TAGUM CITY, Philippines – More opportunities are in store for young Filipino athletes.
Already a fine example of a well-prepared host for the 2015 Palarong Pambansa way before it opens, Davao del Norte is setting the bar even higher as it aims to establish a Davao del Norte Sports Academy hopefully by 2016.
“We have a continuing, sustainable program on sports development,” Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario told Rappler, baring that a bill to support the sports academy is currently being processed in the Senate.
“This is where we will bring in all of the talented athletes being produced by my province as well as Region XI and they will be housed here in this academy,” he explained, adding the bill is expected to be passed into law before the end of this Congress in 2016.
“We’ll provide a billeting building and then classrooms and they can train with all of the facilities here, while they are taking their normal academic learning.”
The sports academy will be located on the site of this year’s Palaro, the Davao Sports and Tourism Complex in Tagum City.
Built on a sprawling 12-hectare land, the complex is among the few centralized venues for Palaro. According to Del Rosario, about 80% of this year’s games will be played in just this single venue. The rest will be in nearby venues still easily accessible by athletes.
The complex, built in just a little over a year from November 11, 2011 to December 12, 2012, is Tagum’s centerpiece for its model on hosting readiness.
The proposed sports academy will not be the first of its kind in the Philippines.
The Leyte Sports Academy in Tacloban City was formally opened in 2010, which put to good use the sports complex built for the 2009 Palarong Pambansa held there.
But DavNor’s academy will be slightly different than Tacloban’s with the backing of the potential law. Having that law, which applies specifically to Davao del Norte only, assures the academy of support from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“It’s not so much financially. The support there is technical,” Del Rosario explained. “Like the PSC, they have a lot of technical people, not only local but also international. They come here and provide technical assistance, and we can tap on those. DepEd also, they have coaches that train.”
The sports academy in Tacloban is a “local ordinance,” according to Del Rosario, and spends for itself.
This significant support is the reason Del Rosario is holding out building the billeting area inside the complex despite funding already available and a high school easily accessible next door.
“We already have the funds for it, we just have to put up a building where they can be billeted. We already have the facilities. And then we have a comprehensive high school, which is a public school. We’ll do the academics there. For sports courses, it’ll be here inside the complex.”
He further explained: “We can start even without the law because we have a program anyway. But we want it backed up by a law. Siyempre mag-a-assist ang DepEd and PSC. Kaya tayo gagawa ng grassroots program (Of course DepEd and PSC will assist us. That’s why we’ll have a grassroots program) so as [the athletes] grow up, they can be picked up by the PSC to compete internationally.”
Ready for Palaro, ready for the future
Bringing Palaro to Davao del Norte was a longtime dream for Del Rosario, which is why he came into the bidding with enough ammunition to blow the competition out of the water.
“Sabi ko ang labanan dito hindi palakasan, labanan ito ng preparedness (I said this is not about power, it is about preparedness),” he said, as DepEd stamped the province with an “A” mark for being way ahead of schedule. “When you are ready, you should be able to win it. And I did too much. When I went into the bidding I just said, ‘if you want to start the games tomorrow we can do it.’ That’s all I said.”
But DavNor, it turns out, is not only all geared up for the national games, they also already have the future in motion.
Del Rosario shared how they’ve put in place a grassroots sports development program that aims to nurture athletes from their hometowns at a young age, capitalizing on their innate strengths.
“Our program here is what you call the grassroots sports,” he said.
So far, the program has already produced a floating Olympic-sized swimming pool on the ocean for the ace swimmers of coastal barangay Cagangohan in Panabo, where 100 future competitive swimmers are now training.
Adept and agile children from Talaingod, a town located in the high lands, are being trained to be runners with their experience running up and down rough terrain every day.
These are sustainable efforts Davao del Norte hopes will not render its sports complex useless after the Palaro, and won’t kill the potential of an enthusiastic athletic community to excel in sports.
“We want to see to it that there’s a continuing program because what we built here will be useless, it will become a white elephant,” Del Rosario said, noting that the sports complex will be opened to the public after the games for training and fitness purposes.
“Kasi ang nakikita ko, how can you continue the development of sports among our young people kung hindi totohanan,” he also said. (What I see is how can you continue the development of sports among our young people if you don’t make it real.)
It is Del Rosario’s hope that other provinces across the country will follow their example and ultimately raise the level of sports for Filipinos in the future, no longer settling for subpar performances such as a worst-ever 7th place in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.
“Pag politiko ka kasama yung program ng sports (When you’re a politician, a program for sports is a must), but whether you’re doing it or not is another matter,” Del Rosario said thoughtfully.
“That is why I want this backed up by a law and eventually when this becomes a law here – a local law applicable only to Davao del Norte – pag nakita ng ibang Congressmen yan, follow the leader yan, before you know it nationwide na yan (when other Congressmen see that, it’s follow the leader and before you know it, it’s nationwide already).” – Rappler.com