LINGAYEN, Pangasinan - 13 year old swimmer Shermalyn Jalmaani was raised in a poor community in Zamboanga City and dreams of becoming a nurse.
Her dad, a 3-time olympian swimmer, encouraged her to try competitive swimming and be a state scholar.
Shermalyn is part of the elementary girl's swimming team of the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Like many athletes from poor families, she sees sports as the key to staying in school.
Her dad, she says, is both her critic and fan.
Sabi nya mag swim ka na para makapunta ka sa ibat ibang lugar. Lagi nya sinabsabi sa akin, dapat daw ipokus-ipokus ang breast, kasi daw mahilig sya sa breast stroke.
REGION 9 ELEMENTARY SWIMMING TEAM
Shermalyn's coach, Goff Leroy is also a former Olympian.
He and Shermalyn's dad were both part of the legendary Jolo swimmers who representing the country in the Olympics in the 60s and 70s.
The story in the early 60s, to go to the Manila, it's a magical, magical name to us, Manila. Because even then it was hard to go to Manila. Like old swimmers who have been to Manila, telling us this and that, we were enganyo (encouraged) to train. So train hard and make it to Manila. From Jolo, swimmers go straight to Manila. And most of us training 2-3 years, Olympian immediately.
COACH, REGION 9 ELEMENTARY SWIMMING TEAM
But with the infamous 1974 Jolo burning, the careers of the home-grown swimmers also ended.
Leroy poured his frustration into training new swimmers hoping the new generation would live up to their legacy.
But the lack of support remains a major setback.
The local culture also gets in the way of discovering athletes.
LEROY: I'm not sure of the date, DepEd of ARMM forbid Muslim swimmers to compete.
DAVID SANTOS: Why?
LEROY: Because un-Muslim daw mga dresses.
LEROY: Until now there is no swimmer from ARMM.
SANTOS: For girls?
LEROY: Both boys and girls.
Shermalyn is a Muslim, but she joined Zamboanga Peninsula where the outfit is not an issue.
A Manila school has offered her a scholarship but her dad reportedly turned it down.
Shermalyn won a silver in last year's Palaro and hopes to do better this year.
Coach Goff is banking on her skills, and her genes, to bring honor to her region.
David Santos, Rappler, Pangasinan. - Rappler.com
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