Thursday, August 07, 2014

Cotabato’s unheralded pride

I have long planned to write about one-armed runner Isidro Vildosola, keeping notes about his various achievements which he shared to me during our occasional chats on Facebook. I first met Isidro, Coach Sid to many, when he was still a student at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato. I had the opportunity to run with him (he and those other younger and faster runners in our small group slowed down for me, of course) on quite a number of weekends and join him in several races here in the South. I still keep a group photo we had after running the 16th Davao Finishers' Marathon in 1999. Today I was finally able to write a piece about this inspiring runner who is determination personified. Written intentionally for a column I have in a local weekly community paper, The Mindanao Cross, I am sharing the piece here.

Talk of long distance running in the Philippines and the name of undisputed Filipino long distance king Eduardo Buenavista will undoubtedly be a centerpiece.

A diminutive but unquestionably strong runner, two-time Olympian Buenavista, who hails from Santo Niño in South Cotabato, holds national running records from 3,000 meters to the marathon. His half-marathon time of 1 hour 2 minutes 58 seconds set in Manila on July 6, 2008 remains a national best and his time of 2 hours 18 minutes 44 seconds at the Beppu-Oita Marathon in Oita, Japan on February 2004 stands unchallenged as the country’s national record for the marathon.

Indeed, Cotabato region – SOCCSSKSARGEN to the rest of the country and the world – takes pride in the achievements of Buenavista who started off as a student athlete in the yearly local Palaro.

Cotabato can take pride as well in another home-grown distance runner.

Not as heralded perhaps as Buenavista, one-armed Isidro Vildosola has nonetheless achieved much in the Paralympics.

Isidro Villdosola was 14 when he lost his arm while trying to save his cousin who got stuck in a rice thresher. The disability did not stop him from getting involved in sports. He tried volleyball and a few other sports before realizing that running was his calling.

A member of the National Team of the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA), Vildosola counts the following among his achievements:

Silver, 2011 ASEAN Paralympic Games, 1500-meter run
Silver, 2011 ASEAN Paralympic Games, 5000-meter run
Silver, 2010 Asian Paralympic Games, 1,500-meter run
Gold, 2009 Paralympic Games Malaysia, 1,500-meter run
Bronze, 2009 Paralympic Games Malaysia, 800-meter run
Gold, 2007 Paralympic Games Thailand, 800-meter run
Gold, 2007 Paralympic Games Thailand, 1,500-meter run
Bronze, 2007 Fespic Games Malaysia, 1,500-meter run
Gold, 2005 Paralympic Games Manila, 800-meter run
Gold, 2005 Paralympic Games Manila, 1,500-meter run

Vildosola, is again set to compete in the Asian Para Games scheduled on October 10-24 this year in Incheon, South Korea following his triple gold feat in the July 29-August 1 Bangkok, Thailand Para Athletics Championships. He topped finishers in the 800-meter, 1,500-meter, and 5,000-meter runs.

What is even more inspiring about this unheralded pride of Cotabato region is the fact that he competes even in regular athletics events despite his disability. Vildosola ran the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon in 2008 placing 38th of 50,000 runners. He also ran the Hongkong Standard Chartered Marathon, another regular event, in 2011 and the grueling Mt. Kinabalu Run up Southeast Asia’s highest peak in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Because of this not only persons with disabilities look to Vildosola for inspiration but others as well. One of the many he inspired, talking about the one-armed runner’s participation in a 100-kilometer ultramarathon said, “While we're all fussing about what we don't have in life, this guy is just showing what can be done with what we've in fact been given.” Vildosola is determination personified.

It's quite sad though that Sid Vildosola, whom I got to know and run with when he was still a student at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato, still has to scrounge most of the time for support especially when he participates in international events despite all the honors he has given the country.

I can only hope and pray that the sports patrons in the region find it in their hearts to support Isidro Vildosola, Cotabato’s unheralded pride, in his endeavors.

With Isidro Vildosola after running the 16th Davao Finishers' Marathon, December 1999.

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