Dabawenyo Paralympian Ernie Gawilan, who brought home one gold medal and one bronze from the 4th Asian Para Games swimming competition in Hangzhou, China in October 2023, received a total of P2.4 million in cash incentives during an awarding ceremony at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has doubled the cash incentives of the Filipino Hangzhou Para Games medalists, bringing unexpected joy to Gawilan, who expressed his gratitude in a Facebook interview with SunStar Davao on Thursday, January 25, 2024.
"Salamat kaayo gyud, wala pod ko nag-expect nga sa tibuok kinabuhi nako makagunit ko'g million tungod sa sport, Ma'am. Hopefully sa pag-retire nako puhon madugangan pa (Thank you very much, I never expected that in my whole life I will be able to hold a million because of my sport, Ma'am. Hopefully when I retire, I will add more)," the legless para swimmer said.
He clinched the men's 400-meter freestyle-S7 gold and men's 200m individual medley (IM) SM7 bronze.
The Republic Act No. 10699, known as the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act, stipulates that an Asian Para Games gold medalist shall claim a P1 million cash incentive from the national government through the Philippine Sports Commission. The silver and bronze winners shall receive P500,000 and P200,000, respectively.
Gawilan, who was initially set to get P1.2 million, ended up with P2.4 million after the President matched their cash incentives.
"Happy kaayo, Ma'am, sa concern sa Philippines sports chairman ug sa among NSA president, ug sa support sa atong President, kay bisa'g busy siya, gitagaan gyud mi niya'g time ug gi-double pod niya ang incentives namo (I am very happy, Ma'am, for the concern of the Philippines sports chairman and our NSA president, and for the support of our President, because even though he is busy, he really gave us time and doubled our incentives)," he added.
Turning 33 on May 5, Gawilan plans to save the money for his retirement but remains ambitious, eyeing another Paralympics stint in Paris.
The Philippines concluded the Hangzhou Para Games with 10 golds, four silvers, and five bronzes, securing ninth position among 44 countries.
During the awarding ceremony, Marcos said, “I am standing here as the cheerleader-in-Chief to our athletes during the 4th Asian Para Games who have garnered the best result that the country has ever had. Ang gagaling ninyo, salamat sa inyong laban.”
PSC chairman Richard Bachmann and Philippine Paralympic Committee’s (PPC) President Mike Barredo were also present in honoring the country's Para Games medalists Gawilan, Jerrold Pete Mangliwan, Jean-Lee Nacita, Jasper Rom, Arman Subaste, Cheryl Angot, Darry Bernardo, Henry Roger Lopez of Panabo City, Cheyzer Crystal Citadel Mendoza, Menandro Redor, Sander Severino, and Gary Bejino, who were joined by their coaches and immediate families. MLSA