 3 medals for finishing the swimming competition with a ranking category.
Out of 18,000 delegates from 18 regions, 684 are PWDs. Perneseta will be receiving P4,000 in cash from the Department of Education (DepEd) central office.
DepEd deputy secretary general Cesar S. Abalon said that 10 years after the inception of Para Games in the Palarong Pambansa, the department is giving cash incentives to PWD student athletes who win in the competition. DepEd is giving P3,000 for those who win gold, P2,000 for silver, and P1,000 for bronze.
He said that the department allotted P600,000 for PWD winners. “This is the first time that DepEd is giving cash incentives to student athletes belonging to SPED or PWDs. It will be giving similar cash incentives to winning regular student athletes,” Abalon said.
He said that next year more games for PWD-participants will be included in the annual Palarong Pambansa. The Palarong Pambansa Act encourages and promotes the participation of PWDs in mainstream sporting activities at all levels, and ensures that children with disabilities have equal access to play, recreation, leisure and sporting activities. – Rhaydz B. Barcia/Rappler