Tears, triumph mix as Palaro heartbreak kid turns champion

Frank Cimatu
Tears, triumph mix as Palaro heartbreak kid turns champion
After years of trying, Erwin Mancao of Misamis Oriental finally bags a gold in athletics

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – Tears of frustration and joy rained on the running track of Quirino Stadium here in Bantay, Ilocos Sur on Thursday, April 19. 

In the morning, Erwin Mancao scored an upset, beating early favorite Eduard Josh Buenavista (who only placed 4th) in the 5,000-meter race.

After clocking 16:01.60, Mancao went down on all fours at the finish line, crawled and cried.

When his coach came to console him, Mancao could only say, “May pampagawa na kami ng bahay.” (We can now have our home fixed.)

The 17-year-old boy from Booc, Villanueva, Misamis Oriental said that this was his third try in the 5,000m in the Palaro.

I cried because I finally got it, he said in Filipino.

His mother is a domestic helper, while his father works in a coconut plantation. 

He said the money he was promised for his gold medal would be enough to finish their house.

Northern Mindanao promised P20,000 for every gold while DepEd Region X promised P3,500.

He said it’s enough to finish their house, but now they have a roof and four walls.

INCONSOLABLE. Ruwelyn Francisco, a 12-year-old runner from Negros Occidental, felt she let her team down. Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

A 12-year-old girl from Kabankalan, a little less than 130 cm. tall (4’3”), also tugged the heartstrings of the crowd who came to watch the 1,500-meter run for elementary girls. 

Southern Tagalog’s Realyn Sordilla won as the runner clocked under five minutes (4:59.08), but it was the girl numbered 675 who came in 27 seconds later for 7th place who cried like there was no tomorrow. 

Ruwelyn Francisco cried so hard that the other runners and her teammates tried to comfort her. She hugged her coach John Roger Mejica, still crying as they walked towards the bleachers. 

While going up the crowd, someone handed her a P1,000 bill but this didn’t stop her wailing. 

Minutes later, she did stop when her coach started telling her story. 

Emosyonal kasi iyan. Umiyak dahil parang hindi niya natulungan ang team (She’s emotional. She cried because she felt she didn’t help the team),” Mejica said. 

Francisco is the 5th of seven children of a farmer couple. Mejica, a teacher of the Magballo Elementary School in Kabankalan, said that Francisco walked three kilometers to their school everyday. That includes crossing a river. 

Kung tumataas ang tubig, di na siya nakakatawid. Naawa ako sa kanya kaya kinupkop ko (When the water rises, she could no longer cross. I pitied her so I adopted her),” Mejica said. 

One time in Grade IV, Ruwelyn saw her classmates practicing on the tracks and decided to be like them. 

Because of her size, she knew she can only count on her endurance. 

She tried to qualify for the 800m and 1,500m but repeatedly failed. It was only this year that she was able to qualify for the 1,500m. 

Next year, she will be competing in the secondary division where things would be more competitive. 

Ensayo muna (Practice first),” she said. – Rappler.com

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