Tokyo Olympics

Power of the Filipina: Hidilyn Diaz, Nesthy Petecio inspire women to break barriers

Beatrice Go

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Power of the Filipina: Hidilyn Diaz, Nesthy Petecio inspire women to break barriers

STRONG WOMEN. Hidilyn Diaz (left) and Nesthy Petecio fight for the sports they love.

Edgard Garrido/REUTERS (Diaz), Luis Robayo/REUTERS (Petecio)

The victories of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and boxer Nesthy Petecio in the Tokyo Olympics prove that women don’t have to let society dictate what’s right for them

In the Tokyo Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz and Nesthy Petecio made history with victories that also sent a strong statement for Filipinas. 

Weightlifter Diaz won the country’s first Olympic gold medal after 97 years since the Philippines first joined the quadrennial meet. 

Boxer Petecio became the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal after taking home the women’s featherweight silver. 

But more than just proving how strong Filipinas can be in male-dominated sports, both Diaz and Petecio continue to inspire women in their own ways after the Olympics. 

Going beyond the line

After Diaz’s historic victory, some gave the 30-year-old Olympian “advice” to enjoy life instead after bringing glory to the country for most of her life. 

This also comes after news that weightlifting may be in danger of getting scrapped in the Paris Olympics and the 2021 Southeast Asian Games getting postponed to 2022.

But the women’s 55kg Olympic champion made it clear that she will continue training and competing while her body can, and will even aim for the world weightlifting championships in November. 

In fact, Diaz went back to training even while in hotel quarantine after arriving in the Philippines last July 28. 

Dino-draw tayo ng line. Ito hanggang dito ka lang,” Diaz said of some of the limitations set on Filipino women.  (They draw a line for us. They tell us how far we can go.)

Pero parati kong ginagawa ay bine-break ko ‘yun… ‘yang line na ‘yan at sinasabi ko na hindi, you cannot dictate kung ano ang gusto naming gawin. You cannot say na ito ang gagawin ‘nyo.” 

(I always break that line, I go beyond that line and I would say: ‘You cannot dictate what we want to do. You cannot tell us what to do.’) 

Diaz knows that while some Filipino traditions prevail, she points out that women have their own free will to decide on their plans in life. 

Ang gusto lang namin na sana intindihin niyo kung ano ang magiging desisyon namin as a person,  individual kami, kahit atleta man kami, mayroon kaming sariling pag-iisip at desisyon,” the four-time Olympian told Rappler. 

(We just hope you can understand our decisions because we are all individuals, whether we’re athletes or not, women have their own minds and decisions.) 

The Zamboangueña decided not to give up on weightlifting yet, knowing she can push herself more and potentially bring more glory to the country. 

So sana intindihin ninyo na hindi ibig sabihin na 30 years old, after winning gold, magsa-stop na. Hindi kasi lahat ng atleta ganoon – alam mo ‘yung mag-give up na after winning,” said Diaz. 

Kasi after winning, anong susunod? Sa akin ayaw ko rin na mag-give up agad. Siguro pag hindi ko na kaya, saka ako mag-give up as an athlete.” 

(I hope you’ll understand that even if I’m 30 years old, it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop after I win an Olympic gold. Not all athletes give up after winning. After winning, what’s next for me? I don’t want to give up yet. Maybe when my body can no longer do it, then that’s the only time I can give up as an athlete.) 

Don’t be scared of the pain

As Diaz and Petecio spent years training in male-dominated sports, both Olympic medalists also proved doubters wrong, particularly those who warned them that they may not endure the pain.

Petecio, the 2019 women’s boxing world champion, said training makes athletes stronger and skilled to avoid getting hurt.

Sinasabi kasi nila na pag nasapak ka, masakit, pero huwag kang magpasapak, ilagan mo, may mga diskarte po diyan, may training po diyan,” said the Davao del Sur pride.

(They say that it will hurt when you get punched, but don’t let yourself get punched, parry it, and there are ways around it that you’ll learn by training.) 

Petecio, who has experienced past heartbreaks in the sport, said there will always be pain, but it’s worth it when you love the sport. 

Lahat naman po, nasasaktan. Sa love nga, di nga tayo makaganti, tinatanggap natin masaktan, dito pa sa sports na nagbibigay ka ng karangalan tsaka nakakatulong pa sa atin, lalo na sa pangarap natin, sa pamilya natin, bakit hindi po natin subukan,” said Petecio.

Sa love nga, nagbibigay tayo ng oras sa maling tao, sa sports na gusto natin, alam natin na tama para sa atin.”

(Everyone gets hurt. In love, when we can’t get revenge, we just accept the pain. But in sports, despite the pain, we’re bringing glory and it helps achieve our dreams, like the dreams for our families. Why not try it? In love, we even make time for the wrong people. So what more if we love our sport, and we know it’s right for us.) 

Petecio encourages women not to be afraid to pursue boxing or combat sports because as much as it may be difficult at first, things will get easy when you truly want something. 

Ine-encourage ko ‘yung mga kababaihan na sumali sa boxing, kahit hindi lang sa boxing, sa mga combat sports na gusto ‘nyo po. Hindi po kadali po, totoo iyon pero kung desidido po kayo, magiging smooth ang lahat,” said the 29-year-old boxer. 

(I’m encouraging women to join boxing and combat sports. It’s not easy, but it’s true that if you’re committed to pursue it, then everything will run smoothly.) 

Fight for what you love

Both Diaz and Petecio have shown how much they loved their sports. 

Philippine weightlifting queen Diaz joined four straight Olympics and overcame challenges in her road to the Tokyo Games. 

Petecio battled depression, which made it difficult for her to even look at boxing gloves and be near the ring, but she gave the sport another chance that allowed her rule the 2019 world championships. 

When told she’s the “Maria Clara of modern times,” Diaz took it to mean that a Filipina should have the courage to be who she is.

Nagbibigay iyon ng inspirasyon sa kabataan ngayon, you can be who you are, kung anuman gusto mo. Kung gusto mo may kulay buhok mo, just be you,” said Diaz. 

(This gives inspiration to the youth that you can be who you are, whatever you want, like if you want colored hair, just be you.)

Para sa akin, we cannot let others say na ito sundin mo, ito dapat sports mo kasi babae ka. Kung hindi, dahil ito gusto mo and dahil nag-eexcel ka dito.” 

(For me, we cannot let others say that we should follow this, or this should be your sport because you’re a girl. You should choose that sport because you excel in it.) 

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Petecio echoed the same sentiments that gender stereotypes should not hinder anyone from reaching their dreams as long as they work hard and follow their passions. 

Sa akin lang po, wala iyan sa pagkalalaki or sa pagkababae po iyan eh, kung gusto mo ‘yung sports na iyon, kung gusto mo maabot ‘yung pangarap mo sa sports na iyon, pagpatuloy mo, sundin mo ang nararamdaman mo,” said Petecio. 

(For me, it’s not about being a man or a woman, if you really love that sport, if you want to reach your dreams through that sport, then you should go for it and follow your heart.) 

Though it may not be easy, Petecio reminds women that there will be grace along the way, as well as people who will be with you in the battle. 

Sabi nga ni champ Hidy na hindi ganoon kadali, pero once na mahal mo, pangarap mo talaga iyon, easy na lang siya, especially sa tulong ni Lord iyon tsaka sa lahat ng taong tumutulong sa iyo,” shared Petecio. 

(Like what champ Hidy said, it’s not easy, but once you love it and it’s really your dream, it’s going to easy, especially with the help of the Lord and with the people who are there to help you.)  –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.