TUBOD, LANAO DEL NORTE, OCTOBER 28, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar — A group of Iligan City tankers and a pair of middle distance runners came through with impressive efforts yesterday as Northern Mindanao kept on raking in the most gold medals after Day 2 of the Palarong Pambansa at the Mindanao Civic Center here.

Picking up from where Haroon Cali left off, Monique Bacolod, Shahani Navarro and Nian Lyn Marie Acain came through with smashing efforts in the pool with victories that helped Region 10 broke away from the pack in the race for the overall championship in the secondary division.

Bacolod, who had a seven-gold splurge in last week’s Third Mindanao Games in Mati, Davao Oriental, hauled two more gold medals to lead a first group of quadruple gold medal winners in this meet jointly organized by the local government of Lanao del Norte under the leadership of the Dimaporos–Governor Imelda and Congressman Abdullah–and the Philippine Sports Commission chaired by Eric Buhain.

The 14-year-old Bacolod topped the 200-meter backstroke with a time of 2:71.38 before joining fellow four-gold medal haulers Navarro and Acain in the 200-m medley relay team for her fourth gold.

Joining Bacolod, Acain and Navarro in the elite group was the 15-year-old Cali, who spearheaded Northern Mindanao’s 4x50-m medley relay squad to victory to punctuate Region 10’s domination of the swimming event.

And Cali, whose other three golden wins came in 400-m freestyle, 200-m butterfly and 400-m medley relay, is not stopping there.

"Hindi pa tapos, may dalawang event pa kasi akong sasalihan bukas (today)," said the 15-year-old senior Iligan City National High School student and a son of former OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who is gunning for a fifth and sixth gold in the 200-m freestyle and the 200-m individual medley.

"Walang kalaban," was Cali’s explanation as to why Northern Mindanao is at the top of the pool standing.

And Navarro, a perennial Palaro gold medalist herself, readily agrees. "Hindi ako masyadong nahirapan wala kasi yung ibang magagaling sa Laguna (Southern Tagalog) at sa Manila."

Sola Viste, who had two gold medals she both got from team events, for her part, had a different opinion regarding the absence of strong challenges from the Big City bets, who either did not participate or sent just a token delegation in this five-day meet, which finally pushed through after several postponements.

"Unfair namang sabihin na kaya kami nanalo dahil sa hindi sila sumali," the 15-year-old looker from Iligan City said. "Hindi naman namin kasalanan na hindi sila pumunta dito."

Other source of victories by Region 10 came from Alguin Bolivar and Arlene Tolentino in track and field. Bolivar ruled the boys‚ 1,500-m run by clocking in 4:12.25 while Tolentino lorded over the girls‚ 1,500-m side with a time of 5:10.15.

Like Region 10, CARAGA also harvested two gold medals in athletics thanks to wins by Edimond Cadelina (secondary boys‚ discus throw) and Katherine Kay Santos (elementary girls‚ high jump).

Davao’s Irish Layaog stole some of the thunder by bagging the elementary girls‚ 1,500-m gold by timing in 5:21.77. She bested Bicol’s Jeannelyn Nemi (5:33.25) and teammate Sheila Mae Varquez (5:34.22).

Northern Mindanao thus had a total of 15 gold medals going into the final two days of competition. Central Mindanao was at distant second with seven gold medals while Davao and Central Luzon were at joint third with five apiece.

Angelito Magdale, Northern Mindanao’s athletic manager, said that if his region goes on to win the overall title, this will be their best ever performance since it finished second in the 1988 edition in Cagayan de Oro City.

"This is so far our best performance in the Palaro," said Magdale, who is also chief education supervisor of Region 10.

In other fronts, Central Mindanao edged Davao in boxing supremacy by copping three gold medals in the event against the latter’s two.

Noriel Nacionales and Jill Lubaton provided the first two ring victories by Region 12 in the mosquito weight and paperweight, respectively, while Fernando Lumacad edged Davao’s Virnil Desabille, 46-40, for the deciding victory in the pin weight category.

Davao ended up at second with Desabille silver and a pair of golden triumphs by Richie Bejec (powder weight) and Daniel Philip Fuentes (light vacuum weight).

Northern Mindanao’s Melinda Milan (light paperweight) and Zamboanga’s Jonas Jerusalem (light flyweight) topped their respective divisions to clinch the remaining two of the seven gold medals contested in the event.

Palaro notes: In Tubod, honesty is still the best policy. This The STAR photographer Willy Perez could attest to after his lost lens, which is worth around P30,000, was returned to him by a Marine officer who was part of the team in charge of the security here at the venue. Perez recounted that some concerned local folk found his lens near the boxing arena and quickly handed it to the solider who then went straight to the media center to return it. Perez was just relieved. "Akala ko nawala na talaga," he said.

Two unidentified bicycle-riding men were arrested yesterday morning after illegally entering the premises of the Mindanao Civic Center. The two were immediately released and were taken under the custody of Tubod Mayor Eduardo Mansueto for disciplinary action. Their bikes, however, were impounded for lack of registration.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved