PANGASINAN opens the country’s first provincial sports academy by March next year.
A titan in Ilocos region sports, the province does not have to struggle under the national spotlight to get the infrastructure built.
It already has the modern Narciso Ramos Memorial Sports Complex in Lingayen, and the provincial capital is ready to receive the first batch of teachers and students in the Olympic sports of boxing, cycling, track and field, and taekwondo for starters.
The sports complex, on 9 hectares of government property, is part of a tidy provincial civic center of uniformly gold-colored buildings on the shores of Lingayen Gulf.
Myra Romero, manager of the complex, says the main oval can simultaneously stage several track and field events, two tennis matches and four games of volleyball.
Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia was reportedly smitten by the venues and the ample built-in quarters for officiating and technical staff he told provincial executives they could handle even the Southeast Asian Games at the drop of a hat.
After hosting the Palarong Pambansa in May and the Batang Pinoy regionals in October, caretakers of the Ramos complex were awash with ideas. Their target was to keep the place from going to pot in between sports events and private and public social functions that usually come in spurts.
The prevailing mood at the capitol was to avoid the expensive fiasco of leaving the complex to rut as it did in previous administrations, according to several provincial spokespersons. So the governor decided to open a school for homegrown athletes.
His drumbeaters said Gov. Amado Espino Jr., ironically on the ropes currently at the Ombudsman’s Office for allegations of malfeasance, believes that all that stands between the youth and sports excellence is an academy that teaches and nurtures.
Although the academy curriculum remains fuzzy, the horn blowers said their boss is determined to bring the Olympic movement in Pangasinan back to its roots—the countryside where talents abound but remain untapped.
The academy puts the onus on other provinces to quench the thirst of youngsters for sports instruction. It could also spur competition among the provinces to outdo each other as the nation’s ultimate sports outpost.
Oscar Moreno, governor of Misamis Oriental, home of Pelaez Sports Center—among the country’s best athletic venues—said the academy will spread the word that “it is getting extremely competitive out there.”
Moreno, supporter of a powerhouse amateur boxing team, said the school will help athletes and sports followers alike “understand and realize the nuances of competition.”
Zambales Gov. Hermogenes E. Ebdane Jr., a known exponent of year-round provincial cycling races and barangay-level amateur boxing matches, said leaders should encourage the young to take up sports.
Ebdane said he plans to infuse more support to Olympic sports competitions in Zambales as the province emerges as one of the country’s sports tourism meccas.
To keep up with the Joneses of provincial sports, the governor has made Iba, the capital, a magnet for athletic events by building up-to-date sports facilities, including a hostel for athletes.
“A sports school is a good idea that should be copied by all provinces to give more traction to the grassroots movement,” says former Gintong Alay director Michael Keon.
Tongue-in-check, Keon, a former Ilocos Norte governor, said “the Pangasinan academy will definitely increase its chances in the annual competitions of the Region I Athletic Association.”
Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan have been in a see-saw battle for overall supremacy since the meet started as the Ilocos Region Athletic Association in 1995.