THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
By DR. JUN YNARES
“My first impression was he comes from a very wealthy family and that he was a tall, young athlete studying at an exclusive school.”
This was part of a conversation I overheard recently. The subject matter of the conversation was a young Filipino who recently made it to local and international headlines. The reason for the instant celebrity status: he has just made history by becoming the first Filipino and the first male Southeast Asian to win the gold medal in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship.
His name is Carlos Edriel Yulo, and his feat was not merely gold medal-worthy. By garnering first place honors, Carlos won a ticket to the next Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020. Since he will be competing against the same gymnasts he had just defeated, hopes are high that he can repeat the feat and bring home that elusive Olympics gold medal.
The fact is Carlos is none of the things he was described as in the overheard conversation.
He does not come from a very wealthy family. No, it appears he is not part of the Yulos which once was a powerful political and business clan which used to own vast tracts of sugar plantations south of Metro Manila.
The fact is this particular Yulo is the proverbial “batang kalye”. Reports say he was born and grew up in Leveriza, Pasay, in a neighborhood where children still play outdoors. He was then studying at a public elementary school – not at a green or blue university as some people thought, owing to his prestigious family name.
One day, Carlos is supposed to have wandered into the Rizal Memorial Coliseum with his barkada, and saw gymnasts practicing.
Carlos was said to have been fascinated with what this special breed of athletes can do. He started practicing. The Gymnastics Association of the Philippines took him under their wing. While the rest of his gang eventually dropped out, he stayed on. His determination paid off. He was eventually given scholarships by the Adamson University and by Teikyu University of Japan.
One might get the impression based on pictures that Carlos is one tall, athletic hunk. Hunk and athletic, yes. Tall – it appears that is not the case. Based on recent articles, this Yulo stands less than five feet tall – 4’11” to be exact.
When we learned about this, we were reminded of several other Filipinos who were not tall at all but who stood tallest among human beings.
The first was Carlos P. Romulo.
The second was Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
We supposed that Carlos Edriel was not named after Carlos P. Romulo. The latter was a Filipino icon of an era gone by. Carlos Edriel’s parents many now have known him. However, during his time, Carlos P. Romulo was one of the most famous Filipinos in the global stage.
Yes, he was the “little man” who stood by General Douglas McArthur in the famous landing scene in Leyte which happened towards the end of the Second World War. The joke was Romulo was so small he that he nearly drowned trying to wade through the water that was just knee-deep based on McArthur’s height.
Some say Romulo was nothing more than 4’11’’ tall. Some say he must have been 5’4’’. Whichever, the fact is Romulo himself recognized the fact that he was no skyscraper and often made a joke about it.
Romulo, however, stood tall in his generation. He was a statesman, a diplomat, journalist and author. He was a winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and was President of the United Nations General Assembly. He is a National Artist for Literature and was President of the University of the Philippines.
He had accomplished more in his lifetime than most of the leaders of his generation. In the Olympics of intellectual brilliance, it can be said that this tiny Filipino was a consistent gold medal winner.
The same can be said of another great Filipino born ahead of Carlos – both the Romulo and the Yulo. Dr. Jose Rizal was an intellectual giant and a larger-than-life symbol of Asian nationalism despite the fact that his height was no more than 4’11”.
The physical size of a person is no indicator of the size of his heart and his soul.
What matters more is the size of that person’s dream.
We presume that when Carlos Edriel saw for the first time those gymnasts at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, he likewise saw a glimpse of the future – of what he can be. He transformed that glimpse into a full-size dream.
Carlos – the Romulo – and Rizal did the same.
They saw a glimpse of the future – one where the Filipino is free and is respected in the international community.
They transformed that glimpse into a full-size dream.
When a diminutive Filipino is in pursuit of giant dreams, he is unstoppable.
Congratulations, Carlos Edriel. Thank you for that giant of a performance. Thank you for reminding of the power of dreams that rise higher than our Filipino height.
Among those whom you have given inspiration to is a young Filipina named Rebecca Victoria.
She is nine years old has chosen gymnastics to be the arena where she will prove her strength and her skills.
Having learned about your story, Rebecca Victoria caught a glimpse of her own future – a glimpse which she may one day transform into a full-size dream.
Rebecca Victoria is fondly called Via. Literally, her nickname means “way”. That name suits her because she is one to surely find a way to make her dreams come true. She has already taken the first steps – her school has already recognized her as Gymnast of the Year.
We know that for a fact. After all, Via is our younger daughter. We believe that one day, she, too, will stand tall among her peers. She knows that what matters is the size of her dreams – one as big as yours.
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