Fair Play: Let's spread the love, through the Palaro

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Feb. 14 issue)
WHEN they launched this year’s venue for the Palarong Pambansa, organizers had to quickly assure that safety of the participants, something that wasn’t done in previous meets.

Why? Because this year’s host of the Palarong Pambansa–the Philippines’ biggest gathering of student athletes–is Tagum, Davao del Norte.

And let’s face the truth. In the minds of many, especially those who haven’t been to Mindanao, there’s only one image of Mindanao, especially in these trying times.

I was a second year high school student in South Cotabato, when it was supposed to host the National Secondary Students Press Conference. It was moved at the last minute because of a spate of bombings in another area of Mindanao months prior.

We were told that folks from Manila were afraid to set foot in South Cotabato, hence the sudden change. As protest, Region 11 boycotted the national meet that was moved to Baguio.

Right now, there are concerns, and it is understandable why, for the safety of the student athletes competing in Mindanao, but please Tagum is as far from Maguindanao as Cebu is from Tacloban.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should go have a date at midnight when you’re there in the Palaro. It simply means like all other cities and municipalities the world over, there are places where you can jog comfortably and places where you make sure your valuables are in your pocket.

Some fear—and some hope—that the venue will be moved and I leave that to those who make the final decision, but, perhaps, the Department of Education, too, can pick this time to do more than a gathering of the best athletes of the Philippines.

Just check your social media feeds, it seems, everyone is at everyone’s throats; it’s either you support them or you are against them and justice and war is one and the same.

Look no further. We can learn a lot of lessons from the Palarong Pambansa. Yes, it’s a crappy meet that is home to some of the most ridiculous controversies in recent years--remember the case of that college freshman who played in elementary baseball?--but it’s also the meet where students from all over the country face each other.

Christians and Muslims, too. And hey, if we can be cordial with each other in a sporting meet, respect each other’s beliefs and compete, against each other, in peace, perhaps there’s hope?

And for a country that’s been dealing with war in the time of our forefathers, is hope not a good thing?

It’s not as simple as that, of course. But perhaps, as most of my kababayans are saying, education will play a part. And for some Pinoys whose idea of a Muslim is what they see in the news, perhaps after facing off with one in a sporting meet, they’d begin to think differently and share that experience.

In these trying times when there is so much hate, I hope the Palarong Pambansa can help spread the love.

We need it.



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