Special athletes play bocce, go beyond expectations

Julienne Joven
For Region 1, the field of special games has been a forte in Palarong Pambansa

WINNERS. Lito, Franz, Rosario, and Judel involve themselves in sports despite challenges. Julienne Joven.

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – For Region 1, the field of special games has been one forte in the annual Palarong Pambansa. They were the overall champion in last year’s Palaro games.
Rappler got to talk to the Bocce players of the Ilocos Region: Rosario Ringor, 19; Judel Casallo, 18; Joselito Hombre, 13; and Franz Nikko Mapanao, 13, who shared their Palaro experience and their dreams for the future.
Mentally challenged or genius?

Region 1 trainers Efren Argueza and Mutya Runas go around the region, looking for mentally challenged kids capable of playing the game of Bocce.

They are Special Education (SPED) teachers who find joy in empowering their kids to do more and be more.
Maganda po ang SPED – nakakataba ng puso. Hindi yun sa kagalingan magturo (SPED is a meaningful job. It’s not only about how well you teach),” Argueza said.
What’s amazing about their kids is that they can think in angles and distances. The game of Bocce requires players to roll balls as near as they can to the small, white ball on the field — precision and a basic understanding of geometry are required.
Which begs the question: Are they really completely mentally challenged?

Akalain mo ba naman, kahit ganiyan yung mga bata, eh nakakauwi ng medalya. Mas magaling pa nga kaysa sa regular diba kasi regular ang hirap-hirap nilang mag-uwi ng medalya, ‘di ‘ho ba (People never thought that even kids like them could bring home medals. They’re even better than regular kids because regular kids find it difficult to bring home medals, right)?” he added.
Like regular kids

But beyond the initial impressions, these special kids in fact act like other children. They shared stories, and talked about their hobbies, school and even their crushes.
Judel said she plays Bocce because it is her one and only favorite sport. She said she enjoys it so much she feels no need to try any other. 
Rosario, the oldest in the group, said she leads a dance group and shared that she once won in a dance competition. She has a suitor, too, but said she would rather not entertain the person.
Mag-aral muna bago mag-boyfriend (I have to finish my studies first before getting a boyfriend)!” Rosario said. She is in elementary in a SPED school at the age of 19.

SMART SPORT. Bocce veteran Judel helps their team win against Zamboanga. Julienne Joven.
She then went to tease Franz, who is quite a joker, about how he loves girls and how he’s been asking for their numbers since they have arrived in Lingayen. Franz said he enjoys beatboxing and rapping.
Lito, who was quiet the whole time, said his only hobby was Bocce.
Judel said singing was her hobby; her favorite song is “Pusong Bato.” Once she started singing, the rest of the kids joined in. At some point, Franz even started beatboxing. 
When asked about their happiest memory of playing Bocce, Judel said, “Ito po, itong time na po ‘to dahil nanalo kami (This, this time because we won).”
Judel and Rosario defeated Zamboanga in Girls Doubles with 10-2, emerging as champion for that category of Bocce.
As a reward for their wins, the kids are excited because they think they might be treated to a tour of the One Hundred Islands after Palaro.
Pushing limits

The Bocce team of Region 1 has competed and succeeded in numerous meets around the country, including past Palarong Pambansa events.
They wish to compete in the international Special Olympics. Only CALABARZON athletes got to compete in last year’s Olympics at Athens, said Argueza. Their recent victories might just be their key to competing internationally.
But for now they have made their friends, families and their region proud. 
Dati nahihiya ang mga magulang na lumalabas sila pero ngayon eh, naglalaro na sila sa labas, parang sa regular [kids] (Before, parents were ashamed of taking their special kids out. But now, the kids play outside, just like regular kids),” Argueza said. – Rappler.com