LINGAYEN --- “Sports is the great equalizer where there is no distinction between the rich and poor,” Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. said during the May 9 opening ceremonies of the national open track and field championship at the Provincial-government owned Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center here.
“In sports, the poor can compete with the rich and enjoy equal chances of winning,” the governor pointed out.
He stressed that beyond mere competitions, sports development is a vital tool in nation building, as it serves as an “instrument to hone the skills, develop confidence, and instill a culture of discipline, respect for the rights and welfare of others and the value of hard work among our people, especially the young, who will be eventually running the country.”
The governor thanked the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) for holding the event at the NRSCC from May 10-12, 2009. He said the national open championship will promote Pangasinan as a major sports arena in the country. He recalled that the province also hosted the recently-held 12th National Special Olympics.
The PATAFA event was participated in by some 700 athletes from Brunei, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Malaysia Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, Singapore, Vietnam and various Philippine provinces, schools and institutions.
He said that indeed, sports is an “effective instrument in building bridges of friendship and camaraderie with our own countrymen and our brothers from other nations.”
The governor also said that sports competition can “strengthen our sense of nationhood as we take pride in every victory that the Filipino brings home to our country.”
He cited national boxing legend Manny Pacquiao who, according to him, has become not just a unifying force and a model of excellence, but has actually brought our small nation and country to international fame.
In welcoming the various delegations, the governor urged the guests to visit the capitol and other places of interest in the province and in the city of Dagupan.
Dagupan City Mayor and PATAFA Chairman Al Fernandez, in his response, said: ”Our governor has so much more in his program for youth and sports development, making the NRSCC the sports mecca of North-Central Philippines.”
Mayor Fernandez added that this event fosters not only sports fellowship, but the development of life skills, formation of athletes’ character and their dedication and discipline as they compete carrying the banner and the torch of their countries, their organizations and institutions and their cities and provinces.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Jose S. Cojuangco, on the other hand, said that he hopes that this event will be an inspiration to the youth of this province to get into some kind of sport because 95 percent of the youth in the Philippines have not had an opportunity to play any kind of sport or exercise.
The opening ceremonies started with a parade of delegates and ended with the lighting of the urn. Mr. Go Teng Kok, PATAFA president, officially opened the games. (PIO/Rafael U. Manuel)