A mother’s anguish in London: `They cheated my son’By Artemio T. Engracia Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON – There are a few things more heartbreaking for a mother than to witness her boy lose in the biggest contest of his life.
Such was the anguish of Melita Barriga on Saturday as she watched her son, Mark Anthony, lose a fight he rightfully won in the round of 16 of the boxing competition in the 30th Olympic Games in London.
It’s hard to accept the defeat, she said, especially because she thought her boy had won the fight against Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov.
Melita is one of more than a hundred mothers who were flown to London by Procter and Gamble for its global Olympic theme honoring and thanking mothers all over the world for their role in developing Olympians.
“The hardest job in the world is truly the best job in the world,” is the poignant tribute to mothers in television commercials that have gone viral in the Internet leading up to the London Olympics.
According to Anama Dimapilis, brand public relations manager of P&G in Manila, Barriga’s mother was the one and only candidate chosen by her company to go to London because her son was the only Filipino who had qualified for the London Olympics when the deadline came to submit a name.
The company did not regret the choice, said Dimapilis, who along with Barriga’s father Edgar, had chaperoned Mrs. Barriga in London. It was the couple’s first trip abroad.
On Saturday night, Mark and his parents had dinner with Ricky Vargas, president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines. After that Mark bid goodbye to his parents, who left for home Sunday morning.
Edgar is a printing machine operator for a fruit company in Panabo City in Davao del Norte. Melita is a housewife. The Barriga couple had hoped to extend their stay in London. Unfortunately, their son ran into a wrestler, not a boxer, in the round of 16 of the boxing competition here.
Melita watched in pain as the Kazakh time and again pushed low and slammed her son against the ropes and into the canvas. On two of these occasions, Mark, was penalized, adding a total of four points to his opponent’s score. He eventually lost by a point.
It was as painful to see him lose that way as to see him get hurt on the ring.
Like any mother, Melita had been against Mark Anthony’s boxing career. She was aware of the dangers of the sport and was persistent with her opposition, until he qualified for the Olympics.
Along with Mark’s maternal and paternal grandfathers, Edgar had been instrumental in Mark’s interest in boxing. In fact, he actually started him young.
Mark was three and his elder brother, Edmel, was six when they started learning the rudiments of the game from their father. Edgar, himself a light flyweight amateur fighting in barangay contests, was actually the boys’ first coach.
Edmel, a flyweight, has since quit boxing due to an injury, which is probably why their mother was against their taking up boxing as a sport.
It was Mark himself who finally convinced his mother to drop her opposition.
“He pleaded with me to just let him do it,” Melita recalled. “He said he knew what he was doing. That’s when I finally gave my approval.”
Still, Melita is a scared mother every time her son goes up the ring. When Mark won his first fight on Tuesday, she could hardly watch. She could not hold back her tears when Mark won over Italy’s Manuel Cappai.
On Saturday, moments after the referee penalized Mark a total of four points in the third round and caused his one-point loss, Melita was an angry mother. She was in a fighting mood.
“Kitang kita naman dinaya ng referee ang anak ko. (It’s very clear the referee cheated my son),” Melita said.
She may not know boxing much, but she knew her son was robbed.