LAGUNA, Philippines – Missing arms and legs, these Calabarzon swimmers prove there is no excuse not to take the plunge.
Jane Bracher reports.
Jonalyn Hernando does not look like everybody else.
But she can feed herself.
She can draw and cut shapes.
She’s also a very good swimmer.
Born without half her arms and legs, Jonalyn can do what everyone else does.
And like everyone else, she dreams.
JONALYN HERNANDO, CALABARZON SWIMMER: Maging swimmer po. Mababait po kaklase ko, tinutulungan po nila ko sa pagkuha ng gamit. Hindi naman po ako tinutukso ng iba.
(I want to be a swimmer. My classmates are nice, they help me pick up my stuff. They don’t tease me.)
The youngest of 7 siblings, Jonalyn wants to finish school and give back to her parents. She says any prize money she gets will go straight to her mother.
NENITA HERNANDO, JONALYN’S MOM: Sa bawat minutong tinitignan ko yung anak ko, talagang natulo yung luha ko dahil naiisip ko anong magiging kapalaran ng aking anak? Bakit siya nagkaganito? Hindi ko na sinisisi ang Panginoon Diyos bakit niya ako binigyan ng ganito. Basta ito ang binigay niya.
(Every time I look at my daughter I shed a tear because I think about what future she might have. Why is she like this? I don’t blame the Lord for giving me my daughter. She is what he gave.)
Palarong Pambansa is the 10-year old’s first shot at testing how far she can go.
And she succeeded.
Jonalyn won the gold in her category with the crowd cheering her on.
JONALYN HERNANDO, CALABARZON SWIMMER: Ngayon lang po ako napasali sa ganitong laro. Masaya po.
(This is my first time joining a competition like this. It’s fun.)
Also competing at Palaro is 15-year old Marco Tinamisan.
He was born missing both his legs and a left arm.
He learned to swim by playing dead in the water.
He likes to play basketball and hanging out with regular kids.
MARCO TINAMISAN, CALABARZON SWIMMER: Nagiging kaibigan ko po sila. Hindi ko na po iniisip yun.
(They’re all my friends. I don’t think about being different.)
Marco came in last in his competition.
But he still emerged smiling and proud.
RACHEL DERILO, CALABARZON SWIM COACH: Sabi ko nga talaga nothing is impossible. May kapansanan ka man o wala, basta yung willingness mo na matuto, kakayanin.
(I really believe nothing is impossible. Whether or not you have a handicap, as long as you’re willing to learn, you can do anything.)
The 6,000 young athletes at the Palarong Pambansa are all here for different reasons.
For Jonalyn and Marco, Palarong is not about winning.
It is about finishing the race.
For others, Palaro is about making it past every hurdle.
It means overcoming physical limitations..
Or playing to change perceptions.
A lot of them simply want a better life.
JANE BRACHER, REPORTING: No matter the reason, these athletes are all fighting for something bigger. For some, Palaro may be a stepping stone to a higher goal. For others, this is the best it can get. Even so, one thing is certain: these young athletes will remember Palaro for the rest of their lives.
Jane Bracher, Rappler, Laguna
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