Hidylin Diaz’s epic gold medal-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics has unleashed a torrent of jubilation that is now playing out on the high-definition public screen of digital media.
Here’s a snapshot from a friend’s Viber post: “Did you ever think you’d see a Filipino win an Olympic gold medal in your lifetime? I didn’t. So happy to see this finally.”
Crying tears of joy is a common denominator of public sentiment. Witnessing the hoisting of the Philippine flag to the tune of Lupang Hinirang caused Hidilyn to tear up as she, a Philippine Air Force sergeant, gave a snappy salute.
Even C-suite executives unabashedly admitted crying, too – as did long-term expatriates who had joined the Filipino diaspora years ago in search of proverbial greener pastures amid a sense of desolation in their homeland.
Parenthetically, a former classmate had posted earlier Olympic medal winning feats of Fil-Am and Fil-Canadian athletes to cheer up our barkada, perhaps unaware that there were high-potential gold medal winners, too, among the 19 Filipino Olympians in Tokyo.
From the social media thread of a prayer group that was shared with me by my wife, I was afforded glimpses of Hidilyn’s faith-filled journey in quest of an Olympic gold. Here’s one of her posts that eventually found its way on mass media outlets:
“Miraculous Medal po, binigay ng friend ko. Nag-novena sila ng nine days before my competition and ako din nag-novena. It’s a sign of prayers nila at faith to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ.”
She wore a necklace bearing the image of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal as she received her Olympic gold medal during the awards ceremony.
On Facebook and Viber, her picture has been placed beside that of the legendary Jamaican runner Usain Bolt also proudly showing his necklace bearing the Miraculous Medal. Bolt is a triple Olympic champion (Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016) and a triple world champion in three sprint events (100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 4 x 100 meter relay).
Harbinger of hope
She is a person of great faith and a harbinger of hope.
In an impromptu backstage interview after the medal awarding ceremony, she said:
“Kinakabahan ako (I was nervous). I believed. Dami kong pinagdaanan (I went through many challenges). Yung matrix. I stopped schooling. Di ko kasama parents ko (I was separated from my parents). Got stuck in Malaysia. Malaking bagay na gina-guide ako ni God (It was huge that I was being guided by God). Sa lahat ng pinagdaanan ko, may message si God (In all that I went through, God had a message).
Then she emphasized:
“Kaya natin. Huwag kayong sumuko kahit anong challenge.
Akala natin, akala ko imposible. Manalangin tayo kay God. Ang message ko: Kaya natin. Manalangin tayo kay God.” (We can do it. Don’t give up, whatever the challenge may be. I thought it was impossible. Let’s pray to God.)
This post-victory message echoed what she said in an interview on the day before she competed:
“I am so blessed to represent the Philippines. Hindi ako puwedeng mag-give up. (I can’t give up.) Mas kailangan ngayon ng pag-asa. (We need hope now more than ever.) Nagpapasalamat ako sa inyong suporta. (I wish to thank you for your support.) Please include me in your prayers.”
Hidilyn’s homecoming two days after her historic feat in Tokyo has been foreshadowed by an avalanche of cash rewards and cool perks including “a lifetime of free flights” from Air Asia, whose group CEO Tony Fernandes said: “Amidst challenges and struggles as we go forth with recovery, Hidilyn reminds us that no matter how heavy the weight we are carrying, inner strength, perseverance and a heart of gold will help power us through.”
Not to be outdone, Philippine Airlines announced, too, through its President Gilbert Santa Maria that Hidilyn would be their first Forever Flyer by giving her 80,00 free miles per year for life and praising her thus: “Hidilyn’s life journey exemplifies hard work, determination, and powerful faith, all of which led her to Olympic victory.”
These should enable Hidilyn to shuttle frequently from her home in Zamboanga City to Metro Manila and Luzon where she has been offered gifts by benefactors, such as: Megaworld’s P14 million condominium unit, Century Properties PHirst Homes’ P4 million house, and a Tagaytay City house from Rep. Abraham Tolentino, Philippine Olympic Committee chairman.
Meanwhile, Hidilyn has already signified that she would definitely carry on her quest for loftier achievements in the coming editions of the Asian Games (2022 in Hangzhou, China), Southeast Asian Games (2023 in Cambodia) and even a fifth Olympic stint (2024 in Paris).
She feels good about her health and fitness and she wants to continue inspiring the Filipino youth to become, like her, torchbearers of Olympic excellence.