CHANGE has come indeed. Since long-time Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential race via landslide last May, it opened many windows of opportunities for Dabawenyos and Mindanaoans to shine in sports.
Appointing his then Sports Development Division of the City Mayor's Office (SDD-CMO) officer-in-charge William "Butch" Ramirez to head the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as chairman and former SunStar Davao editor Charles Raymond Maxey, a member of the Duterte Media Team during the presidential campaign, as commissioner was a relief of sort as it gave Mindanao a good representation in the PSC Board while the previous administration had nobody from Mindanao in the country's sports agency. New PSC Commissioner Celia Kiram, the first Muslim representation in the PSC, is also from Mindanao.
The sports media was kept guessing for over a month with several names being floated in broadsheets, radios and TV programs. But the PSC Board was only bared few days before Duterte was to take his oath of office as the new President of the Republic of the Philippines. Also appointed as Commissioners were PBA legend Ramon "El Presidente" Fernandez of Cebu City and Arnold Agustin of Luzon.
The new PSC Board, now more focused on policy-making, at once made radical changes, removing the monthly P500,000 discretionary fund of the Chairman and P300,000 each of the Commissioners as what had been practiced by the previous PSC Board. Such move, which is in line with President Duterte's order to eliminate graft and corruption in government, was supported by a board resolution.
Change in the country's sports was also felt as the President made himself available for the athletes. He himself welcomed Rio Olympics-bound delegates at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace last July 18, sending them off in a simple ceremony and raising their allowances. It was the first send-off in Malacañang by a president for an Olympics-bound delegation, according to three-time Olympian jumper Marestella Torres Sunang.
President Duterte, who brought with him some members of his Cabinet, cheered Gilas Pilipinas during its opening game against heavy favorite Tony Parker-led France team in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016 held July 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena. He also led the ceremonial toss to the delight of the Filipino fans.
The PSC also held a series of consultative meetings in Manila City and Pasig City to involve stakeholders on the agency's direction for Philippine sports.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz of Mampang, Zamboanga City, has become an instant celebrity and everybody's favorite after she ended the country's 20-year Olympic medal drought with a silver medal finish in the Rio Olympics 2016. Her feat also made her the first Filipina and Mindanaoan ever to win an Olympic medal, making her accomplishment even more prestigious.
Thus, President Duterte, elated that she brought so much joy and pride to the country, gave her additional P2 million bonus aside from the mandatory P5 million cash incentive of the National Government for an Olympic silver.
President Duterte awarded the P5 million check to Diaz when she paid him a courtesy visit at the Malacañang of the South, also known as Panacañang, in Davao City upon her arrival from Rio de Janeiro last August. She then joined the president and the PSC chief to a press conference.
In Davao, she reunited with her relatives and she also made a quick tour with her family at a durian fruit stand along Ramon Magsaysay Avenue. She ate durian fruit and durian ice cream and bought bottles of durian jam that she brought home to Zamboanga City.
Diaz, who competed in her third Olympics, also received P500,000 from the city government of Zamboanga and an undisclosed amount of incentive from Senator Manny Pacquiao.
She hogged headlines and guested in almost every program on television from different networks.
Premier mass housing developer 8990 Housing Development Corporation also awarded her a brand new house and lot at Deca Clark Resort Residences (DCRR) in Pampanga.
Coming from a brief "retirement", Senator Pacquiao seemed to had never left as he scored a stunning upset victory over WBO Welterweight defending champion Jessie Vargas last November 6 (Philippine time) at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pacquiao dropped Vargas in the second round and bloodied the latter's face en-route to the claiming the welterweight title once again via unanimous decision.
Jerwin Ancajas of Panabo City crowned himself International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior bantamweight champion after eking out a 12-round unanimous decision victory over McJoe Arroyo of Puerto Rico last September. Though the fight purse only earned him US$ 3,700 (roughly P170,000), he got a P500,000 bonus from Senator Pacquiao.
Reigning International Boxing Organization (IBO) World light flyweight champion Rey Loreto of Calinan, Davao City, was named co-boxer of the year with WBA light flyweight champion Randy Petalcorin in the 16th Gabriel "Flash" Elorde Awards Banquet of Champions at the Sofitel Plaza in April.
Panabo City lightweight boxer Charly Suarez, also a product of the Barangay Una Boxing Team of Davao del Norte, made his debut in the Rio Olympics having qualified through the Aiba Asian/Oceanian Olympic Qualifying Event in Qian'an, Hebei Province in China.
The Davao City-bannered elementary boys football team pocketed a gold medal in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa in Legazpi City, Albay.
But Mea Gey Niñura of Kapatagan, Digos City took the limelight as she made record-breaking golden finishes at the track. She first captured the secondary girls 3,000-meter gold then followed it up with another gold in 1,500m. She shattered Northern Mindanao's Jie Ann Calis's record of 4:44.4 record in 1,500m with her own record of 4:39.46.
For the first time in many years, the Davao Region Athletic Association (Davraa) stole the spotlight in the Palaro. Thanks to Niñura who bagged the first gold in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa athletics competition by smashing the secondary girls 3,000m run record. Her 10:03.4 surpassed Calis's mark of 10:10.16.
In the 2016 National Prisaa Championships held in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, Davao Region finished third overall, amassing a total of 41 golds, 65 silvers and 66 bronzes. It was a notch higher than the fourth place the region held in Iloilo City last year. The region reached the finals of men's and women's volleyball, sepak takraw, women's basketball, women's softball and men's baseball.
Sonny Wagdos pocketed two golds in men's 5,000m run and 10,000m run events while Kierl Suazo got the region's lone gold in swimming.
Over in Samarinda, East Kalimantan in Indonesia, the Holy Cross of Davao College (HCDC) Crusaders men's basketball team claimed Davao City's one and only gold medal in the 9th Bimp-Eaga Friendship Games with a handful of silvers and bronzes in other sports. The Crusaders, coached by Ice Gravador, was reinforced by an Ateneo de Davao University Blue Knights player.
The Batang Pinoy 2016 National Championships, the first major sporting meet under the Duterte administration, was held in Tagum City, Davao del Norte with a record of 14,000 delegates from 271 local government units (LGUs).
Of the 24 events played in Tagum City and two events at Philsports Arena in Pasig City, Davao City placed third overall with 35 gold medals, 44 silvers and 65 bronzes while Baguio City emerged overall champion having harvested 55 golds, 41 silvers and 41 bronzes. Cebu, hauling 43 golds, 31 silvers and 32 bronzes, was second.
Two other Mindanao LGUs made it to the top 10 including Zamboanga City (35-23-26) in fourth and General Santos City (19-21-21) ninth.
The cycling team led Davao City's medal haul, pocketing a total of six golds, five silvers and four bronzes with Richard Handumon, Jr. and Myra Regina Acedo accounting for two golds each. The city's wushu team added four golds and four bronzes while 12-year-old Matthieu Tao of Stella Maris Academy of Davao bagged four golds to lead the charge for the city's swimming team that ended with a 4-8-4 medal count. The city's pencaksilat team also pulled off a surprise, copping four golds, eight silvers and four bronzes.
The city's karatekas copped three golds, two silvers and seven bronzes.
Judo and wrestling teams also won medals with the Tancontian siblings Sydney and Chino clinching two golds apiece even as the badminton team chipped in two golds, one silver and one bronze behind the two golds of Arthur Samuel G. Salvado, Jr. and his doubles partner Estarco Bacalso III.
Albert Quintanilla won arnis team's lone gold while the girls rugby team defended its Batang Pinoy gold as the boys team salvaged the silver.
The city's 3-on-3 girls basketball also defended its title as Junmilardo Ogayre saved Davao City's boxing team from a total wipeout with his junior lightweight gold. Triathletes Eduard Moritz Leuenberger, Jose Manuel Arao, Ana Maria Mempin and Pia Francesca Suarez gave Davao City a gold in mixed 17-under triathlon relay.
Former Ateneo de Davao University Grade School student John Marvin Salcedo Miciano earned a national master (NM) title after he emerged champion in the 2016 Philippine International Open Challenger Division at the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel recently.
Miciano, 16, a scholar at Far Eastern University, defeated three Fide masters (FMs) in the chessfest including Davao City FM Austin Jacob Literatus. The latter, however, helped National University (NU) men's team win the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) gold medal while his Dabawenya girlfriend Rowelyn Joy Acedo lifted De La Salle University's golden victory in women's chess team event.
Panabo chesser Henry Roger Lopez cornered two chess golds in the 2016 National Para Games while Davao City's very own James Infiesto, National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) regional director and international arbiter, was named team captain of the Philippines' delegation to the Baku Chess Olympiad held in September in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Judoka Sydney Tancontian, for her part, won a Uaap gold for the University of Sto. Tomas.
Filipino-British James Halasan Ryan played for the country twice when he joined the Philippine Under-18 Junior Volcanoes team in a tournament in Taiwan and just recently played for the U-19 Junior Volcanoes squad at the International School of Manila. He is the only child of Dabawenya nurse Fe and British scientist Edward.
The Association for the Advancement of Karatedo (AAK) Davao annexed two golds, two silvers and one bronze in the 17th Malaysian Milo Open Karatedo Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Ateneo de Davao University athletics office, headed by Noli Ayo, also made a difference this year with their holding of the Blue Knights Track League, which gives a venue for budding tracksters to compete regularly on a rubberized track oval; and conducting breakfast fora for coaches and steering the Mindanao Peace Games.
In billiards, Dennis Orcllo of Surigao City placed fourth in the 41st Annual Open 9-Ball Championships at Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Virginia, USA last October.
Such were the exploits of Mindanaoans and Dabawenyos in the world of sports. Some others may have been misssed in this piece but nevertheless cheers to everyone of you who have made every Filipino proud of your contribution to Philippine sports.
Let's all look forward for another fruitful and better year ahead. Happy New Year!