Palaro record-breaker Sylvian Abunda aims for back-to-back gold in javelin

MANILA, Philippines – Sylvian Faith "Bebex" Abunda is the lone representative of Northern Mindanao in the athletics throwing events of the 2018 Palarong Pambansa.

Abunda, a Grade 11 student at Lantapan Stand-Alone Senior High School in Poblacion, Lantapan, Bukidnon, aims to win back-to-back gold medals in the secondary girls javelin throw event this year.

"Kung papalarin sa pangalawang pagkakataon na masungkit ulit ang javelin... kakayanin ko na makuha 'yung inaasam na gold (If I'm lucky for the second time to win in javelin...I will strive to get the gold that I'm hoping for)," said the 17-year-old student athlete. 

Abunda will compete in several throwing events like javelin, shot put, and discus during the games in Ilocos Sur from April 15 to 21.

Starting young

At 17, the young power thrower is already a Palaro veteran. She started joining sports competitions in 2012 when she was only 12 years old. During her first Palarong Pambansa stint in 2013, she bagged a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay and a silver medal in javelin throw. In 2014, she finished 7th place in the javelin throw event.

Abunda missed the 2015 Palarong Pambansa in Tagum, Davao del Norte, after failing to join the regional qualifer due to dengue fever. After recovering, she went back to training and worked hard to qualify again for the nationals. In 2016, she won a gold medal in the regionals for shot put, which sealed her return to the national sporting event. That year, she nabbed another silver medal in the Palarong Pambansa.

In the 2017 edition of the multi-sport event held in Antique, Abunda won her first-ever Palaro gold medal. Aside from winning gold, she also set the new record of 42.85 meters in javelin throw, beating the 42.34 record in the 2015 Palarong Pambansa. (READ: Bukidnon athlete sets new record in secondary girls javelin throw)

Recalling her experience breaking a Palarong Pambansa record last year, she shared that she was very happy and fulfilled.

"Masaya! Kasi first time [ko] na naka-break [ng] record at isa lamang sa aming region [ang] naka-break (Happy! Because that was the first time I was able to break a Palaro record, and I was the only one from our region who was able to do so).

Preparing for Palaro 2018

Training for the upcoming national competition took a long time for Abunda. Before qualifying in the Palarong Pambansa, she had to prepare long and hard to reach the Northern Mindanao Regional Athletic Association (NMRAA) Meet. In December 2017, she successfully secured her spot to Palaro after winning 3  gold medals in the regional qualifiers.

It takes discipline and determination to get through the training for the competition. Her daily grind starts as early as 4 am. She trains for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. Despite the rigorous trainings and preparations, she knows how important it is to take care of herself.

"Nagtiyaga sa pagtraining, tapos focus sa mga workout, at saka iniingatan ang sarili – disiplina sa lahat na aspeto (Perseverance in training, then focus during workout, and I have to take care of myself – discipline in all aspects)."

But more than the gold medals from the regionals, she believes that her years of experience as a Palaro athlete will be her edge among other competitors. Compared to rookie Palaro contenders, she said that she is already very familiar with the rules and policies of the competition. 

Even her coach, Lantapan National High School Sports Coordinator Samuel Banda, is impressed with how Abunda works hard for Palaro, despite the challenges they encountered during the training.

"We started training last February, but limited lang [because of the school schedule]," Banda shared, adding that they only had 28 days of intense training prior to the competition.

Lack of resources was also one of the drawbacks so they had to be creative in thinking about how they can train better for Palaro.

"Regarding [sa] training, I am not really satisfied because we have limited resources. Though maraming alternative...mas maganda if maka-work out talaga ng todong-todo (Even with several alternatives, it's still better if she can have a full workout)."

Dreaming big

For young student athletes like Abunda, joining regional and national competitions is a gateway to a brighter future. Her dream is to become a cop or a member of the military. She said she was heavily influenced by her two uncles who are also part of the police force.

"My two uncles are policemen, [and] they told me that they want to help [me] take the I will wait for the time that they will call me," she said.

Palarong Pambansa gave Abunda several opportunities to reach her dreams. She still has a year left in senior high school but she already received scholarship offers from universities in Manila, including the Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas.

When asked about her plans for college, she said she is still thinking about whether to accept offers from Manila because it is hard for her to be away from her family – her source of strength and inspiration.

"May homesickness po kasi ako e (I have homesickness)," she shared. Abunda is the eldest of 3 children. Younger brothers Fritz and Vince are only 14 and 8 years old, respectively. Their parents separated in December 2016.

Abunda knows the importance of patience in realizing her dreams. With 100% focus, she strives to be better as she aims to achieve more in this year's Palaro. 

"Huwag magreklamo at [maging] matiyaga sa lahat ng workout. Pag-ingatan ang sarili na hindi magkasakit lalung-lalo sa competition (Do not complain and be patient during all workouts. Be healthy, especially during the competition)."

She also wants to remind her fellow student-athletes to always remain grounded even in success. "Huwag balewalain ang mga tao na [humubog] ng iyong kakayahan  katulad ng mga (Don't disregard the people who helped improve your ability, like your) trainers, coaches, co-athletes, management, the school you are representing, and most of all the Lord," she added.

By having the right motivation and with her eyes set on the prize, there is definitely more to come for this champion thrower. –


Kaye Cabal

Kaye Cabal leads Rappler’s Digital Communications team and has been with Rappler since 2014. Her interest in and dedication to social media grew deeper with her love and passion for Philippine sports. She is a BS Development Communication graduate of UP Los Baños.