Press Release
September 19, 2022

Sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano commending pole vaulter EJ Obiena

Mr President, I rise to sponsor Senate Resolution Nos. 87 and 212, commending our pole vaulter and Olympian, Ernest John "EJ" Obiena. Currently Asia's no. 1 pole vaulter and ranked third in the world.

Mr President, in July 2022, EJ made history by winning the first ever medal of the Philippines at the World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon USA. I even asked my team at that time to clarify if it is the first medal during the competition, or ever? And what I was told is it is the first medal ever for the Philippines at a world athletic championship event. EJ, did you bring your medal? Can I ask somebody to get the medal so that later on, for pictures, we can show it.

Actually, EJ arrived in the Senate, your honors, with a hand carry pulley bag, which I just assumed was full of medals. Because he has hauled in enough medals that would probably overflow in that suitcase, but he said he brought one, which is very significant to him. And that is the medal he won at the World Athletic Championships.

EJ, I want you to know that this Senate and the previous Senate cheered you on in all those competitions. Yung kapag naririnig mo ang one minute suspension, andoon kami nanonood sa competition mo, at iiyak iyak kapag tatalon ka na. A lot of our colleagues here are very enthusiastic sports fans, but above everything, they are EJ Obiena fans. I can attest to that, especially our Senate President, who was with me, joined me in debates on the floor to ensure that our Olympian would have funding. And of course, the number one supporter, ang kapwa USTE mo, sinabi ko na yan sayo, EJ. Very proud to be a fellow USTE man, our Majority Floor Leader.

As I was saying, EJ was the only Asian and the first Filipino pole vaulter to win a medal in the World Athletics. He set a new Asian, national, and personal record after clearing 5.94 meters. For the record, his previous record was 5.93m, tallied in 2021 at the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Austria. He also broke the Asian Record set by Igor Poptapovich from Kazakhstan, almost 23 years ago. So he broke a 23-year-old record.

EJ is a two-time Southeast Asian Games Gold medalist (2019 and 2022). He missed the 2017 SEA Games because of an ACL. When EJ was 18 years old, he had already jumped higher than any other athlete in Philippine pole vaulting history. But during a recent conversation with him, I learned some interesting facts.

He was a hurdler, like his mother - and I'd like to honor his mother, who is over there standing - before he was a pole vaulter like his father over there, who is still a coach and, Majority Floor Leader, coach ng USTE and the Philippine Team.

In fact, EJ's protege is also from UST, and got the silver medal in the SEA Games. So what I learned aside from that is EJ had the occasion of joining the Palarong Pambansa but he never got the gold... So, listening to EJ, I feel, gives so much hope to parents and athletes who are working hard, because if there is one thing that his parents told me, is he just loved to do what he was doing and he did it again and again, repetitively, he just loved to compete, even though he would cry as a child because of losses that he suffered, because apparently even with the hurdles, he said he wasn't good enough. And hindi pala matangkad si EJ nung teenager siya. He's now 6'2. But in his younger years, he wasn't that tall so it might have contributed to his becoming better in his sport.

But he is where he is today, your honors, because of partly those difficulties he went through, and the Senate is witness to a lot of difficulties that EJ went through. And I do hope that we can help move things forward for EJ, take a look at what he has accomplished in 2022 alone, after there was a bit of a settlement on a lot of issues that EJ had to deal with.

EJ's athletic year so far has garnered an impressive medal haul: 12 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals, in a span of 8 months. Saan naman tayo nakakita niyan?

It really takes a village, a nation... May the record show that the Senate President is clapping. The Senate President is the NSA head of arnis, but he is still very much impressed. Like I said, the Senate has been a witness to a lot of trials EJ has endured. But we hope that in the months and years to come, we can rally behind not just EJ, but other elite athletes we have, of course nanggaling din sa grassroots sports si EJ. So we are happy to note that Chairman Noli Eala (Philippine Sports. Commission) had mentioned the importance of grassroots sports, but also the importance of supporting our elite athletes.

So, EJ, we are very, very proud of you. You are truly deserving of this resolution that we are going to give you. And I pray and hope that you continue to be an inspiration to the Filipino youth, continue to be humble, continue to work hard. Sabi nga po ni EJ, to get where he is today is not glamorous work. It's the day-to-day grind of waking up and doing something repetitively. Yung nakikita natin na nandun na siya sa very scenic areas where he performs his sport, but that is already after days, weeks, months of repetitious training. That's what it takes to be a world-class athlete: discipline, perseverance, and managing your day-to-day life to become who he is today.

So congratulations to you, EJ. We are very proud of you. Thank you, Mr President.

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