DAVAO City's Paralympian Ernie Gawilan became an instant millionaire after his historic feat of ending the Philippines' Para Games gold medal chase, having struck for a gold at the start of the Asian Para Games 2018 para swimming competition at the Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia Sunday.
Gawilan, 27, clocked a total of two minutes and 52.43 (2:52.43) to race past Chen Liang-Da of Chinese Taipei and India's Jadhav Suyash Narayan who finished with the silver and bronze, respectively, in men's 200-meter individual medley SM7 event.
Chen Liang-Da timed 2:55.90 while the Indian tanker registered 2:56.51.
Last Friday, in a Facebook conversation with this writer, Gawilan complained of the heat.
"Ma'am, okay lang mi diri, init lang kaayo (We are okay here, it's just too hot)," he said.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, in a Facebook interview, lauded Gawilan, saying, "We are proud of Ernie, especially he is from Davao."
The Dabawenyo PSC chief said the Para Games champion will receive P1 million for his gold and P500,000 for his silver through Republic Act 10699, which expands the coverage of incentives granted to national athletes and coaches.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, in a Viber message, said: "Nakakataba ng puso na ang kapwa ko Dabawenyo ay natagumpayan ang kanyan pisikal na limitasyon. Maraming salamat, Ernie, sa karangalang binigay mo sa bayan. Isa kang ehemplo na walang limitasyon na hindi kayang malampasan basta magsikap ang tao."
PSC Commissioner Charles Raymond A. Maxey, also from Davao City, congratulated Gawilan for his exemplary performance.
"We always believe that Filipino athletes can excel even in the Asian Para Games. His golden performance will motivate our other para athletes to show their best against their competitors and reap more honors for the country," Maxey said when asked for a statement on his fellow Dabawenyo's feat in the Games.
Gawilan, born without legs and an incomplete arm due to an attempted abortion and poor pre-natal healthcare, also salvaged a silver in men's 50m freestyle S7 where he timed 31.93.
Singapore's Wei Soong Toh (29.01) went on to capture the gold as Narayan annexed another bronze.
Team Philippines was at 10th place in the overall ranking as of 4 p.m., Monday, October 8, with a total of one gold, two silvers and two bronzes.