La Union pride: Meet PH’s SEA Games closing rites flag bearer Roger Casogay
MANILA, Philippines – For his friends and teammates, it was dedication and hard work that put 25-year-old surfer Roger Casogay on the podium.
But earning the Philippines' first-ever gold medal in surfing was not the only highlight of his stint at the 30th Southeast Asian Games. Casogay will also lead 1,185 of his fellow Filipino athletes at the Games' closing ceremonies on Wednesday, December 11. (READ: Surfing champ Roger Casogay named flag bearer in SEA Games 2019 closing)
“Sobrang deserve niya lahat ng ito. He really worked hard for this. Naging instrumento siya para maibahagi sa mundo ang talento ng mga Pinoy sa surfing,” said fellow surfer Marvin Doctolero, who is Casogay's longtime friend.
(He really deserves all this. He really worked hard for this. He became an instrument for promoting Filipino surfing talent to the world)
At the age of 9, Casogay was already riding the big waves in La Union, and this later on became his bread and butter – teaching tourists the basics of surfing.
“‘Yung tatay ko kasi nag surf rin. Nung nag surf ako, nag stop na siya,” Casogay said.
(My father was also a surfer. When I started surfing, that's when he stopped.)
It was also through surfing that he met his Dutch fiancée Lisa Verweijee in 2017. Verweijee was in the Philippines for an internship and went to La Union for vacation. They hit it off, and her original plan to stay there for 3 days turned into 5.
When she returned to the Netherlands, their communication still continued, and they got back together in the Philippines two months later. Since then, the couple has been inseparable. She accompanies Casogay in his competitions. Verweijee’s parents also went to the Philippines just to watch him compete at the SEA Games.
‘He’s an inspiration’
On December 6, Casogay ignited a social media firestorm thanks to photos of him rescuing Indonesian rival Arip Nurhidiya in the middle of their match.
Nurhidiya's leash had broken and he was swept away by the waves. Casogay came to rescue him, and minutes later they showed up riding together on one surfboard.
His heroic act has even earned praise from no less than Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo. (READ: Indonesia's Jokowi praises Filipino surfer Casogay: 'Humanity is above all')
"My appreciation for Roger Casogay, a Filipino surfer who lost the chance to gain gold to save an Indonesian athlete from falling during the competition," Jokowi said.
Despite all the attention he’s getting, Casogay remains grounded and doesn't want to be called a hero. For him, he just did what he needed to do.
“Ginawa ko lang kung ano ang pinaka importante. Kasi paano naman kapag ako ang mapunta sa ganoong sitwasyon?” Casogay said.
(I just did what was important, because what if I were the one in that situation?)
For Doctolero, Casogay is an inspiration to all surfers in the Philippines. He told Rappler that Casogay was really determined to bring honor to the country.
“Siya ’yung inspiring ba na tao na he would also encourage his teammates to practice every day. Whatever 'yung condition ng alon, mag susurf talaga siya. Makikita mo yung dedication sa kanya to bring honor to the country,” Doctolero shared.
(He's the kind of inspiring person who would encourage his teammates to practice every day. Whatever the condition of the waves were, he would still surf. You can really see his dedication towards bringing honor to the country.)
The Philippine Senate has also honored him for risking his life to save a competitor.
Even though he isn’t used to the limelight, Casogay is grateful for all the recognition he has been receiving and dedicates everything to the Filipino surfing community.
“It was a big opportunity for the surfing community here in the Philippines since it was the first time in history,” Casogay said of his gold medal.
Meanwhile, Doctolero hopes that this would open more opportunities for them.
“I hope na mas marami pang surfers na lumabas sa bansa para mag compete. At sana marami pang opportunities na dumating sa amin," he said.
(I hope more surfers will compete outside the Philippines. I also hope that more opportunities will open up for us. )
Asked for his message for the SEA Games athletes, Casogay stressed the importance of sportmanship.
"Magtulungan sa isa't isa. Kung anong meron ka, ibigay mo at kung anong mayroon siya, tanggapin mo na," he said.
(Help each other. Give what you can give, and take what they have to offer.) – Rappler.com