Despite the pandemic and the emerging new variants of the COVID-19, The ongoing Tokyo Olympic games 2020 have made quite the headlines in the Philippine news recently. Not because of bad news but because we now have our first Filipino Olympic Gold medalist.
Before we proceed on celebrating the trending news, we know that All of our athletes have worked hard since they were young until they earned their medals. Upon knowing our athletes’ life and hardship, you will surely feel their motivation, diligence, and sense of responsibility.
The Olympics is a leading international sports event held in a designated country every 4 years. This is where thousands of athletes around the world meet and compete in different events and competitions.
There are a total of 67 Olympic Sports and some of the anticipated events are boxing, volleyball, and athletics. The Philippines began participating in the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris with 14 medals in the record.
Before qualifying for the Olympics, athletes must undergo excessive training and must first qualify for the Philippines National Team. Today, let us learn the lives of 12 Medalists who brought honor to our country.
1. Teófilo E. Yldefonso
Teofilo Yldefonso was born on November 5, 1903 in Piddig, Ilocos Norte. At age 18, he joined the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts of the United States Army in which he was exposed to swimming. He started joining regional meets in 1923 and earned a total of 144 medals until 1937.
He joined the Men’s 200-meter breaststroke at the Far Eastern Games in 1923, 1927, 1930, and 1934 and brought home gold medals. He competed at the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics and he both won a bronze medal for the country. He was the first Filipino Olympic medalist and brought joyous occasions for the Philippines to celebrate until today. He also competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics and placed seventh in the competition.
Yldefonso’s swimming style brought a new age to the swimming competition and was labeled as “The Father of the Modern Breaststroke”. He popularized a new style for breaststroke that is closer to the surface of the water rather than underwater which became standard practice in swimming until today.
Being the first Filipino Olympic Medalist and Bringing honor to his beloved country did not stop by bringing home a medal. In World War II, Yldefonso became a lieutenant and fought against the Japanese. He survived the Bataan Death March in 1942 but later died at the Capas Concentration Camp from the effects of an injury caused by shrapnel. Despite dying for the country, his remains were never discovered and no grave was given for him.
2. Simeon Galvez Toribio
Simeon Galvez Toribio was born on September 3, 1905, in Zamboanga, Philippines. He participated in Men’s high jump at the Far Eastern Games in 1921, 1923, 1927, 1930 and 1934, and brought home 5 gold medals. He also competed in Men’s high jump at 1928, 1932, and 1936 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal in 1932 for the country.
Toribio was awarded as the “Asian’s Greatest Athlete ” in 1930. He was the second Filipino Olympic medalist and the first at the high jump competition. During his childhood, he was a member of the track and field team competing at their school meets, provincial, regional, and later international meets.
Toribio studied at Silliman University and became a civil engineer. After his retirement, he served in several positions at the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation. You will clearly see the love he has for the Philippines as he served as Congressional representative for the Second District of Bohol from 1941 to 1953. During the Japanese occupation, he served as First Lieutenant in Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Price Ramsey’s guerrillas operating in Bulacan and Central Luzon.
3. José Luis Villanueva
José Luis Villanueva was born on March 19, 1913 in Binondo, Manila. He competed in Men’s bantamweight at the 1932 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal. He became a boxing trainer afterward. He trained Flash Elorde and his son Anthony who won the country’s first silver Olympic medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics.
4. Miguel S. White
Miguel S. White was born on October 9, 1909, in Legazpi, Albay. He joined the Men’s 400 meters Hurdles at the Far Eastern Games in 1930 and 1934 in which he won bronze and gold respectively. He competed in his specialty, Men’s 400 Metres Hurdles at the 1936 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal for the country.
White was a military scout and just like Yldefonso, he joined the 52nd Infantry Regiment and became a lieutenant. In August 1942 he was killed in action in the battle with the Japanese. Both White and Yldenfonso lived and died for their country, the Philippines.
5. Anthony N. Villanueva
Anthony N. Villanueva was born on March 18, 1945. He started boxing at an early age with his father, José Luis Villanueva, as a trainer. Boxing was in his blood because after gaining his Philippine amateur title, he was selected to be part of the Philippine National Team in 1962. He competed in the Men’s featherweight division at the 1964 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal. He was the first Filipino to win a silver Olympic medal.
After his career in boxing, he became an actor with 5 movies. In 1976, he went to the United States to earn a living. He worked as a security guard at the Philippine consulate in New York and a boxing coach at private gyms. He returned to the Philippines in 1988 to assist the Philippine national boxing team coach for preparation for the 1988 Summer Olympics. Villanueva was a full pledge tamaraw and received awards from Far Eastern University (FEU) after winning the Olympics.
6. Leopoldo Serantes
Leopoldo Serantes was born on March 15, 1962. He won a gold medal in the Men’s Light flyweight division 1985 Southeast Asian Games. With Anthony Villanueva as his head coach, he was able to bring home a bronze Olympic medal in the Men’s light flyweight division 1988 Summer Olympics.
In January 2021, he was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Philippine Veterans Hospital due to a pulmonary heart ailment. In April 2021, he was again in the intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Philippine Veterans Hospital fighting for his life against the coronavirus or COVID 19.
7. Roel Velasco
Roel Velasco was on born June 26, 1969 in Bago, Negros Occidental. He won a bronze medal in Men’s Light flyweight division at the 1992 Summer Olympics. In the same year and same event, he won gold at the 1992 Asian Amateur Boxing Championships.
He scored another gold at the 1997 Muhamad Ali Invitational Boxing Championships, silver at the 1997 World Amateur Championships, and bronze at the 1998 Goodwill games. Velasco retired in 2001 and became a boxing trainer to younger boxers. He is currently working as a coach to the Philippine Boxing team and serving the Philippine Navy with the rank of Petty Officer First Class.
8. Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco Jr.
Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco Jr. was born on January 10, 1974, in Bago, Negros Occidental. He is the little brother of Roel Velasco, a bronze Olympic medalist. He competed in Men’s light flyweight division 1994 Asian Games and won a gold medal. In the same category, he competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal.
His older brother, Roel Velasco, also won a bronze medal for the Philippines. Despite being athletic, he retired from boxing due to a lack of government support. He pursued an acting career as a comedian to financially support his family, appearing in multiple sitcoms and movies together with Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.
According to him, as of 2021, not all of the pledges he received upon winning the 1996 Summer Olympics have materialized. Even the house and lot he received as a reward was not in his name and requested a transfer immediately because he feared that they would be cast out of their own home, he said in an interview.
9. Carlo Paalam
Carlo Paalam was born on July 16, 1998, in Talakag, Bukidnon. As early as 7 years old, he got his first boxing win in a backyard box march and his winnings were used to feed his family. He also experienced working as a scavenger at a landfill in the city. By joining multiple Boxing at the Park boxing march, he was scouted by the local officials and placed under Cagayan De Oro’s boxing training program in 2009.
He joined the Philippine National Team in 2013 and competed in international events. He won bronze in the light flyweight division at the Asian Games in 2018 and a gold at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
In this Tokyo Olympics 2020, Paalam had recently became as an additonal to Filipino Olympic Medalists as he was able to bag a silver medal.
10. Nesthy Alcayde Petecio
Nesthy Alcayde Petecio was born on April 11, 1992 in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur. She won a silver medal in Women’s featherweight at the 2020 Summer Olympics making her the first woman in the Philippines to become a Filipino Olympic Medalist in boxing.
Prior to winning her Olympic medal, she competed in several international sports events and won a total of 8 medals. She and her siblings were trained by her father at an early age as a means for self-defense. Despite having a keen interest in basketball, she was drawn to boxing as she watched her father train her siblings.
Their family took up the sport as a way to earn extra income. Together with her siblings, they would compete in inter-barangay competitions because they knew, whether they win or lose, they would get meals.
At age 11, she competed at a boxing match in Araw ng Davao in Rizal where she was discovered. In 2007, she joined the national boxing team with Roel Velasco, the 1992 bronze Olympic medalist, as their coach. Nesthy is awarded at least a P17 million cash, condominium unit, house and lot, and free flights.
11. Eumir Felix de los Santos Marcial
Eumir Felix de los Santos Marcial was born on October 29, 1995, in Zamboanga City. He competed in the Men’s middleweight division at the 2020 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal.
Eumir Marcial is one of the most recent Filipino Olympic Medalist as he bagged his bronze medal just last August 7, 2021. Prior to the 2020 Summer Olympics, he won the 2011 International Boxing Association Junior World Championships, a gold medal in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, and a silver medal in the ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships.
He received an award in 2014 as Best Asia Youth Boxer of the Year. Upon winning the 2020 Summer Olympics, he was awarded at least P7 million cash and free flights.
12. Hidilyn Francisco Diaz
Hidilyn Francisco Diaz was born on February 20, 1991, in Zamboanga City. The first Filipino to win a gold medal for the country. As of now, her win and personal life are controversial as all Filipinos would want to know who she is. Prior to winning her gold medal in the Women’s 53 kg division at the 2020 Summer Olympics, she won a silver medal in the same category at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Diaz also participated in multiple contests and international sports events such as Asian Games, World Cup, and World Championship where she won 5 medals. She has been serving in the Philippine task force since 2013 and her current rank is Staff Sergeant. She received two awards in her service, Military Merit Award, and Presidential Citation Unit Badge.
In 2017, she was awarded Athlete of the Year. You can know more about her as her life was dramatized in an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya. Upon winning the Olympic gold medal, Diaz received multiple awards and pledges from different public officials, business tycoons, and private companies.
She was awarded a P43.5 million cash along with free fuel for life, free flights, condominium unit, and house and lot. She became instantly famous in social media as her rewards were announced.
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Upon knowing facts about our Olympic medalists, you will surely feel the love they have not just for their sports, but their home country, the Philippines. May their hard work sparked national awareness for building more facilities and funds for our Philippines National Teams. May they serve as aspirations for young Filipinos, to think, to work, and to dream like them.
This is not just about their dream, but everyone’s dream. Their success is not for them alone, but for the whole country as well. As all the Filipino athletes work together to build more opportunity and strength for those who wished to be an athlete in the Philippines, let us help them to build a community where they are prioritized, honored, and loved. They surely waved our flag in an international sports event. Hearing and singing our national anthem makes every Filipino proud. Mabuhay kayo!
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Written by Ericka Claire P. Glean