Palarong Pambansa 2024

Palarong Pambansa 2024: A field of firsts and lasts for young athletes

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Palarong Pambansa 2024: A field of firsts and lasts for young athletes

CHAMP. Western Visayas' Sam Kenjie Bantillo bags the long jump gold in the secondary division of the 2024 Palarong Pambansa.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, competing at this level is a dream come true,' says Eastern Visayas softball team captain Jamela Jordan

CEBU CITY, Philippines – For many young athletes in the Palarong Pambansa, the national sporting event is a stage for first-time performances and final farewells to careers thought to last a lifetime. 

For 17-year-old Ruffamae Bibat, who is representing the Caraga region in the secondary girls’ high jump event, this is her debut opportunity to reach greater heights in the national stage.

Bibat’s athletic career gained momentum during her elementary school days, where she competed at the division level. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought her progress to a sudden halt. 

Undeterred by this mishap, she resumed her training and successfully regained her position at the regional level.

In the regional competition last year, she clinched a gold medal but fell short of the 1.45-meter qualifying standard for the national games, managing only 1.35m.

The setback was tough for Bibat, leaving her disheartened. However, encouragement from her peers and mentors inspired her to push on.

Ni ingon ko sa akong self makuha gihapon nako ang medal nga gold, tapos makuha nako ang qualifying standard,” Bibat told Rappler on Wednesday, July 10. 

(I told myself I would still get the gold medal and meet the qualifying standard.)

Determined to improve, Bibat underwent rigorous training and eventually met the qualifying standard for this year, allowing her to represent her region in the Palarong Pambansa 2024 in Cebu City.

Achieving a spot in this year’s game brought immense joy to Bibat, fulfilling a dream she had harbored since elementary. 

As she prepares for the event, Bibat is determined to win a gold medal.

Hitting new heights

The Eastern Visayas softball team, led by team captain Jamela Jordan, is also set to debut in the national competition, marking a significant milestone for the team that has previously only competed in the annual Eastern Visayas Regional Athletics Association (EVRAA) meet.

“We’re very happy and excited to have made it to Cebu City, and we’re ready to compete against other teams and give our best,” Jordan told Rappler on Tuesday, July 9.

Jordan, who is graduating this year, is also making her first and last appearance in a national game, adding a layer of sentimental value to this competition. 

Jordan shared she was grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Palarong Pambansa, cherishing the experience as a memorable conclusion to her softball career as a high school student. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. Competing at this level is a dream come true,” Jordan said.

The team arrived in Cebu on July 5. Though they have not yet had the chance to explore the city, they are looking forward to visiting its tourist sites. 

Jordan shared their eagerness to witness the local culture and attractions, which they see as a rewarding part of their journey. –

Ian Peter Guanzon is a Rappler intern from the University of the Philippines in Cebu.

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