Romualdez, solons mourn Lydia de Vega’s death; urged support for retired athletes
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and other lawmakers from the House of Representatives mourned the death of Filipina track and field legend Lydia de Vega as they raised the need to give retired athletes more support.
In a statement on Thursday, Romualdez said De Vega’s ordeal highlights the necessity of government and private sector assistance for former athletes who may encounter health conditions.
De Vega succumbed to complications from breast cancer, her daughter announced on Wednesday night.
“Lydia de Vega was one of the greatest and the most decorated Filipino athletes. She brought honor and pride to our country by winning numerous medals in the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and Asian Athletics Championships. She was called Asia’s fastest woman after ruling the 100-meter dash in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games,” Romualdez said.
“Her death highlights the need for our government and the private sector to support Filipino athletes not only while they are healthy and physically able to compete but in retirement as well,” he added.
Romualdez also offered condolences to the bereaved family.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with Lydia de Vega’s family at this most difficult time,” he said.
Similar to Romualdez, PBA party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles said she is studying the provision of assistance to retired athletes, noting the sad situation where de Vega’s family sought assistance for her treatment before she eventually passed away.
De Vega gave glory to the country by ruling several sporting events during the 1980s, winning the 100-meter gold medal in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games, and ruling the sprint double in the Asian Athletics Championship in 1983 and 1987.
She also got nine gold medals from the Southeast Asian Games.
“Nakakalungkot na mawala isa sa ating mga unang babaeng bayani. Bilang isang woman athlete (noon) at trackster, isa sa mga inspirasyon po talaga si Ms. Lydia. Ang nakakalungkot po talaga ay sa mga huling araw niya ay humingi siya ng financial help sa public dahil kulang po ng mga programs to support and give retirement benefits sa ating past Olympians,” Nograles said.
(It’s sad that one of our first women hero athletes has passed away. As a woman athlete before and as a trackster, Ms. Lydia was a huge source of inspiration. The sad thing about this is that on her final days, her family sought financial help from the public because of the lack of programs, support, and provision of retirement benefits to our past Olympians.)
“Kaya po, iyan ang isa sa mga pinag-aaralan natin ngayon para po matulungan ang ating Olympians (both current and retired),” she added.
(That’s why it is an issue that we are studying now, so that we can help our Olympians, both current and retired.)
Women’s rights supporter and Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas meanwhile filed House Resolution No. 214 to express the House’s profound condolences on de Vega’s passing, and to honor her contributions to the Philippine sporting scene.
“De Vega brought immeasurable honor and recognition to the country with her outstanding global record in the track and field sport, and pushed the country into the global sports spotlight in the 1980s,” Brosas said.
“She has become an icon and inspiration for Filipina athletes, and has largely contributed in shattering gender stereotypes and discrimination against Filipino women in sports,” she added.
Valenzuela 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez meanwhile said that the Philippines lost a national treasure with the passing of de Vega.
“Today, we lost an all time great… a national treasure, the Queen of Track Lydia de Vega. She brought honor and glory to our country during the 80’s, as Asia’s Fastest Woman,” Martinez said.
“Long live the Queen!!!! Diay you will forever be remembered. Our prayers to you and deepest sympathy to the bereaved family,” he added.
Earlier, former president and Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also offered her condolences, saying that she hopes De Vega’s accomplishments would inspire more Filipinos to get into sports and excel.
“May her achievements motivate other Filipino athletes to aspire for excellence in their chosen sport,” she said.
De Vega’s daughter Stephanie Mercado announced the death of the legendary athlete in a Facebook post on Wednesday night, confirming that the former athlete succumbed to complications from breast cancer.
Just this July 20, Mercado revealed that her mother was in a ‘very critical condition’ due to her sickness.