CAMIGUIN, Philippines – Close to 4 thousand athletes and at least a thousand support staff, coaches, referrees, and sports regulators arrived in this island for a week of friendly athletic and arts meet of the Mindanao Association of State Tertiary Schools, Inc. (MASTS) on Saturday, November 23, at the Pedro P. Romualdo Memorial Sports Complex in Mambajao, Camiguin.
MASTS, Inc. is an organization of 31 state-funded institutions of higher education in Mindanao which is part of the larger State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA) that organizes the athletic programs of SUCs.
The annual friendship games marks its 30th year with the theme “MASTS at 30: A legacy of leadership, unity and passion through sports, cultures and the arts.”
The MASTS games will run from November 23-29, with 24 sports events, dance competition, performing arts, literary, pageant, musical, and visual arts competitions.
MASTS president and Western Mindanao State University president Dr. Milabel Enriquez-Ho said that the support of the the SUCs made it possible for MASTS to continue its grassroots sports and athletic programs.
“We have 29 out of 31 SUCs participating in this year’s event. This is the time where we express the holistic aim of all SUCs to provide education and training together with sports. MASTS 2019 friendship games call for solidarity, unity,” Enriquez-Ho said.
Government funds MASTS being a SUCs event while the schools shoulder the expenses of the student-athletes.
“What we have is pocket money from our parents. Everything is provided for us by the school,” one student told Rappler.
Make lasting memories, create new friends
Camiguin Island Representative Xavier Jesus Romualdo, himself an avid basketball player and a former student-athlete, urged the students to make lasting memories and create new friends.
“My fondest memories when I was a student-athlete was when we had out of town games and competitions like this. These experiences allowed us to play at higher levels of competition and thus become better athletes,” Romualdo said.
Romualdo added that sports events allow the athletes to bond and grow closer as a team.
“This is really the great thing about sports, the arts, and competition- they have this unique power to bring us closer together if even we come from very diverse backgrounds. They have a way of changing our hearts and opening up ourselves to others in ways that maybe business or politics cannot,” Romualdo said.
“When you see these groups of young people with different backgrounds coming from different provinces and communities competing and playing the right way and celebrating each other, that shows us something about what Mindanao is, and what we can be,” Romualdo added.
Sports as catalyst for peace
Camiguin Gov. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said that the MASTS games will be a sort of “prelude” to the SEA Games, and is the best time to show to other Asian nations that the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, is peaceful contrary to the impression that it is a haven for violent extremism and armed insurgency in the southern part of the country.
“This proves that peace can be achieved, that there is no need for violence. Why fight when we can be diplomatic? If you can talk, then do it. If you want to enjoy sports or tourism, then promote it,” the governor said during the opening ceremonies Friday evening.
Camiguin first bid to host MAST in 2017 but failed to get the honor. This is the first time that a MAST game is held in an island province.
Gov. Romualdo said that he felt sentimental seeing the athletes from across Mindanao together in a single event.
“We proved that we can do it, we are peaceful here in Mindanao, that we can work together for peace,” he said. “You will become the spokesperson of your community, you can tell them that we are peaceful in Mindanao.”
Camiguin’s hosting the MASTS games, triathlons, and the Northern Mindanao Athletic Association in 2017 were all tests for the province’s bid to host the Palarong Pambansa in the near future. It is now hoping to host the Sate Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA) in 2022. – Rappler.com