Limpag: Mandaue picked the right person for Sports Office


After running a feature on her, Mary Joy Tabal-Jimenez told me that everything came flashing back to her, the challenges and the things she had to go through just to run for the country.

Editing the story about her, written by the gifted Claudine Flores, also brought back memories of what I wrote about the diminutive Cebuana who exemplified grit and composure.

Everyone who has tried running knows how difficult it is to run a marathon and it’s mainly because of the preparation involved. Sure, all sports involve preparation and training. But unlike sports like basketball, football, or tennis even, where you train to play and, once you learn the skills, you get to play a game, in running, you start with the shorter distances, before going to the middle distances and finally the Full Mary, the 42K.

Tabal got so good that she began dominating local and national races. Then we all started asking the question—if she’s the best, why isn’t she in the national team? A question the then heads of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association didn’t like.

She was reluctantly accepted in the fold, with the caveat that she trains in Manila and with national team coaches. But such move, of course, begat another set of questions—she got to be the best training with her coach in Cebu, so why change that?

That basically was why her life in the national team was anything but a bed of roses. They made a TV movie out of her, but I think those months she spent chasing that Olympic dream was worthy of a whole movie itself.

I remember laughing when I heard from fellow sportswriters in Manila that I was writing those articles upon instruction from Tabal and her sponsors. In those testy months, I never contacted her because I knew she was laser-focused on the running part.

Her stint in Brazil was the most difficult and she said once she only found the strength to finish the race, despite many DNFing, because of the people who believed in her.

Joy, too, was the first athlete that I know who was exploited by fake news peddlers because on the day of her Olympic debut, several pages posted that she won the first gold medal for the Philippines.

Funny what comes in your mind when you recall something you’re passionate about.

When I learned that Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes had picked Mary Joy to lead the Sports Office, I couldn’t help but smile. Mayor Cortes couldn’t have picked someone better.

You see, I believe when it comes to LGU (local government unit) sports, the ultimate goal should be to win athletic scholarships, and no one knows the challenge better than Tabal, who has completed a masters and doctorate.

She knows what it takes and Mandaue’s athletes are lucky they have a role model whose mind they can pick for advice.


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