CVIRAA 2024: Barefoot warriors from Cebu province shine in track events

Christa Escudero

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CVIRAA 2024: Barefoot warriors from Cebu province shine in track events

MEDALISTS. Mariel Collarin (left) and Heart Monterde (center) from Santa Fe, Cebu, pose with their coach Aivorie Cumayas on the sidelines of the ongoing track events of CVIRAA 2024 in Sacred Heart School - Ateneo de Cebu in Mandaue City on May 7, 2024. Collarin and Monterde clinched gold and bronze medals for Cebu province in multiple events under the athletics category.

Christa Escudero/Rappler

In a sea of track spikes, barefoot runners Mariel Collarin and Heart Monterde from Santa Fe, Cebu, clinch gold and bronze medals for the province in multiple athletics events

CEBU CITY, Philippines – On the vast track of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu in Mandaue City, student-athletes from all over Central Visayas gathered to compete in the athletics event of the 2024 Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association Meet (CVIRAA). 

And in a sea of track spikes, a few bare feet stood out.

Cousins Mariel Collarin and Heart Monterde, respective Grade 6 and Grade 5 students of Hagdan Elementary School in Kinatarcan Island in Santa Fe, Cebu, clinched medals for the province in multiple track games in athletics, putting them one step closer to this year’s Palarong Pambansa.

Collarin won gold and Monterde won bronze in the 800-meter run on Monday, May 6. Collarin and Monterde also snagged bronze medals in triple jump and the 1,500-meter run, respectively, on Sunday, May 5.

They both competed barefoot.

These girls bare their all  

Collarin and Monterde were on their bare feet, all the way from undergoing training to competing — and winning — in the municipal, provincial, and regional meets.

Why did Collarin and Monterde choose to forego the spikes? It’s what’s comfortable for both of them, they told Rappler in an interview.

Kumportable man mi…kay makahunat man mi’g dagan (We’re comfortable with it because it’s what makes us run the fastest),” said Monterde.

Collarin and Monterde have become used to walking barefoot due to poor conditions in Kinatarcan Island. They even had to train on barangay roads, pausing from time to time to avoid any motor vehicles that passed by, shared their trainer, Hagdan Elementary School teacher Ronilo Oftana. They trained on weekdays, from late afternoon until nighttime. The girls still had to walk home in the dark after.

It’s the first time for both girls to compete in a sports meet, down from the provincial to the regional level. 

Si Heart (Monterde) ganahan na siya muapil so ako siyang gitestingan. Nya hinay man kaayo…. Nya sige lang, ma-develop ra ni, pursigido man,” Oftana said.

(Monterde wanted to compete so I tested her. She was so slow at first. But it was fine, we could develop her skills. She’s very determined.)

Collarin had also expressed her interest to join the municipal-level games when she was in fifth grade, but that time, there was no competition held in their town, so players were just picked. Oftana had chosen a sixth-grade student for their delegation.

This year, when Collarin reached sixth grade, Oftana encouraged her to try again.

Naa diay siya’y well-hidden nga talent ba, so pagka-Grade 6 ako na siyang gi-encourage kay ganahan man siya muapil (She actually had a hidden talent, so I encouraged her to try out when she reached Grade 6),” Oftana added.

After winning gold during the provincial meet in March, Collarin and Monterde trained for almost a month together with their fellow Cebu province delegates in the town of Balamban.

Oftana had some old spikes he had used for training since 2018, repairing them constantly so the girls can use them, too. The shoes had become worse for wear, however, by the time they reached CVIRAA. Their school division had offered pairs of spikes for both girls, but they were too huge and heavy for them. 

So Collarin and Monterde asked Oftana and their coach Aivorie Cumayas if they could compete barefoot instead. After all, it was how they trained. It was what they’d been used to.

To avoid any risk of accidents, the girls wrapped their feet in thick bandages.

Pag-abot diri sa CVIRAA, pag training namo, pursigido gyud na sila. Akong giingnan nga, sige lang, naa gyu’y maabot nga award sa inyo…. Wa ma’y award-award didto sa amua,” Oftana told Rappler.

Didto man gud sa isla, mao ra na among ikapasigarbo, mga talent ug skills sa bata,” he added.

(When we reached CVIRAA, when we started training, they were both very determined. I told them, just go for it, someday you’ll receive the fruits of your labor. You see, in our town, awards aren’t that common. The kids’ talents and skills are what we take pride with.)

And receive the fruits of labor they did. Both Collarin and Monterde expressed their happiness upon clinching medal finishes.

Lipay kaayo [mi], kay panagsa ra baya ang mga bata sa isla nga makaabot diri. So great opportunity na kaayo na sa ilaha,” said Cumayas.

(We’re really happy, because kids from the islands only get a few chances to reach this stage. So it’s a really great opportunity for them.)

Road to Palarong Pambansa

Collarin ranked first in the 800-meter dash, finishing in 2 minutes and 36 seconds (2:36.62), while Monterde ranked third at 2 minutes and 40 seconds (2:40.47). Meanwhile, Collarin ranked third in triple jump, finishing at 9.00 meters. These meet the qualifying standards set for the Palarong Pambansa, but the Santa Fe team still awaits an official confirmation of their entry to the Palarong Pambansa slate. 

For the meantime, they celebrate.

Amuang school head nagkuan na siya nga i-celebrate gyud ang kadaugan sa mga bata kay mao man na among gibuhat ‘pag provincial [meet], nga nakadaog gyud sila og mga gold, so gi-celebrate gyud namo sila,” Cumayas shared.

(Our school head already said we’re going to celebrate the kids’ win, since that’s what we also did when they won gold during the provincial meet. We really celebrated them.)

PROVINCIAL MEDALISTS. Student athletes of Hagdan Elementary School in Santa Fe, Kinatarcan Island, Cebu, celebrate their medal finishes during a school program, as shown in a photo shared in the school’s Facebook page on March 8, 2024.

Will Collarin and Monterde continue to shine in Palarong Pambansa? Both girls are excited and eager to proceed to the national contingent.

Gusto pa namo ipadayon…para sa Palaro. May unta makadaog pud mi adto sa Palaro (We want to continue our streak in Palaro. We hope to win there, too),” said Collarin.

Will they still compete barefoot? Oftana hoped otherwise, wishing the girls could get used to spikes when they compete in the secondary level in the future.

Kung matagaan og grasya, hinaot matagaan sila (If by God’s grace, I hope the girls can get them),” he said. –

The CVIRAA holds Central Visayas’ qualifying games for the Palarong Pambansa. Cebu is hosting the national competition from July 6 to 17. 

Check out the current CVIRAA medal tally here.

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Christa Escudero

Christa Escudero is a digital communications specialist for Rappler.