High hopes for PH Paralympics teamBy Manolo R. Iñigo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
FOLLOWING the successful staging of the London 2012 Olympics, another sporting spectacle, the Paralympic Games, takes center stage Wednesday with 20 sports on tap in the British capital.
Even though it lacks the media hype and fanfare of the regular Olympic Games, I consider the Paralympics (organized by Sir Ludwig Guttman in London in 1948 for Persons with Disabilities and known then as the International Wheelchair Games) and its competitors as the true Olympians.
This is because I find these athletes with disabilities heroic for pushing themselves in the field of human performance despite their handicaps. These PWDs train and prepare for international competitions just as hard and seriously as normal and able-bodied athletes in their search for glory.
As one avid follower of the Paralympics says: “I marvel at the grit and exceptional ability of these athletes with disabilities. I’ve gone to many of these Paralympic Games, and I’ve found, again and again, that every spectator sees the Para athletes for the sportsmen they truly are. The focus on their disability goes away very quickly.”
In this regard, I welcome wholeheartedly House No. Bill 1387, filed by youthful lawyer Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte. The bill aims to establish a Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO) in every province, city and municipality in the Philippines. The PDAO, without a shadow of a doubt, will benefit millions of Filipinos with disabilities.
Said Romualdez: “There is no office that completely handles the affairs of persons with disabilities. Under existing laws, disabled persons are provided services, but these do not go far enough.”
Over the years and, for the sake of fairness and equality, I have taken the cudgels for the PWDs who need a permanent compensation law similar to Republic Act 9064, which grants cash rewards and other benefits to medal winners in the Olympics, Asian and Southeast Asian Games. To my mind, these medal-winning athletes with disabilities should be amply rewarded.
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Speaking of rewards, this corner is wishing all the best for Paralympic runner Roger Tapia and the rest of the members of the Philippine team in this year’s Para Games.
Kudos, too, to the Philippine Sports Commission, the Ilocos Norte provincial government and Jose Rizal University, where Tapia is studying, for their financial support.
“I’m very happy with how the province is helping me,” said Tapia in a statement. “I’m also thankful to the PSC, my school and my other benefactors for providing me with the needed financial assistance which will certainly go a long way.”
Born with only one arm, Tapia also has difficulty speaking, which initially prevented him from seeking medical treatment. But those handicaps did not stop him from pursuing his passion for sports.
Just to illustrate. In the Malaysian Open last April, he clocked 23.56 seconds in the 200 meters to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympics T-46 classification event for one-armed amputees. Tapia is leaving for London together with coach Joel Deriada.
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