ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 01 August) – Hidilyn Diaz of Barangay Mampang is not only a weightlifting icon and Tokyo 2020 gold medalist, in Zthe Zamboanga Peninsula region where she comes from, she has another role: as Food Ambassador promoting vegetables and rice for good health.
Diaz was chosen as Food Ambassador by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) following her victory at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and continues to serve in that capacity, DA Assistant Regional Director Melba Wee said.
As Food Ambassador, Hidilyn promoted in 2017 the importance of vegetables and heightened appreciation for fresh and green vegetables for better health. She moved around donning shirts proclaiming “I love gulay” (vegetables).
“Hidilyn is the perfect model for the young ones especially since her firm physique is a symbol of good health, and secondly, she really loves to eat veggies,” said Wee.
“Being the Silver Medalist in 2016, a Zamboangueña at that, and now a Gold Medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she is till now the perfect endorser of DA’s food program especially on rice. We just talked to her about our plan and she agreed. She also believes in our slogan not to waste food,” the DA Assistant Regional Director said.
The 30-year old Hidilyn grew up on a fish-vegetable diet, with occasional meat, her mother Emelita said in an interview in their residence on Friday.
She said Hidilyn has always been a model of good health in her and Eduardo’s brood of seven. She cannot even remember an instance when Hidilyn fell ill, not even fever.
It is her sister, Maria Pilar, now 31, who has been sickly as a child. “Enfermosa el hermana, jende igual con Hidie (The sister is sickly, unlike Hidie),” she said.
According to Emelita, Hidilyn would just rest whenever she felt tired.
Hidilyn grew up with a balanced management of her time: to do house chores, run errands, play with neighborhood friends and study. She never wanted to be a school dropout, Emelita recalled.
Hidilyn was around 10 years old when she observed her cousin Catalino Diaz, whom they fondly called Cata, lifting weights. Cata gave Hidilyn her first lessons on discipline and rigor as an athlete, Emelita shared.
This was narrated by Hidilyn herself, following her victory as a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She acknowledged Coach Cata before sports officials.
It was Cata who reminded Hidilyn and other young weightlifters the value of a balanced diet, leaning heavily on vegetables and fish, and lots of protein.
Hidilyn’s father, Eduardo, took on different jobs to support his growing family. He went into fishing, farming and tricycle driving before settling to become a caretaker of hogs. In contrast, most of his siblings had long moved to Canada.
Hidilyn’s love for vegetables has stayed till this day. “Ta cocina yo frijoles con pescao, o tiene vez poco carne, pero firmi tiene gulay, afuera con el amargoso (I used to cook beans with fish, at times with a little meat, but always with vegetables, except the bittergourd)” and occasionally, simple pancakes, Emelita said, smiling while recalling those memories.
The DA regional office extended full support in the events leading to the inauguration and launch of the Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Gym in Mampang in 2017. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)