Mimaropa swimmer juggles student-athlete-breadwinner roles

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – A disability is never a hindrance for people who use it as an inspiration.

Take for instance Arnold B. Asis, a 17-year-old swimming gold medalist with mild intellectual disability from Mimaropa, who is juggling a 3-part role as a student, an athlete, and his family's breadwinner.

Asis is a student of M. Adriatico SPED Center inside Adriatico Memorial Elementary School. He was discovered as a potential athlete by his 36-year-old coach, Hermarie O. Salazar, who was impressed with his swimming skills.

Asis, who lives in the seaside area of Tibag, Calapan City, won two gold medals and one silver at last year's Palarong Pambansa, competing in the 50-meter backstroke, freestyle and breaststroke events.

But more than being a student-athlete, Asis is also supporting his family.

Born the 5th child in a brood of 13, Asis is counted on to work hard to help his family's everyday needs. His parents are in between jobs while his other siblings either already have families of their own or have stopped school. Two of his siblings have already passed away.

Asis attends school like any other teenager, but he also takes on a variety of jobs such as re-painting and cleaning tombs every All Souls' Day in November, helping carry packages to the market, and cleaning jobs.

Masasabi ko din na breadwinner, kasi bukod sa nag aaral siya nagtatrabaho pa siya,” Salazar emphasized. (I can say that he's a breadwinner, because aside from studying he is also working.)

Even as he tries to balance every aspect of his life, Asis never forgets to strive for excellence.

Lagi po mag training, at galingan po, at wag pong kabahan (Always train, and do your best, and don’t get nervous),” Asis shared his advice to fellow young athletes like himself.

He also never forgets to dedicate everything to his family.

Para po sa family ko, sa mga kapatid ko po at sa akin din po.” (For my family, my siblings and also for myself.) – with reports from MJ Gelit/Rappler.com

Mary Joy Gelit is a Rappler intern for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa and is studying at Bicol University.

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