ILOCOS SUR, Philippines- Coming all the way from Tacurong City in the province of Sultan Kudarat, Palarong Pambansa 2018 arnis gold medalists Princes Sheryl Valdez and Andrei Fritz Justine Alcarioto held the same inspiration to win in the largest sports meet in the country: their family.
The two secured a combined total of 6 gold medals, placing Soccsksargen region at the top of the medal board halfway through Day 2 of Palaro.
Amid all the glory, the two young athletes dedicated their wins to their parents, especially their fathers who, they said, were suffering from sickness.
Valdez, the youngest of three children, said her father has Parkinson's disease, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system.
She said she hopes to one day help her father with his medication, aside from making him proud of her achievements in arnis.
Yet, the the 11-year-old athlete has already helped her family through her victories in last year's Palaro. After winning 3 gold medals, Valdez and her sister Shena May who was also an arnis performer were able to raise P100,000 from incentives.
Her trainer, perennial winning coach Ryan Muyco, said this amount helped them buy a tricycle which now helps provide additional income for Valdez's family.
This year, Valdez has won 4 gold medals, besting her own feat in Antique last year.
She has won gold medals in arnis individual espada y daga, individual single weapon, individual double weapon, and synchronized or team single weapon.
"Proud po ako dahil nandito ako sa Palaro. Masaya ako kahit po na minsan pagod ako sa practice," Valdez said.
(I am proud because I am here in Palaro. I am happy even though sometimes I am tired during practice.)
Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler
Like Valdez, Alcarioto dedicated his wins to his father who was diagnosed to have kidney stones.
His coach, Marivic Celetaria, said the young arnis player just learned of his father's condition during the Sockssargen Regional Athletic Association (RSRAA) meet as the family purposely hid from him details of the situation because it might affect his performance.
"Sabi niya sa amin, bakit hindi raw namin sinabi agad pero naramdaman niya na may sakit yung tatay niya," Celetaria said.
(He asked why did we not tell him immediately. She, however, said he was already feeling that something is wrong with his father.)
Alcarioto said his father served as his inspiration during his training in the months leading to Palaro.
"Inspirasyon ko ang pamilya ko sa training ko. Minsan, nakakapagod, nakakatamad magtraining. Masaya po ako dahil last year one gold lang po, ngayon, dalawa na po," Alcarioto said.
(My family was my inspiration in my training. Sometimes, I feel tired, I feel lazy to train. I am happy because I got two gold medals time, compared to one gold last year.)
The 12-year old Arnis performer has won gold medals in individual single weapon and espada y daga.
With their families as their inspiration, the two were able to endure months of after-school practice every day, from 4 am to 5 am, and whole-day training during weekends.
After all the hard work, both are now competing in their second year in the annual sports event. Valdez will have a third shot in Palaro next year as she turns to grade six.
The two young performers also hail from the same school, Isabela Central Elementary School which has been defending champions of arnis elementary division from 2011-2015, and 2017-2018.
Now performing at the most prestigious sports event in the country, the two have set clear goals: earn more medals and make their families, their inspirations, proud. – Rappler.com