ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 27 July) – As a young girl, Hidilyn Diaz would fetch water from a community artesian well about 70 meters from home, carrying plastic containers in both hands.
Hidie, as her parents and family members would fondly call her, was only eight then, a grade-schooler at the Mampang Elementary School, but she could carry five gallons of water on each hand, recalled her tearful yet proud mother, Emelita Diaz, 58.
No one ever thought that the grueling routine for a young village girl would build her strength that would send her to hero status years later.
Following her silver medal victory at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, among Hidilyn’s first project for the Diaz family was having an artesian well constructed beside their home, Emelita said in an interview at the Diaz residence Tuesday.
“We no longer have to fetch water from the common artesian well as we now have our own,” the proud mother said.
It was timely because she and her husband Eduardo are now getting old, Emelita said in her soft voice.
She confessed she barely slept the night before as she was overjoyed with her daughter’s victory.
“Cuando ya mira kami kay ya gana le, bien alegre kami. Saltando, pero llurando na alegria. Ya rindi kame gracias con el Señor una na todo. Ya reza kami prinero (When we saw that she won, we were very happy. Jumping yet crying in joy. But before everything else, we gave thanks to God. We prayed first),” Emelita said.
For Emelita, the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro, then the gold in Tokyo, were a fulfillment of Hidie’s dream.
At 30, Hidilyn has been a model of diligence and discipline as an athlete, said her father Eduardo, once a tricycle driver, fisherman and farmer, and now caretaker of three pigs for the family’s livelihood.
Standing straight and cool in most of her pictures displayed at home, her vlogs portraying a humble Zamboangueña lass from the coastal village of Mampang, Hidilyn is bound to get a hero’s welcome even though she hasn’t set foot in the country yet after winning the historic gold medal in weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
She has been away too long, stranded while training with his coach in Malaysia because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Her first coaches, according to her parents, have all contributed to her professional growth and development as a world class sportswoman – from Catalino Diaz Jr. (a cousin now based in Davao), to Elbert Atilano (now a city councilor), to Antonio Agustin.
“We were all rejoicing when we first saw it on TV,” her mother shared, struggling to convey her emotions in words, half-conscious that a group of reporters were also waiting outside her humble home.
“Ta salta salta gat kami anoche, kay bien alegre, y llurando pa (We were jumping and jumping last night because we were very happy, and we were crying),” Emelita said.
“This was her dream ever since. She was eyeing the Olympics gold medal since she was young,” Hidilyn’s mother added. She was, in fact, only 17 when she joined her first of four Olympics, in 2008 in Beijing.
After finishing her elementary years in the village school, Hidie went to the Universidad de Zamboanga Technical High School on a scholarship, being already an awarded athlete at such a young age.
It was her intention to finish college, and thus pursued a BS Computer Science degree, also at Universidad de Zamboanga. But it was not meant to be as she was asked by the Philippine Sports Commission to move to Manila in 2012 as part of her preparations for the Rio Olympics and other international sporting events.
Meanwhile, she was recruited to the Philippine Air Force in 2013 but given the time to train for her weightlifting endeavors.
But her plan to finish college was rekindled when she got a scholarship at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde to study BS Management. She was reportedly attending online classes in 2020 because of the postponement of the Olympics. (Frencie L. Carreon / MindaNews)