Press Release
September 12, 2022

Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on US Open juniors champion Alex Eala

The Majority Floor Leader mentioned that this [resolution] was signed by 24 senators. I am one of them, your honor. It's a very short co-sponsorship speech. I would like to believe.. that the support we can get for our athletes goes beyond signing a resolution, but also when it comes to, not just defending [their budget], but also looking for more funding for these athletes.

Mr. President, clearly, Alex's feat is a product of her own talent and perseverance. Nothing that any of us can do will change the fact that it is her hard work: it is this young girl of 17 who wakes up at dawn; who leaves her family to compete; who faces another challenge, even if she would've lost the game. Although in this particular competition, I understand that she swept all of her 6 matches. But to get there, there were also a lot of failures. And that is something I want to emphasize.

I don't have the details but I am sure Alex, our juniors champion, the first ever Filipina to win a Grand Slam juniors singles title, has had her share of defeats. This is her time to shine, your honors.

What I'd like to throw in, your honor, aside from the support that I hope we can continue to give Alex and other athletes like her, is the reality which I brought up during the hearing of our Chairman, Sen Bong Go, in the Committee on Sports, is that Alex achieved this feat even when there is no tennis NSA in existence, your honor. I will repeat that: the way PH sports is structured is we have independently run National Sports Associations (NSAs). They are recognized in our laws that provide for the mandate of the PH Sports Commission. So this tennis NSA, which is known as PHILTA, was non-existent in the eyes of ITF, the International Tennis Federation. This means, and I am happy to be corrected because I am not an expert, we cannot compete as a country. I am not really sure of the exact effects. But clearly, government funding is supposedly coursed through these NSAs. So for Alex to achieve what she has achieved, has happened without her NSA. And for the record, our Senate President, the Arnis champion... and Arnis NSA President and Chairman... was nodding his head.

This feat was accomplished without her NSA. To be clear, I am not attacking the supporters that are there. Marami diyan, coaches, trainors, or even sponsors. I know of private groups who have supported Alex. But I am a senator, and we support our athletes through funding through the PSC, and they then course it through the NSAs.

Let me remind our colleagues, one of the big issues that we dealt with and took up a lot of our time last year was the fact that our pole vaulter, EJ Obiena, could not get funding from his NSA. And we had so many discussions with the then Chairman of PSC who committed to fund. [But] I won't go into that because this is a resolution honoring Alex.

But my point, your honors, is we stand here because we are proud of her as members of the Senate. This is a Senate resolution, so part of our problem is recognizing that our NSAs either are not doing their jobs, need a better head, a better vision, whatever it is, your honor. This young girl achieved world-class status without an NSA.

Her uncle, the now newly appointed PSC Chairman, was gracious enough not to admit that his niece achieved this without the kind of government and NSA support that would have been due her. So bilib ako sa humility ng ating bagong PSC Chairman. He's just a happy uncle, which is tama naman po.

But these are the realities, ako na nagsasabi. I don't know if our Chairman of the Committee on Finance would like to chime in on this because the non-existence of PHILTA is information I gathered from him some time ago. So again, to be clear, there are individuals there either officially affiliated with PHILTA or not officially affiliated, who have done so much for tennis and athletes like Alex. [But] what we need is a functioning NSA that will help our athletes.

I think our resolution contains all the accolades that are due Alex. Again, I would like to emphasize that in no other activity [except sports] do I see nationalism and patriotism naturally and hindi pilit, spontaneously coming out of people. No political color, religious affiliation, nothing. It is a natural reaction to cheer, to be proud, to waive the Philippine flag when we see athletes excel. Sometimes, they don't even win, but they show such good performance that we are proud of them, your honor.

This to me is the best way to promote nationalism and patriotism - by supporting our athletes. I understand that our New Yorker and US kababayans flocked to Queens [to support Alex Eala]. So I heard from the reports of Dyan Castillejo, also an icon in tennis, that Filipinos mostly from New York, New Jersey, the tri state areas, went up there to rally for Alex, and on social media, and any possible way. This is what Filipinos do. This is how we express our nationalism and patriotism, rallying behind athletes who excel. So congratulations once more, Alex Eala, you make us proud. Thank you, Mr President.

Follow-up manifestation

Mr President, just a manifestation to add to the discussion, the Chairman of the Committee on Finance, as we know, said, he did not want to dwell on certain things that hinder the athletes' growth. But he dwelled on it a bit, and I will add to that. I want to dwell on it, your honor.

I just want to add specifically on the difficulty that our athletes face when they travel to other countries. It is exactly the same issue that EJ Obiena has because he lives and trains in Italy, and he has to leave the country because his visa is very short. At least in Italy and other European countries, you have to go back to your country to renew your visa. So it's outside the scope of our passport issuing offices. But I had the chance to talk to this with - it just so happened, as you know my dear colleagues, that I was in Korea for a global health summit - our ambassador about it. And she said the DFA could make representations on this matter with their counterparts. And then when I spoke to newly appointed Chairman Noli Eala, he said he can also make representations with sports commissions in other countries to assist in this matter, because it's really difficult and more expensive for our athletes to go through this, your honor.

That is my manifestation. And then, for the Minority Floor Leader's info, I found the word I was looking for. The natural and spontaneous support we give athletes when they are winning, the word I was looking for was 'organic.' Hindi pilit. The showing of our patriotism and nationalism for our athletes is organic, naturally generated. Yun lang po.

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