By DEAN MEL STA. MARIA
No Filipino will ever wish bad things to our own athletes. We will always be with them, rejoicing in their victories and empathizing with their losses. Even in sports where winning is slim, Filipino fans have been inspiringly supportive. We even give appreciative applause to the losers after a hard-fought game. There is no fanaticism like in some parts of the world where racial slurs have been directed by some fans against the opposing athletes. There are only admiration and healthy respect for our favorite teams and their adversaries. And if some people do not know that by now, then they do not really understand anything about Filipino fans.
Because of criticisms on certain miscues in the preparations leading to the SEAG,Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham Tolentino was quoted as saying “Magsama-sama tayo dito, para sa bansa natin to, huwag muna tayo maghilahan, after this na. Para sa bayan muna, sayang.” Some other officials even suggested that people stop making observations. It is annoying hearing these remarks. They wrongly suggest that Filipinos are not united in supporting our own athletes just because they air legitimate comments regarding certain inadequacies, like having foreign athletes wait in the airport and getting them to the wrong hotel or preparing less than the nutritious meal for our athletes.
The questionsare: not “unified”about what?“Magsama-sama tayo dito” where? “Para sa bayan muna, sayang” in what regard? Filipinos have always been unified in siding with our athletes especially against superior odds. Have these officials not heard and seen the passion exhibited by Filipino fansduring the 2014 Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) World Cup held in Seville, Spain? Their consistent loud cheers for our “Gilas-Puso” team against taller adversaries like the Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico teams were outstanding, catching the admiration of 100 million basketball fans around the world. As a result,the Filipinoswon the “Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country” award.
Observations of ordinary Filipinos about the SEAG facilities, accommodations, the P55 million “kaldero,” the kind of preparation undertaken and even the appearance of “Pami”, the mascot, have nothing to do with the Filipinos’ admiration for our own athletes, their loyalty to them and their unanimous desire for them to achieve success. The fans’ animadversions have no connection to their undivided support for our national teams.
We never waned in backing our athletes even in times when government full support is wanting or when the bickerings of local sports officials prejudiced our athletes’ welfare. Filipino fans of whatever persuasion and/or political affiliation will continue to watch in stadiums and/or be glued to their television and radio sets rooting for our SEAG national teams, praying that they achieve glory not only for themselves but for our beloved country, the Philippines.
How about the athletes? It is foolish to even think that, just because critical comments against the organizers were made, Hidilyn Diaz, Carlos Yulo and Agatha Wong will perform below par in their respective weightlifting, gymnastic and Wushu events. As we witnessed, they competed magnificently. They know their personal goals and are fully aware of the honor they can bring to the country.
Filipino athletes and fans have been one especially in standing up for the Philippines. When the games begin, nothing can break their love for and faithfulness to each other and to the country.
And so again I ask: what is this “magsama-sama tayo dito” declaration all about? This “para sa bayan muna, sayang” innuendo, and most importantly, the“huwag muna tayo maghilahan jibber-jabber?” Is criticism equal to crab mentality? Absolutely no, not with Filipino fans.
Eventually, in the joy and the anguish of the athletes and the fans following every game , these admonitions of “disunity” by some of our officials will be seen for what they truly are: nonsensical warnings, and, to many, a poor attempt to avoid being constructively criticized and made accountable.
In the meantime, let us continue to zealously cheer and unceasingly support all our Filipino athletes.
And with criticisms must also come the praises. Let us appreciate the efforts of Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, the organizers and the hundreds of Filipino volunteers for making the various SEAG events a joy to watch locally and all over Southeast Asia. The games are going on superbly. That is something all of us should be proud of. Great job so far Speaker Cayetano. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.