ASIAN Para Games gold medalist Ernie Gawilan was working as a housekeeper in Samal Island, Davao del Norte when he had his first encounter with the water. Swimming coach Jude Corpuz took notice of Gawilan’s habit of visiting the ocean during his free time, saw potential, and decided to train him under his Persons with Disabilities (PWD) team. This opened doors for Gawilan to compete at the 2008 Philippine Olympic Festival, his first official competition.
Gawilan’s remarkable performance caught the attention of first placer Arnel Aba who invited him to join the national team. This was the beginning of the countless competitions and achievements in his career as a national athlete.
Fast forward to 2019, Gawilan bagged the Silver Medal for the 400m Freestyle Finals at the Singapore World Para Swimming World Series. He continues to bring pride to the Philippines and the Paralympic community as he qualifies for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Taking inspiration from Gawilan’s remarkable story, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) started a 10-day swim clinic that aims to encourage aspiring swimmers aged six to 14 to take the first step in their athletic journey, and pursue their interest in swimming. The program is under Start Your Impossible, a global initiative that helps empower people and communities to spark change through the power of mobility.
Gawilan who is TMP’s “Start Your Impossible” ambassador was present during the opening program, accompanied by Philippine Para-Athlete Swim Team coach Tony Ong. Gawilan delivered a message to the aspiring swimmers, saying that they should pursue their dreams despite the challenges in life, and citing his own personal experience as an example. He also demonstrated some of his techniques to the swim clinic students.
By the end of the clinic, TMP held a graduation ceremony where students who performed remarkably, based on the evaluation of the swimming coaches, were recognized.
“We started this program to help the children take the first step in pursuing their dreams. Just like how our Start Your Impossible Hero Ernie Gawilan started his athletic journey with humble beginnings, we hope that we have inspired the kids to continue and persevere after finishing our program,” said TMP vice president for marketing services Elijah Marcial.
With Toyota’s global direction of transitioning from an automotive manufacturer to a mobility company, the global campaign “Start Your Impossible” was launched with the ultimate vision: Mobility for All. The campaign highlights stories of Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are in continuous pursuit of excellence through hard work and determination without being limited by the challenges.
The swim clinic is one of the many projects under the campaign here in the Philippines. These projects support multiple advocacies leading up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. (PR)