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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Tough life in Tondo made me stronger, says Obiena

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There was a time when amid EJ Obiena’s struggles to make it big in the world stage of pole vault, near-irresistible offers poured in for him to switch to another country.

But then the scenes of his daily life–as a lanky teenager growing up in the notoriously rough neighborhood of Tondo in Manila–flashed before him.

A couple of years later, he is standing before his countrymen, glorious in a flurry of victories—the latest of which was achieved in Hangzhou, China where he topped the best of the best in the quadrennial Asian Games.

“I think I need to go back to understand why I decided to stick with the Philippines even though it was probably not the decision that would make sense around that time,” said Obiena, a scholar alumnus of the Chiang Kai Shek College in Tondo.

“But then I remember me and my mom, walking around these streets and getting signatures for my scholarship back in high school. Being a Filipino, growing up in Tondo, commuting in a jeep every single day at 7 in the morning, made me who I am.”

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On Tuesday, a few days after he was honored by his alma mater, the Asian gold medalist received from the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry the promised P5-million support cash incentives for his recent golden victory in the Asian Games.

Asian Games gold medallist Ernest John Obiena was given a special gift of support worth P5M by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc., led by President Dr. Cecilio Pedro.

“The reason I achieved what I achieved is the people who stuck with me and raised me. And the community.”

Many times, Obiena said he was asked by his Ukrainian pole vault coach Vitaly Petrov, what keeps him going.“I am a Filipino; I grew up in worse things and I was not very privileged growing up. I guess that made me a little bit tougher.”

The FFCCCI’s P5-million gift was apart from the P5 million he received from other Filipino-Chinese donors, P1 million from FFCCCII honorary executive adviser Carlos Chan of Oishi Snacks/Liwayway Group, P3 million from Chiang Kai Shek College and P1 million from philanthropist Anson Tan.

FFCCCII president Dr. Cecilio Pedro led the handing out of the cash gift to Obiena in a ceremony held at its headquarters in Binondo.

Pedro congratulated Obiena “for bringing glory to the Philippines and honor to the Filipino-Chinese community.”

“EJ Obiena is our Filipino Chinese community’s contribution to the Philippines, exemplifying our ‘Dugong Tsino, Pusong Pinoy’ of cherishing our ethnic Chinese heritage and, at the same time, being full-pledged Filipino citizens helping Philippine progress.”

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