(STAR) SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico - Today, February 25, we observe the 24th anniversary of the EDSA People Power.

It is a day of rejoicing and reaffirming the ideals of democracy and people empowerment. It is a day for vigilance as the forces of kleptocracy continue in their wicked designs of launching self-serving business and political endeavors that masquerade as projects for the common good. It is a day for reenergizing oneself to combat these forces whose singular aim is to reinforce the politics of deception, patronage and exploitation of the poor.

Any EDSA anniversary therefore brings back the notion of People Power and empowerment. In sports, one example of people empowerment is the annual Palarong Pambansa which started in 1948. In 1976, these national games became known as Palarong Pambansa, or simply “Palaro”, as public and private schools joined the national event. The 53rd edition of this multi-sport, Olympic-style event organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), will be held, principally, at the Tarlac Recreational Park in San Jose, Tarlac, from April 11 to 17. It is expected that 10,000 delegates (6,000 of them athletes) will participate and that some 100,000 spectators from Central, Northern and Southern Luzon and Metro Manila will be on hand to witness our best secondary and collegiate athletes compete in 17 sports disciplines: archery, arnis, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, chess, football, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo and tennis.

The Palaro is the most organized school-based sports event in the country. The selection process starts at the grassroots in the provincial and regional levels. The so-called talent search begins with intramurals where athletes representing class sections and eventually, year levels, compete against each other at the start of the school year. Outstanding athletes in the intramurals (elementary boys and girls and secondary boys and girls) get to represent their respective schools in district meets.

To be sure, the Palaro has contributed its share of athletes in the national team. Among these were Olympians like track stars Lydia de Vega-Mercado (Asian Games athletics gold medalist) and Elma Muros-Posadas, Mansueto Velasco (1996 Atlanta Olympics boxing silver medalist), Tshomlee Go and Eric Buhain.

The Palaro is also an example of how the national government and the local government units (LGUs) can work together in order to ensure the success of a sports program. The ceremonial/social and cultural aspects of the Palaro, including billeting and technical support, will be the responsibility of the DepEd while the Tarlac provincial government, headed by Gov Victor Yap, will assume responsibility for logistics and other services, publicity, marketing and special events, civic participation and infrastructure and engineering.

The evolution of the Palaro as the sole national scholastic sports competition did not come without growing pains. Prior to the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino, the Palaro’s budget was never in the national budget or the General Appropriations Act.

It took President Cory, one of the principal personalities of EDSA I (despite the canard others are spreading that she was not even there), to institutionalize Palaro’s funding. Pres. Cory’s main ally in protecting the Palaro was Sen Aquilino (Nene) Pimentel who has since taken a political path that probably has Pres. Cory turning in her grave.

Prior to Pres. Cory’s insistence in institutionalizing the Palaro budget, teachers were compelled to support the games by contributing part of their monthly salary to get the games going and moving.

For local governments, hosting a Palaro affords them a chance to either build new sports facilities or to upgrade existing ones and, of course, to project accomplishments with elections a few weeks down the road. The downside therefore of the Palaro’s infrastructure program is the lack of rationalization because of political considerations.

If integrity, accountability and transparency, the Palaro should really be a model of empowerment.

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From Dumaguete City comes word from former Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Perry Mequi who recently organized “WE walk the talk” with WE standing for wellness and the environment. The eight-kilometer walk organized by Mequi and the Foundation University (where Mequi serves as Dean of the College of Physical Education) had a number of political leaders manifesting their concern for human wellness and wellness for the environment by joining 2,000 other walkers who walked starting at 6 A.M. from the Municipality of Valencia to Dumaguete City. According to Mequi, it gave the politicos the opportunity to show that they are “fit and green” and that they can walk the talk. Mequi says that part of Foundation’s corporate social responsibility is to transform the City of Gentle People into a city where people live and lead the vigorous life in an environment that nurtures life.

2010 Palarong Pambansa to be hosted by Luzon

MANILA, Philippines – The Palarong Pambansa is going back to Luzon and four Local Government Units have already sent feelers of their desire to play host to the 2010 student games.

Tarlac City is said to be foremost candidate with Baguio City, Ilocos Norte and Puerto Princesa, Palawan challenging it for the hosting rights.

“Luzon will be the host in the 2010 Palarong Pambansa but there are no official bidders yet. But Tarlac, Baguio City, Ilocos Norte and Puerto Princesa have aired verbally their willingness to host the Games," said Department of Education undersecretary Ramon Bacani during the closing ceremony of the 2009 edition in Tacloban City.

With the exception of Puerto Princesa, the interested LGUs have no experience in hosting the Palaro.

Interested parties will have to submit their bids for the Games the DepEd officials to assess the offer and make their final decision later this year.

Foremost requirement is the ability of the host to house close to 10,000 guest and participants from 17 regions, aside from standard facilities especially in athletics and swimming competition.

This year’s staging cost the Province of Leyte close to P100 million, with P70 million going to infrastructures like the rehabilitation of the existing facilities such as the Leyte Sports Center, which was also the site of the 1983 Palaro. –GMANews.TV

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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