I THOUGHT that every possible angle and story of Mary Joy Tabal, one of Cebu’s most-written about athletes, has been pursued.
Won a gold. Check.
Made it to the Olympics? Check.
Set a national record? Check.
Her life story has been written about numerous times ever since making it to the Olympics last year in numerous dailies and magazines too that the only thing lacking is a movie. Such is the life of Joy, the face of running in the country.
But then again fate had a cruel twist. On the night of the race we learned that Joy’s father, Rolando, who raised the brood of four on his own, died of a heart attack and we all asked, “Would Joy still run?”
It turned out she entertained that question herself but decided to go on with the event, knowing it was what her father would have wanted. So sleepless and with a heavy heart and mind, Joy ran the marathon two minutes under three hours and won her fifth straight Milo title, the only one to do so.
The emotions that ran through her mind as she crossed the finish line must have been overwhelming; she lay still and cried--nay, bawled like a baby--for minutes. She later said that she promised her father that they would meet at the finish line and in a way, they did. Because she felt his presence.
Everyone left the crying champion alone, so she could have her moment; her final moments perhaps with her father? It was just too bad that veteran writer Mars Alison stepped in and took her away, perhaps moved upon seeing her sobbing friend? If it was me, I’d leave Joy alone. There are just some scenes writers need not be involved in.
It’s been written so many times about how Joy has shown the true spirit of a champion but last Sunday, Joy showed the true meaning of such phrase. And she did it for the very same reason that had gotten her in trouble with Patafa all those years, for her family. She ran for her family.
She ran for her ever-supportive father who told her not to visit him so she could concentrate on her title defense. She ran for her siblings she helped send to school through blood, sweat and tears.
She ran and won for her family and the running community of Cebu saw how the barely five-foot champion stood tall for everyone.