Showing too much class and superior skills, fifteen-year-old Donald Laurejas of Mandaluyong disposed of Rymwell Sagyawan of Itogon, Benguetin less than a minute in the final of their lightweight boxing in Batang Pinoy Luzon in Vigan City.
Mandaluyong City bagged eight of the 15 gold medals at staked in boxing and Laurejas is just one of the products of its excellently unique boxing program.
“Kinuha namin ang mga batang yan sa kalye, yung iba pagala-gala lang and yung iba nangangalakal ng bote. Iyun talaga ang goal namin, bawasan ang mga palaboy sa lansangan at bigyan sila ng pangarap,” said Ricardo Garcia, who acts as head coach of Team Mandaluyong boxing team.
Ricardo is ably aided by his wife, Maura, a public school teacher, in acting as parents to the boxing team members who are provided with food, shelter and allowances by the city government of Mandaluyong.
The children athletes are also scholars at the Andres Bonifacio Integrated School.
In beating his opponent, Laurejas used his height and reach advantage as well as his superior skills in serving notice to the referee to stop the fight for Referee-Stop-Contest win fight in the first round.
His trainer Steven Ramos, an ex-pro boxer, was all praises to his ward. “Masipag ang batang yan sa training, masunuring bata at may galaw na talaga yan, itinuro ko talaga ung experience ko sa pro.”
The other gold medalists for Mandaluyong team were John Vincent Odac, who dominated the bantamweight category, Remar Gomez (lightbantam), Roger Esclamado (light mostquito), Rommel Mercines (mosquito weight), Jessam Lagutap (light paperweight), B-boy Cenita (pinweight) and Nicky Boy Oladive (lightflyweight).
Ramos said they are investing in these children so they can compete in the Palaro and Batang Pinoy, which is the best showcase for grassroots talents, with the ultimate goal of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.
He said they will continue to train for the Batang Pinoy National finals where they will meet the champions from the Visayas and Mindanao regions to determine the best of the best.
The Luzon leg of Batang Pinoy attracted more than 3,000 athletes, all of them hoping to wear Team Philippines uniform in international competitions.
PSI and grassroots development
“We are always on the look-out for these young, potential athletes who will be included in our program. We consider their physicals aspects if they are really fit to their chosen sports,” said PSI’s deputy director for Grassroots Development, Marlon Malbog during the PSC-POC Media Group live sports chat.
The Philippine Sports Institute is holding a four-day sports science series, attended by more than 600 participants, at the Baluarte Function Hall, some kilometers meters away from the main hub of the Batang Pinoy meet, organized by the Philippine Sports Commission for athletes aged 15 years old and below.
Malbog said that aside from the regular schedules of the PSI in the provinces, the program is also doing seminars in two more places where Batang Pinoy eliminations will be held. Next stop is Dumaguete.
“We are there to check on the athletes’ physical attributes, like their wingspan, if they are fit to their chosen sport. Then we also look for coaches who will continue the training of the athletes,” Malbog added.
In Vigan, participants in the seminar were local executives, sports leaders, PE teachers, athletes or parents who participated in talks like Sports Nutrition, First Aid in Sports, Assessing Athletic Performance Among Children and Sports Psychology.
Another prized find in Batang Pinoy Luzon is Jalil Taguinod, who at won five gold medal medals in swimming.
The sixth grader at Infant Jesus Montessori School topped the 12-under 50-meter, 100m and 200m breaststrokes, 50m backstroke and the 200m individual medley.
What’s exciting about this kid is that he already stands 5-foot-9 at the age of 11. He looks physically strong despite suffering his battle with asthma.
“Kaya po ako pinag swimming dahil po asthma ko. Pero dahil nananalo na po ako, tuloy tuloy na po,” said Taguinod, who will have his first competition wearing the Philippine team uniform in the Southeast Asian Age-group competition in Brunei in November.
Another swimmer, Samantha Coronel, is showing big promise. The Colegio de San Agustin student bagged four gold medals by winning the 15-years under girls 15-under 50m butterfly, 100m and 200m and 50m backstroke events.
With the full support of his father, a retired banker, she vowed to purse her dream of making it to the national team.
“Pangarap po talaga yan ng bawat atleta. Pero marami pa pong dapat gawin,” added Coronel whose best performance at the pool so far was when she broke the national juniors record in the 50m backstroke.
Coronel is being coached by Paralympics swimmer Arnel Aba. “He really motivates us and lagi niya sinasabi na siya nga isa lang paa and malayo ang narating, kami pa na kumpleto.”
In athletics, Jason Jabol and Charles Andy Antones are emerging forces in track in field.
Jabol won four gold medals including the 15-under 200-meter run, boys’ long jump and team relays.
One of ten children from a poor family in Camarines, Jabol said he pursue his dreams to help his family and give them better life.
“Gusto ko pong tulungan ang pamilya ko kaya nagpupursige po ako para manalo,” said Jabol, who represents Dasmarinas City, Cavite.
Like Jabol, Tandones comes from a poor family. The son of the tricycle drive and plain housewife, has no idea of what he entered into.
“Basta po sabi ng coach ko, focus ako sa jump events, especially sa triple jump.”
Probably, his coach saw tremendous potential in his height. Tandones, who stands 5-8 at age 14, topped the boys’ triple jump without much opposition.
Another gem of an athlete just waiting to unleash her full potential is Jochelle Alvarez from Pila, Laguna.
The 14-year-old student at Colegio Monterey de Pila dominated the 13-15 girls’s singles and doubles event in the badminton competition of Batang Pinoy Luzon.
Standing 5-5 at her young age, Alvarez is taller than her colleagues at Whackers Club Academy. She was actually a member of the national juniors pool for one year but she moved out to focus on her studies in Laguna.
“Focus po kasi talaga sa training sa national team and kailangan mag stay palagi sa Manila. Studies po muna ako sa Laguna,” said Alvarez, who idolizes Thai world champion Rathanok Intannon.
She has no immediate plan of rejoining the national team but will continue to compete in the national level.
If there’s any possible way to have in the national team without leaving her hometown, she may just give it a shot.
After all, for an athlete, there is no greater glory than playing for the country. With reports from Clarisse Ramirez