Thanks to Philippine Aquatics, swimming no longer drowning; Kume Marcial job perfect

by Dennis Eroa

TRUTH be told. Good things take time to happen.

Thanks to Philippine Aquatics Inc. headed by Michael Vargas and the man of the hour Eric Buhain, Congressman par excellence of Batangas First District, Pinoy swimming is slowly getting back on track after being drowned by inefficiency and lackadaisical attitudes by its former landlords.

Eric Buhain
Eric Buhain

Though still lagging behind its Asian (take note) counterparts, Philippine Aquatics is showing rapid development.

Hosting the 11th Asian Age Group championships in New Clark City Aquatics Center in Capas, Tarlac is proof that Philippine Aquatics is capable of achieving the unimaginable years back. It is now wearing the hallmarks of success even with the fact that we will not make it to the top five of the competitions.

Jojit Alcazar, president of the Local Organizing Committee and Chief of Philippine Aquatics and Secretary General Buhain, Sports Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian, thanked the governing Asian Aquatics for believing in the capability of the local NSA to pull a marvel of hosting a gigantic event.

“There are sleepless events before the hosting,” said Buhain, a many-time gold medalist in the SEA Games. “But I never questioned the abilities of our group to handle such affair. The event is a product of hard work and cooperation. We’re highly motivated to ensure its success.”

He’s right on target. Not only the participants are singing praises to the hosting but Philippine Aquatics is also getting heads turned by winning medals, proof that young Pinoy and Pinay swimmers can compete with the best. Philippine Aquatics is simply letting go of the old ways to move forward.

Jamesray Mishael Ajido
Jamesray Mishael Ajido

As of this writing, national junior record holder Jamesray Mishael Ajido clinched the first-ever gold medal for the Philippines after ruling the boys’ 12-14 100-m butterfly, clocking 55.98. His time bettered the previous meet record of 56.36 made by Chinese Wang Yo Yiang in 2019. Ajido took the bronze in the 50-meter with a time of 24.34 seconds. The Antipolo bet also pocketed the silver medal in the 12-14 meter butterfly.

I looked back at the memory lane and the images of Heather White and Jasmine Mojdeh came into my mind. Thanks to Asian Gamer Susan Papa (Rest in Peace, coach), I witnessed the emergence of White, Mojdeh and other age groupers in various local and international competitions. They were part of the Philippine Swimming League and I am convinced that coach Susan Papa (Rest in Peace, coach) is all smiles up there knowing the transformation of her wards from playful swimmers to world-class.

Jasmine Mojdeh
Jasmine Mojdeh

I am also convinced that parents with deep pockets play a pivotal in the development of young swimmers. White and Mojdeh are lucky to have parents willing to sacrifice time and money to help their children achieve their dreams.

One must understand that being good isn’t a guarantee of success. There are outside forces like training, exposure and a national governing body able to unleash a swimming firestorm by not playing favorites and being positive to achieve wondrous results.

Being a top-notch athlete during his prime, Buhain knows the recipe for success. He wasn’t immune to the ups and downs of his career, but he very well knew how to weather the storm. He is not going to take everything for granted so that Philippine swimming will no longer be a laughing stock among its neighbors.

Heather White
Heather White

White took the bronze in the girl’s 15-17 100m butterfly, while two-time World Junior Championship participant Mojdeh swam to the bronze in the girls’ 15-17 200m butterfly. White also gave the country its last medal after another bronze medal show in the 100-meter butterfly.

“I’m glad and relieved. The medals mean I can aim higher. The results gave me great happiness and I would like to tell everybody to chase their dreams. Dream big,” said White, who said her inspiration is her mother. I’m sure Mojdeh feels the same.

There’s so much in store, something greater for Ajido, Mojdeh and White. Philippine Aquatics, says Buhain.

As a start, Buhain stressed that he would propose to Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachman to include the medalists in the national training pool.

“They are the future of Philippine swimming,” stressed Buhain.

Wonderful Kume

When it was announced by the all-powerful board years back that Willie Marcial would replace Chito Narvasa as commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association, I made it a point to attend his first face-to-face with the press.

I braved the horrendous traffic to reach Cubao and I can still see the picture of Kume sitting in front of a small group of wide-eyed sportswriters determined to squeeze information about Marcial.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial [photo credit: PBA Images]
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial [photo credit: PBA Images]

It was a forum that was held at Tapa King if I’m not mistaken.

I came there not to focus on his plans but rather to express my opinion that Marcial is living proof of somebody who rose from the ranks. He was and is still a friend to past and present generations of players, officials, and most importantly the men and women of the PBA Press Corps. Remember, he was media bureau chief before becoming commissioner.

The PBAPC became a reality when a drunken group of scribes at Edsa Kamayan decided to form a group to protect its interest. I was founding vice-president but my memory was lost on the other officials although Eddie Alinea, Lyndon Meris and Gabby Alvarado were present.

And I didn’t hold fire. Marcial took over in 2018 and since then he’s successful in steering the first professional league in Asia to greater heights.

Never to lose his cool even in the most trying times, Marcial is gifted with a low-toned voice good enough to find a common ground for a peaceful resolution of an issue.

Don’t be fooled, however. Marcial is highly motivated to keep the PBA on its lofty pedestal. He isn’t going to turn a blind eye to shenanigans and will always navigate the league in safe waters in the face of stormy challenges.

The emergence of bloggers trashing decency and fairness (and good grammar, too) predict the demise of the league. But as it is turning out, the PBA under Marcial and the cooperation of the board is as solid as ever.

I believe that Marcial’s hearty response is contributing greatly to the success of Gilas Pilipinas. The PBA’s tight-knit relationship with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is reaping huge rewards for the country.

It is what it is.

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