THE previous year ended how it started for Mary Joy Tabal, with her setting some milestone outside the national team and with the running community wondering, what more should this petite Cebuana runner do to return to the national team?

Become a Filipino-American?

In January, she set the country's 21K record, unofficially of course, when she ran the Adachi Goshikizakura Half Marathon in Tokyo in 1:18:44. She was there in Tokyo, Japan thanks to Motor Ace, training for her Olympic qualifiers. Then in December, she won her fourth straight Milo marathon national title in Iloilo, which is no easy feat.

And when the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association submitted its list of entries for this year's Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, who do you think was prominently off the list? Tabal of course.

"That is one of my concerns. I would like to find out why Joy has been omitted," said the fiery Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who wouldn't mince words in his active Facebook account whenever he crosses swords with anyone. Peping Cojuangco sure learned that.

So, why is Tabal out of the national team? A little bird once told me that to return to the national team, Mary Joy has to relocate to Manila. Leave Cebu, her home and the place where she learned running from a coach who is also, curiously, not with the national team despite his track record.

Patafa wants her in Manila, period. As a compromise, Joy said she's willing to, but wants part of her training to be done in Cebu, and that she'd transfer to Manila weeks before a race like the SEA Games.

And who can blame her for thinking of that solution? It was in Cebu and it was by Cebuano coaches that she became the country's best marathon runner. And look what happened to Cebu's previous marathon queen?

I mean, if Joy and Philip's formula worked wonders for her, resulting into her becoming the country's best and in her becoming an Olympian, why break it? That's a really weird stance by Patafa.

And what's more telling is that this “relocate to Manila” requirement isn't gjven to the Filipino-Americans, who can train if they want to at their places of choice.

So, like I said. To return to the national team, perhaps Joy can become a Filipino-American this year or barring that, El Presidente (can grant her a Filipino-American status?) can bat for her inclusion in the SEA Games team.

After all, it is the PSC that holds the purse for the Philippine team.

(mikelimpag@gmail.com)