THE Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association is hitting two birds with one stone as it stages the 12th South East Asia Youth Athletics Championships and the National Open Invitational Athletics Championships one after the other in March next year in Ilagan, Isabela.
The SEA Youth Athletics’ meet is set March 27 and 28 and features athletes 17-years-and-below from neighboring countries, while the National Open follows after from March 30 to April 2 and serves as the final tryout for local athletes seeking to compete in next year’s SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Both events will be held at the P250-million City of Ilagan Sports Complex.
The Patafa under president Dr. Philip Ella Juico and the the City of Ilagan, Isabela headed by Mayor Evelyn C. Diaz signed a Memorandum of Agreement for the hosting of the twin meets during Tuesday’s session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“This is the first time we’re holding the SEA Youth Athletics here and bringing it to Ilagan, Isabela is part of our mission of bringing the sport to the province,” said Juico, noting that Isabela has been a rich source of national athletes such as Lerma Bulauitan-Gabito. “At the same time, it’s a chance for us to see and experience top notch competitions.”
For her part, Mayor Diaz said: “This is a big challenge for all of us in the province of Ilagan, Isabela, but we’re confident of meeting the people’s expectations. We’re now in the process of completing all the necessary requirements needed to host the meet.”
Also present in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. were Patafa vice president Atty. Nicanor Sering and secretary-general Reynato Unso, Ilagan,Isabela top councilor Jayvee Diaz, who is also chairman of the province’s committee for sports development program, general services officer Ricky Lagui, and Patafa Region II director Drolly Claravall.
Juico said the hosting of the SEA Youth meet has been offered to the country as early as the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar. But owing to the national elections this year, the Patafa deemed it best to hold the event in the first quarter of next year.
Unso said 26 events are on tap for the SEA Youth trackfest, with 13 each for boys and girls, while the National Open offers 23 to 26 events, with the exception marathon and walkathon.
Lagui said Ilagan, Isabela has been known as the hub of athletics, taekwondo, baseball, and ballgames.
Mayor Diaz also added the province is very active in sports by participating in various athletic competitions, both national and regional scope. But other than its competitive nature, the lady executive said she wants Ilagan City to become the sports tourism hub in Northern Luzon.
She said the province has been home to a lot of tourism attractions, including the world’s largest armchair or butaka, the Ilagan Japanese tunnel, among others.
During the opening ceremony, Diaz said a giant corn-shaped torch will be used to emphasize the province’s reputation as the corn capital of the Philippines.
“This is going to be big,” admitted Juico. “Although Isabela is the corn capital of the Philippines, this is not going to be corny. This is going to be lively.”