When it comes to describing the sports industry in the Philippines, one may have a difficult time coming up with a defining trait. Because while there are many ways Filipino athleticism is being showcased, only a few sports are being put in the local and global spotlight, like basketball, volleyball, and even boxing.
Nevertheless, events that cater to different sports continue to be held across the country—serving as glimmers of hope not just for the industry in general, but for the Filipino athletes who very much deserve support and empowerment.
One of these events is an annual track and field competition called the Ayala Philippine Athletics Championships—also known as the National Open. As the centerpiece sport event of the Philippine Athletics Track And Field Association (PATAFA), it showcases the athletic prowess of the national athletics team who are pitted against the best of the country, and those from around the region.
Much like how they always did, this year’s edition will oversee over a thousand highly diverse and competitive track and field athletes all over the Philippines, plus invited top-notch athletes from Asian countries such as India, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia (expected to be represented by both Peninsular and Sabah teams), Singapore, and Indonesia. And for this year in particular, the National Open will serve as the final tune-up championships for the Philippine team seeing action in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which will be hosted in the country.
“This one is a qualifier to the ASEAN games, so that makes it special. Last year, it was special because it was the Southeast Asian Games back to back with the National Open,” said PATAFA President Dr. Philip Juico.
Additionally, for this year’s competition the Philippines beefs up its lineup by fielding entries from the national team, the national training pool, and collegiate leagues like the UAAP, NCAA, and SCUAA.
The 2018 National Open will be held in the city of Ilagan, Isabela for the second time—turning the city into a hotbed of athletics in the country.
“The people there are special because they’re very welcoming… and because they really want to help develop the sport, they want to help us achieve our objectives of raising the profile of track and field,” said Juico.
The five-day scorching, live, action-packed competition will kick-off on May 31 and culminate on the June 4 at the Ilagan Sports Complex. It will be open to the public.
“To me, this is the best way to showcase the sport, and to test and build the community of track and field athletes, to strengthen the camaraderie, and also as I said to raise the profile of the sports,” said Juico. “We want it to be like a festival, where you see the best and brightest of Philippine athletics.”
Evident in its name, the competition roots from a long-term partnership between Ayala Corporation and PATAFA, which was forged in 2016. Having already conquered telecommunications, property development, banking and finance, water distribution, and infrastructure, the Ayala Corporation has been coming forward to support Philippine athletics.
Nevertheless, the conglomerate is no stranger to Philippine sports, as it has since tried its hand in triathlons, volleyball, and, very recently, track and field.
“Dito sa [For] track and field, they were the ones who approached us,” said Juico. “Because their logic was ‘We will hold the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines in 2019’ and we should produce as many medals as possible because it will be held in the Philippines. And what sport has the capacity produce the most number of medal, but track and field—23 for men, 23 for women.”
More than financial support, the Ayala Corporation is also making available to PATAFA their new sports complex at Vermosa in Imus, Cavite. And with their arrangements with the sports clinic Santé Barley, athletes are provided with a proper place wherein they could get sports medicine and recover from strenuous exercises. Juico said that this is Ayala’s way of practicing the principle of “shared value.”
“Shared value where helping the community fulfill its aspirations also helps your business create some kind of competitive advantage,” said Juico.
According to Juico, sponsorships and/or assistance in any form help make PATAFA viable, as sustaining any type of sport in the country is an expensive endeavor.
That being said, there is also PATAFA’s longstanding partnership with watch brands SOLEUS and LTIMESTUDIO that continue to strengthen the association in realizing their goals. Juico shared that the brands have this innate motivation to provide assistance to them, regardless if PATAFA asks or not.
“To begin with, we don’t even ask [SOLEUS and LTIMESTUDIO]. They’re voluntarily here before we could ask… iniisip mo pa lang dumarating na [you’re just thinking about it but the help arrives immediately].”
Aside from this desire to help, Juico said that the brands also place their utmost trust to PATAFA in raising the profile of Philippine sports.
“They believe in what we’re doing. And I believe that what they give, is being aspired for by the athletes like watches, etc. It is of value of them psychologically, even personally. It is a way of showing of their appreciation for our efforts. So that’s why we’re grateful,” added Juico.
With that, empowering Filipino athletes is indeed a process. Juico said doing so involves “improving their skills and exposing them to the best possible coaching.”
He added, “Also, feeding them right, and treating them well, psychologically and physically. And most importantly, making them feel wanted and appreciated. But then again there is also discipline. I do your part and you do yours.”