Badjao Sama swimmers, Maguindanao sprinters, Manobo long distance runners and Tausug spikers will be among the indigenous sports talents who will see action in the first ever Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (MINSUPALA) Games set to be held next year in Davao City.
A brainchild of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the MINSUPALA Games aim to relive the glorious sports era of the Southern Philippines produced sports stars like Maguindanao sprinter Mona Sulaiman and Sulu and Tawitawi swimmers Jairula Jaitulla and Parsons Nabiula.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William Ramirez has pledged the support of the PSC to the Games which I initiated as MinDA Chairman.
The MINSUPALA Games is expected to discover indigenous sports talents in swimming, track and field, volleyball and other non-contact sports.
I believe that Mindanao has a rich reservoir of sports talents which have largely been undiscovered owing mainly to the bias for indigenous athletes.
For most sports officials who belong to the elite, it is simply unthinkable for a brown-haired Badjao kid who was born and raised in the sea to compete side by side with a fair-skinned International School-educated lad from Forbes Park.
The institutional sports competitions initiated by the Department of Education have not really opened its doors to unschooled youth.
When I was Governor of North Cotabato, I initiated the first Mt. Apo Eco-Challenge, an endurance mountain climbing contest where participants came in pairs – a man and woman – with the objective of reaching the peak of Mt. Apo together at the fast time.
One of the pair was a Manobo girl from Kidapawan City who was paired with a male athlete.
She was so fast that she had to leave behind her male partner and waited for about 30 minutes at the peak before he arrived.
Mindanao sports history is also replete with examples of homegrown talents like Maguindanao sprinter Mona Sulaiman who later became a policewoman and Olympic swimmers Parsons Nabiula and Jairulla Jaitulla.
Jaitulla qualified for the national swimming team with was and competed at the 1972 Summer Olympics and the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Nabiula competed in two swimming events at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia representing the Philippines.
These talents did not have formal training in their fields of discipline and excelled mainly due to their natural talents.
Even with their achievements, they are so underrated that even Google could not produce any file photos of great sports names.
The MINSUPALA Games will be the first step in the institutional sports development program for the Southern Philippines aimed at discovering and developing sports talents.
It will be held in cooperation with the Governors and Mayors of Mindanao and Palawan with each province participating in selected sports disciplines.
With the modern sports facilities established by the PSC in Davao City, the dream of producing sports stars from among the different indigenous tribes of the South is not farfetched.
In a few years, MINSUPALA could see the birth of more Mona Sulaimans, Tokal Mokamads, Parsons Nabiulas and Jairulla Jaitullas. (Originally posted on FB page of MinDa Sec. Manny Piñol)