[Gameplan] Filipino swimmer powers through physical disabilities

MANILA, Philippines – Athletes put a lot of hours into training in order for them to achieve their goals. Filipino Paralympic swimmer Ernie Gawilan, for instance, swims for 6 kilometers in the morning, and another 6 in the afternoon.

"Kung talagang mahina 'yung loob mo sa pag-eensayo, talagang aayaw ka eh. Halimbawa, katulad ko, kulang 'yung mga paddle ko, doble 'yung effort na gagawin ko para makuha 'yung gustong time ng coach," said Gawilan.

(If you don't have enough willpower, you will really give up, especially for people like me. My limbs are incomplete. I have to double my effort to meet the time my coach demands.)

Some people choose to let the pain get to them but Gawilan's passion and love for what he does drive him to train harder.

"'Pag sinabi mo kasing training, talagang patayan iyon. 'Pag sobrang pagod na 'ko, parang may clouds na 'yung paningin ko. 'Pag masaya ka sa ginagawa mo ma-cocontrol mo naman iyon eh. Kumbaga hindi na kailangan na 'Ay, bakit ganito? Bakit gano'n?' Fight lang," he said.

(Training is always intense. When I'm very tired, my vision gets hazy. But when you're happy with what you're doing, you'll be able to control it. You don't keep complaining. You just keep fighting.)

With the help of the Our Lady of Victory Training Center, Gawilan was able to join the Philippine Olympic Festival in 2008. He also won gold at the ASEAN Para Games in 2015, and competed in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil.

For Gawilan, swimming is his life and the water is his second home.

"Ito 'yung nagpapakumpleto sa akin. Masaya ako na ginagawa siya. Siya ang nagtatanggal ng problema. 'Pag nasa tubig ako parang, 'Ayos 'to, akin 'to.' Parang pangalawang mundo ko iyan, tubig," he shared.

(Swimming completes me. Swimming makes me happy. It takes away my problems. I feel that I belong to the water. The water is my second home.)

The sport has helped Gawilan in more ways than one. It gave him the confidence and drive to live life to the fullest and embrace his disability.

"Sa mag katulad ko, do'n sa mga taong parang walang tiwala sa sarili, dapat 'wag sumuko sa buhay kasi 'yung buhay ng tao napakahalaga. Dapat masaya tayo na andito tayo humihinga at makita natin 'yung mundo kung gaano kaganda," he said. 

(For people like me who've lost confidence, we shouldn't give up on life. Life is very important. We should be happy that we're still breathing. We can still see how beautiful the world is.) – Rappler.com