Sunday, October 24, 2021

Limpag: Claiming Leylah

Fair Play

The past couple of weeks, tennis fans have been treated to the sensational run of Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez, who eventually finished second to fellow teen Emma Raducanu in the U.S. Open.

Of course, when we learned that Fernandez has Filipino lineage, her victories got more space in the national media, which began identifying her as Filipino-Canadian. While some were simply happy to learn of her feat, some were offended by what seemed to be a common practice of claiming other successful nationalities as one of our own.

To each his or her own, I guess.

As for me, it’s enough that Leylah identifies herself as a Filipino, and although in one awkward interview she said she knows nothing of Filipino culture, her mention of a lolo shows she’s like the thousands of others who are sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of Pinoy overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Every family has one. So I guess, you can’t blame some in claiming Leylah as one of their own.

I first heard of Leylah months ago when, upon reading of the exploits of Alex Eala—another teenage sensation who is making her names in the junior ranks, I chanced upon an article

about this Canadian—who had a former footballer dad from Ecuador as a coach. Identified simply as a Canadian with Ecuador and Philippine roots, she was months away from barging into the tennis world’s consciousness.

Whatever your stand on the issue, at least now, the teen, who proudly shows the flags of Canada, Ecuador and the Philippines in her social media profile, has learned that she indeed has new fans from the Philippines.

What good will that do? Well, as one team made up of sons of OFWs—the Azkals—learned it, there are Filipinos all over the world and wherever they go, they’ll always find Pinoy fans waving the Philippine flag in the stands.

And now that she’s on the Philippines’ radar, perhaps in future events, Leylah will find her throngs of followers among them—people like her grandparents who tried their fortunes abroad and are still trying to keep their Filipino identities while making a new life in another country.

With millions of our kababayans taking up new lives abroad, there will be hundreds more of Leylahs. Some we have discovered in football, and perhaps, there are more who have gone unnoticed.


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