“Nandito ako para makilala ang ibang lugar, makita yung mga tao mula sa ibang lugar dito sa ARMM. ‘Pag may activity, pumupunta talaga ako. Curious lang.”
Leomila Benjamin is sitting at the grandstand with her children, watching the opening ceremonies of this year’s Palarong Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Athletics Association (ARMMAA).
Leomila has lived in Parang, Maguindanao for 15 years, and she tells the Bureau of Public Information it’s been a while since the municipality last hosted the sportsfest.
“Nae-excite yung mga tao dito mag-host,” she says as her son points out the different colors of the jerseys worn by the athletes, nine colors in all, representing the nine participating divisions.
But Leomila knows that the difference stops there. “Lahat naman sila nagre-represent sa ARMM. Masaya ako na makilala ang iba pang mga taga-ARMM din.”
Mindaya Dimasangha, a school head from the Lanao del Sur II division, is sitting beside Leomila. She shares Leomila’s enthusiasm in this year’s Palarong ARMAA.
“Masaya kami na dito ginawa ang ARMAA,” Mindaya says, “para maipakita ang sportsmanship at mabuting relasyon ng mga tao rito sa ARMM. Lagi namin pinapaalala sa mga bata na talo man o panalo, mahalaga na hindi sila magagalit.”
Her sentiment is shared by Saada Peteilan, a PES coordinator also from Lanao del Sur II.
“Magandang experience ito para sa kanila para paglaki nila, alam na nilang masama ang idinudulot ng galit, na maganda na lahat nagkakaunawaan at nagkakaintindihan para maganda rin ang kinabukasan,” she explains.
Not just for athletes
On the other side of the grandstand, Nawaf Masolot is teaching his friend how to play the xylophone. He is part of a marching band that escorted the Maguindao I division.
“Masaya itong ARMMAA, kasi natutuwa kami na naibabahagi namin dito ang talento namin,” Nawaf says. “Drums dati ang tinutugtog ko. Ngayon lang ako nag-umpisa tumugtog ng xylophone, pero masaya ako na nakatugtog ako rito.”
His friend, one of the girls who carries flags along with the band, is soft-spoken compared to Nawaf, and she does not tell us her name. “Nagdala ako ng flag kanina, ‘yun lang,” she says, “pero masaya rin ako rito kasi marami akong kasama.”
Relevant and timely
Local officials are keen to point out that the Palarong ARMAA is not just about sports, especially now that the ARMM has been featured in the news recently because of the Mamasapano incident.
“Napapanahon ang paglulunsad ng ARMMAA sa ganitong kalagayan dahil sa kabila ng malungkot na trahedya na nagresulta sa mga panlalait at maling pagtingin sa atin, ngayon ay naipapakita natin na tayo’y nagkakaisa para sa kapayapaan,” Regional Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman said in his speech during the festivities.
“Ang ating mga magigiting na atleta ang siyang magdadala ng sulo ng kapayapaan sa mas mabilis, mas mataas, at mas malakas na antas sa larangan ng sports,” he notes.
Cong. Bai Sandra Sema, representative of the first district of Maguindanao, echoes Hataman’s message, and highlights the importance of unity in the midst of competition.
“The Bangsamoro is no ordinary people. The Bangsamoro is a strong and proud people, and as we compete with one another today, we will unite with one another tomorrow. We will rise to stand on the strength of our own feet, we will look at this future filled with vigor, faith and determination,” she says.
In the following days of Palarong ARMAA, the student athletes together with their coaches, families, and the people, who are more than ready to support all of them, will take the first crucial steps to making these dreams come true, not only for themselves but for the region. (Bureau of Public Information-ARMM)