LUNA, Apayao – Grit, consistency, efficient strategy, and support were what made athletes of Apayao steadily rise in the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association (Caraa) Meet.
In a press conference last June 14, where incentives for athletes of Apayao who stood out during the Caraa Meet 2023 were awarded, Gov. Elias Bulut Jr. said the achievements of the province’s athletes was not a walk in the park for it was the product of decades of research, planning, and preparation before they were able to achieve this milestone.
Twenty years ago, Bulut said youth in the province showed dismal performance in both the academic and sports levels. This led officials of the province, mayors of the seven towns, and the Department of Education to review their policies and strategies to improve the instruction system in the province and convince the students to study.
“We strategized how to boost their (youth) morale. So we started in sports,” Bulut said, recalling how the provincial government reached out to youth who had potential in sports but had no interest in formal schooling.
“May mga batang mahilig sa sports pero ayaw mag-aral. But why not encourage them to go to school and pursue sports at the same time?” Bulut said, recalling that one of the paramount decisions of officials of the provincial government then was to invest in the training of potential athletes and investing in facilities to complement the training, such as the construction of the Apayao Eco-Tourism and Sports Complex, this town, in 2012, and increasing fund allotment for sports development.
From an annual allotment of P3 million from the Internal Revenue Allotment, Bulut said P10M is now being allotted for sports, apart from the capacity building for athletes and coaches.
In 2013, Apayao hosted its first Caraa Meet.
Bulut said that decision has proven to be effective as athletes from the province began showing their prowess in different fields of athletics.
“Consistent na kulelat kami, but since we started investing in sports, nag-number 3 kami,” Bulut said.
Provision of facilities and amenities does not end with the sports complex as other towns have also started building facilities where local athletes can train even before they start competing in the provincial and regional meets.
Pudtol Mayor Reuel Pascua said apart from the fact that the towns have their own mini gymnasiums, the municipality will soon have a swimming pool, signaling that they can host some events of the Caraa 2024, which Apayao will host, after the governor, during the press conference, which was also attended by officials of the DepEd-CAR, volunteered to be the host next year.
But Apayao’s feat should not end in the regional meet. Bulut said the province still has a long way to go in terms of honing athletes from the province, whom they hope will also represent the province in national, Asia-Pacific, or international sports arenas.
To expose local athletes to bigger challenges and venues, the provincial government is currently constructing a coliseum so that the province can soon bid to host the Palarong Pambansa.
In the 2023 Caraa Meet, Apayao retained its second place.
The Apayao Eagles garnered 27 gold, 25 silver, and 38 bronze medals in the elementary and 25 gold, 29 silver and 48 bronze medals in the secondary division with a total of 52, 54, and 86 gold, silver and bronze medal haul repeating their strong performance when they hosted the Caraa Meet in 2019. – Rimaliza A. Opiña