Barefoot runner overcomes Intellectual Disability, raises college funds through sports


ANTIQUE, Philippines – Most kids can relate to the pain of bruises on their hands and knees that come from tumbling down. But for Jennelyn Dumandan, this kind of 'unbearable' is nothing compared to the heartaches she has gone through throughout her young life.

“They told me I was ‘Intellectually Disabled’ because I always had difficulty in reading,” the National Capital Region bet Dumandan said. “It was hard for me because I really tried my best. But I just couldn’t.”

For Dumandan, change is not the only constant thing in her life. She’s had to deal with her share of pain, too.

“I have a lot of brothers and sisters but I don’t know any of them. We have different fathers and that’s the only thing I know,” said Dumandan. “I live with my grandmother now and she’s the one supporting me.”

Incidentally, the identity of her father almost became a lifetime mystery not until she met him for the first time just last year. “He left when I was still a baby. He’s a seaman now, and he’s with his new family.”

After all she has been through—personal struggles, family problems and financial issues—it would be understandable if the 19-year old Dumandan gave up on her hopes and dreams.

But she didn’t.

Despite all the unfortunate circumstances, Dumandan kept on getting up as she fought through all the trials and pain until fate became kinder—little by little, things started to lighten up and it’s all thanks to what she does best: sports.

Now, Dumandan has overcome.

The ultimate life-saver

“I started running and playing Shot Put when I was in elementary,” said the Grade 9 student Dumandan. “Sports gave me hope. I wouldn’t know how I’d do without it.”

For the past 6 years, Dumandan has been a consistent Palarong Pambansa delegate. She says participating in the multi-sporting event molded her to become a stronger person.

Ever since she first started running, Dumandan has always ran barefoot. Touching the ground with her sole makes the runner feel more power. “I like feeling the ground. It’s like I’m connected to it somehow. This is also what I’m used to since I had no money to buy running shoes before.”

Moreover, Dumandan also shared the importance of the largest sporting event in the country and how it affected her life.

“I don’t go out of the house before because I was shy and afraid that I’d be bullied because of my disability. But because of Palaro, I was able to meet and make friends. Now, I’m confident,” Dumandan said.

True enough, the tables have turned for the young athlete.

Just last year, Dumandan received a scholarship from Lagro High School as she is now capable of reading.

“I’m still working on it. But since I want to excel in sports, I also have to exert extra efforts in school so I could land a good scholarship in college.”

Since Dumandan is determined to be something more than she is now, she saves the incentives from events and competitions for her future.

“I give the money I earn to my family to save up for college. I also give some to my grandmother to help with the bills,” Dumandan shared. “My dream is to become a teacher and study at Ateneo de Manila University. I want to be able to pass on what I know.”

Dumandan also aspires to be a coach to help the underprivileged and children with special needs like her.

“I want to continue running and hopefully land (in) a school where I could enhance my skills so I could teach others too.”

With all the hardships Dumandan has gone through, she encourages athletes like her to continue moving forward—it may be hard now, but there is still hope.

“Don’t give up on your dreams. People like me may be ‘special’ but it doesn’t mean we can’t do what normal people can. Don’t let your disability stop you from achieving your goals. If they can do it, we can do it too,” Dumandan said with a smile. –