Last month, the Philippines hosted the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games with the theme, We Win as One. Athletes from all over the region gathered and competed for their respective countries. Being selected for the national team is considered a major milestone; representing one’s nation in a prestigious sporting event indicates that they are among the best and brightest in their respective sports.

Among the pool of national athletes at the recently concluded SEA Games were Lasallian athletes who showcased their talents and skills, with some even earning themselves a spot on the biennial event’s podium.

Grace under pressure 

Before competing against other countries, athletes have to make it to the final roster of their respective events through the difficult national team tryouts. However, no matter how much they train, athletes still have to wrestle with the pressure of playing for the national team. 

A national team mainstay for Poomsae, former DLSU Poomsae member Rinna Babanto was expected to not only perform on the mat but take up the mantle of being a “role model” for her teammates. “As one of the veteran players I was expected to deliver medals [and] to perform [well] during the game,” she adds, with this year marking her fourth time participating in the games. She didn’t let the mounting pressure hinder her performance as she brought home two silver medals. 

DLSU Green Tanker Sacho Ilustre snagged a spot in the national roster on the last day of the qualifier rounds. It was a close call for Ilustre, he nearly grabbed a spot on the second day of the four-day competition; however, he was 0.4 seconds too late. More often than not, an athlete’s biggest opponent coming into a competitive match is their own self-doubt. “I took some risks training out of the country and preparing for the meet. I was scared to come back and compete just to find out that I didn’t improve at all,” explains Ilustre. 

What followed is something out of a compelling comeback narrative: Ilustre was able to face his fear head on and deliver a performance that ultimately snagged him a coveted spot in the roster. He remarks thankfully that the crowd’s supportive cheers were able to propel him to greater heights, “I was able to ‘receive’ their energy and bring it into my swim.” 

Winning attitude

For the Philippine Baseball Team, the pressure was on to keep their dominance over their Southeast Asian opponents from the previous editions of the SEA Games. A huge reason for the success of the squad was DLSU Green Batter Diego Lozano. He shares that team chemistry was a key ingredient in capturing that elusive gold medal, “Even if a lot of us came from different schools and are of different ages, we found ways to get together and continue to grow as one.” 

With the Philippines being the host for this biennial meet, Lozano shares that it boosted his motivation to perform well. “The biggest pressure for me was [to not disappoint the] family and friends watching because they went all the way to Clark just to watch and support me. I wanted to make their trip worthwhile,” he emphasizes.

Another Lasallian athlete who donned the national colors for the men’s softball tournament is Green Batter Julius Diaz. He, along with the rest of the Philippine team, brought silver despite their relatively short training period and the difference in experience compared to other countries’ rosters. “Most of my teammates are a lot older than I am…‘yung iba maraming SEA Games na ang nasalihan, and to add pa na we only [got] to train with each other for a short period of time. Despite all [of this], talagang tight ‘yung bond namin,” he elaborates.

(Some of them had the experience of joining previous editions of the SEA Games.)

Lessons learned

Ice hockey player David Samson made sure that his first SEA Games stint with the national team was worth remembering. After failing to make the cut in 2017, Samson was hungry to represent the countrythis time around. “Seeing my teammates play and represent the country so well, [it] made me want to be a part of that experience,” Samson affirms. Even though the team failed to defend their gold title from the previous meet, they still made it to the podium with a bronze finish, and Samson says he is happy with the relationships he fostered from the experience. 

For the upcoming UAAP tournament, Lozano hopes his veteran experience can seep into and influence the competitive mindset of the rookies. “[Some of] the experiences I can [provide] the team are the killer instinct and intensity we [showed] in every single game during SEA Games. No matter who we were [up] against, we all had one job which was to dominate every game to send a statement. I believe that would be one of the key factors in helping the team achieve our goal,” he explains. Participating in this tournament in addition to the BFA Asian Championships, held in October last year, will further bolster the leadership skills Lozano wishes to portray for the younger members of his team. 

Even though he was the lone representative of the Green-and-White in the Philippine Blu Boys squad, Diaz believes he can share his experience in the SEA Games with the rest of the Green Batters. “I am more [than] excited to share with my UAAP teammates the new skills and techniques I’ve learned while training for the SEA [Games]. But I think, most importantly, I’d like to continue [to foster] the discipline instilled upon us during the preparation,” he discusses.

Ilustre’s main takeaway was the fervent sense of ambition that the process instilled in him. “I think what I ultimately got, aside from the personal best times, is the confidence to continue training and improving. If the other athletes could do it, I’m pretty sure I can too,” he enthusiastically shares. On a similar note, preparing for the meet pushed Babanto to her limits, as she reveals, “I never thought that I would be able to survive it because I got multiple injuries.”

In the face of all the trials and obstacles, these Lasallian athletes pushed forward and kept moving toward their dream, no matter their fear and misgivings. “Among all the international games I’ve played in, I’d always remember SEA [Games] as the tournament that taught me how dreams have no limits. Walang age requirement ang mangarap, at walang pangarap ang masyadong mataas sa taong magsusumikap,” Diaz earnestly shares. 

(Dreaming has no age requirement, and there is no dream that is too large for anyone who continues to work hard.)

These athletes show us that we should not be afraid of dreaming big, and as cliche as it sounds, no dream is too far away with hard work and the proper resources.

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