Mary Joy Tabal seeks national team reinstatement for SEA Games

Mars G. Alison
Mary Joy Tabal seeks national team reinstatement for SEA Games
'I’m still hoping they can accept me to represent the country for the SEA Games,' said a tearful Tabal

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Filipina Olympic marathoner Mary Joy Tabal is working on getting reinstated to the national track and field team after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) dropped her from the list of athletes who will be competing in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

“I’m still hoping they can accept me to represent the country for the SEA Games,” said a tearful Tabal. 

In a press conference last Monday, June 5, PATAFA president Philip Ella “Popoy” Juico expressed his dislike of Tabal, saying that she does not follow rules. PATAFA had taken issue to Tabal refusing to train in Manila. They have also accused Tabal of not showing enough respect by sowing division among the team and criticizing PATAFA.  

Tabal has until June 15 to make it to the final list for the Philippines’ representation to the upcoming SEA Games, to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this coming August.

Tabal arrived late last night from Canada wherein she posted a new Philippine record of 1:16:27 after topping the Scotia Bank Ottawa Half Marathon.

The 27-year-old Cebuana, her coach John Philip Dueñas, and main sponsor MotorAce Philippines Inc., headed by its president Jonel Borromeo, said they were blindsided by PATAFA’s decision because they had believed in an ABS-CBN report that came out in April, which stated that she and Eric Shaun Cray are shoo-ins for the SEAG list.

Prior to that, they have also exchanged emails with PATAFA since August of last year, the first time that the athletics governing body ended Tabal’s membership to the national team after she crossed the finish line in the marathon event of the Rio Olympics.

This was shared by Borromeo and Dueñas during a press conference, Tuesday, June 6, which was supposed to be a congratulatory event for Tabal’s achievement in Canada. Instead it became a venue for her group to answer questions regarding PATAFA’s exclusion of the Cebuano Olympian from the SEAG. (Rio 2016 profile: Mary Joy Tabal)

“There are certain rules that PATAFA wanted Joy (Tabal) to follow of which she was trying to find another way. At the end of the day, training is still training. If you achieved your objectives by training in a different format, then so be it,” said Borromeo.

Fighting tears, Tabal admitted that she was shocked by PATAFA’s move because she thought that everything was already okay between them and the Philippines’ governing body for athletics.

Prior to competing in Canada, MotorAce had sent Tabal to Italy for training. The group said that they had planned to present her achievement in Canada to PATAFA to support her request to be reinstated to the national team, then send her back to Italy to train for another two months, all in preparation for the SEA Games.

Despite PATAFA’s decision, Tabal’s group said they will continue their plan to send a letter to PATAFA asking them to reconsider their decision and allow her to compete.

Commissioner Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), who was also present during the press conference, said that the Cebu City Council is also coming up with a resolution asking PATAFA the same.

Borromeo said that he hadn’t taken much issue when PATAFA dropped Tabal from the national team after the Rio Olympics because he had believed that his group would be conducting several more meetings with PATAFA with regards to Tabal’s status following the Olympics.

“Prior to the Rio Olympics, I had several meetings with Juico and the one we had to discuss was what we will do after Rio,” Borromeo said.

The MotorAce Kawasaki Team president said that they have also discussed about having Tabal dropped from the team after the Olympics and then working on getting her reinstated again.

Dueñas added that he had also submitted a report of Tabal’s performance in the Olympics prior to PATAFA dropping her.

In September, Tabal’s group met again with PATAFA wherein the athletics governing body laid out the conditions for Tabal’s reinstatement and one of those was having the Olympian train in Manila and Baguio.

Dueñas had asked then if they can work together by allowing Tabal to have her base training in Cebu and her peak training in Manila the same as what Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao does wherein he has his base training in General Santos.

Fernandez said he cannot see why Tabal is not allowed to train where she wants when other athletes like Cray are allowed to train in their respective places.

From October until December, Dueñas had given PATAFA all that they asked such as the training program of Tabal which included MotorAce’s plans of sending her to either Italy, Kenya, Japan, or Australia.

Unfortunately, they had not received any response regarding Tabal’s training program. 

The group further believed that their relationship was on a mend because prior to the April report of ABS-CBN, Juico also announced during the PSA Annual Awards in February, where Tabal was a major awardee, that she will be representing the country in the SEA Games. 

However, should things not favor Tabal, Borromeo said they have also prepared for such eventuality.

Said Borromeo: “We’re looking at the SEA Games in the hopes of PATAFA reinstating her. Now, if that does not happen because we don’t know how it is going to go, if that does not happen, I’ve already talked to Joy and Philip that we can always look for other bigger races to actually join. So it is not really the end of the line.”

“The SEA Games is what I call an honorable run because you’re representing a population of 90 million. If for whatever reason the governing body who will be allowing the athletes to race think that she is not fit to run for the country then so be it, nothing we can do about it. But, it is not the end of the line for her career as a marathoner. There are plenty of other runs that she will attend and still continue,” Borromeo added.

He also said that there are plans after the SEA Games or before the SEA Games depending on how PATAFA will make a move. “If PATAFA says go ahead, yes we will take you in, you will run in the SEA Games then it will be the SEA Games, but if it’s not that then it may be other races.” 

As for Tabal, she believes that she will eventually recover from this latest debacle because she has been through this before. Her issue with PATAFA started back in 2015.

“I’ll get over it. Siguro karon mas makaya ra ni nako (maybe now I can handle it better). I have become a better person and I’ve been through this and I overcame those circumstances and karon pa nga (now) I got a lot of support. I’m very happy also that I’ll be going out to train again at least ma divert ko (I can divert it), so it will be easier for me. I think this will also give me more motivation to do better.” –

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