After his six-year term, President Duterte will undoubtedly be leaving a lasting legacy to a grateful nation.
And this indelible mark will also be left in Philippine sports, which went through a unprecedented and historic period of excellence and world-renown never before reached under any other Philippine president.
This was no more embodied than in the quest for Olympic gold which weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz realized in the Tokyo 2020 Games, ending a long and arduous wait that spanned 97 years.
Diaz’s “lift of faith” was the embodiment of Duterte’s own dream for Philippine sports.
It was also the by-product of the President’s desire to unite the country through sports.
No less than Philippine Sports Commission chair William “Butch” Ramirez, who worked as Duterte’s sports chief when the latter was still Davao City Mayor, put it in one word.
Ramirez said Diaz’s historic Tokyo Games performance was just one of the many accomplishments Filipino athletes achieved under the bright lights of the ultra-competitive global sports arena.
In Tokyo, the country produced its best effort by far as it also raked in silver medals from Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and a bronze from Eumir Felix Marcial—all coming in boxing.
A world champion in men’s artistic gymnastics also emerged in pocket-sized wonder Carlos Edriel Yulo, who reigned supreme in floor exercise in Stuttgart, Germany in 2019 and vault in Kitakyushu, Japan in 2021.
Petecio herself took the gold in the Women’s World Championship in Ulan-Ude, Russia also in 2019.
Include pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, who not only became an Asian record-holder but also rose to No. 5 in the world.
Then there was the ascent of Fil-Japanese Yuka Saso to the pinnacle of international women’s gold when she topped the United States Open in 2021, making her the first Filipino to ever win a major golf championship.
Duterte also seemed to have inspired or have brought luck and charm to the Philippine contingent which emerged as the overall champion in the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) that the country hosted in 2019 when the Filipinos harvested 147 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals to emerge as overall champions in the biennial meet.
And Ramirez thinks the generosity of Duterte was one of the biggest keys to the country’s sporting success.
“Financial support, doubled cash incentives, national athletes are frequently welcome in Malacañang and his love and care for athletes was enormous,” he said.
Truly, Duterte’s generosity to athletes was legendary.
When Diaz struck gold in Tokyo, Duterte was quick to give the heroine a reward.
Duterte also personally commended and rewarded all Filipino medalists in the 2019 SEA Games, as well as in the 2022 Hanoi Games.
Duterte was also always present during opening ceremonies of national competitions like the Palarong Pambansa.
You can count on him to make time for Filipino athletes.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” thrust also covered sports facilities as it was under his term that heritage venues like the Rizal Memorial Complex in Manila and PhilSports Complex in Pasig City underwent major rehabilitation.
The New Clark City, a sprawling centerpiece of a facility in Capas, Tarlac, was also constructed in record time.
The law creating the National Academy of Sports (NAS), which will institutionalize sports learning and teaching in the country, was also enacted and signed into law by Duterte.
“The infrastructure for sports, the NAS program and his love given to the athletes through different incentives are given,” said Tolentino, who is also Mayor of Tagaytay City.
All of these happened because of that great man who had a true and genuine love affair with sports.