Thrice in the history of the Philippines’ participation in the Olympics, the nation’s anthem “Lupang Hinirang” was a heartbeat away from being heard in the podium ceremony of the greatest sporting show on earth.
The national anthem was actually played in two Olympic editions when Arianne Cerdeña won gold in bowling in 1984 Seoul and Willy Wang took ruled wushu in 2008 Beijing, but both were demonstration sports.
During the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Filipinos were denied to hear the national anthem when boxer Anthony Villanueva suffered a controversial loss.
Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco – also a boxer – also failed in his gold medal match against a Bulgarian foe during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Five years ago, when Brazil hosted the Summer Games, Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz fought gallantly but her effort fell short in her bid in the 53-kilogram women’s category.
But a determined Diaz came back, and changed everything in a record-setting, historic performance.
Finally, after 97 years of waiting – or since the country first participated as a nation in the 1924 Paris Olympics – the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” was heard by millions of sports-loving people around the world.
Diaz made it happened after ruling the 55-kilogram category in women’s weightlifting event, setting an Olympic record of 224kgs total lift that combined her 127kgs in clean and jerk – also an Olympic mark – and 97kgs in snatch.
The national anthem reverberated at the Tokyo International Forum with Diaz – after giving a snappy salute – tears rolled down her face in joy and astonishment.
A member of the Philippine Air Force, Diaz then gamely sang the “Lupang Hinirang” to the heart.
For sure, it wasn’t just Diaz who was in tears Monday night – a day that will forever be remembered in Philippine history.