Despite oppressive poverty in the Philippines, people here are among the happiest and most fun-loving in the world.
Filipinos’ love of music and sports helps them get by in times of lack, hunger and destitution.
Our church partners know the value of sports in providing fun-yet-helpful activities for sponsored children. Sporting events, including regional competitions called Pinoy (colloquial for “Filipino”) Olympics, are held by many of the child development centers.
One of these centers is the Bethel Student Center on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.
Rey is the director of Bethel and he tells us,
“A sporting event is helpful to the children and teenagers on so many levels. Not only do they get to exercise, they also get the chance to develop sportsmanship, unity and teamwork.
“I believe everybody loves sports, especially the youth. They have fun as they showcase their talents.”
This year’s sports festival began with an exhortation from Scripture. Rey reminded the children to glorify God in whatever they do, even as they play and engage in sports.
He ended his short talk by telling them,
“Be a winner for God!”
Teachers and case workers from the child development center instructed the kids to form lines according to age on the covered basketball court. As soon as they were in place, one of the students, Ricardo, ran in carrying the “Olympic Torch.”
Though the torch was a simple piece of kerosene-drenched cloth wrapped around the end of a stick, the kids applauded with excitement as it lit a bowl of charcoal on stage. The smell of kerosene filled the air as Rey declared the opening of the Bethel Student Center Sports Festival.
The event’s objective is to teach and reinforce sportsmanship while also identifying and developing the children’s talents and skills.
“The children react very differently to sports than they would in a classroom. They can freely express themselves and let their talents naturally shine.”
The first competitions involved cheer dancing and traditional Filipino games. A favorite game is called patintero, in which players must cross several lines of defense without being tagged, making it beyond the last line and back.
One of the teenagers who joined the patintero game was Raven.
“Engaging in sports allows us to develop in all aspects of life – physical, social, emotional and spiritual.
“It is a complete package. If I were to rate all of our center activities, I would say that a sporting event [such] as this is second best.”
Raven gives first place to the youth camps.
Raven’s team didn’t win the patintero match, but he remained very supportive of the entire event.
Because he is one of the center’s youth leaders, Raven arrived early that morning to help make preparations. He hopes to be a professional badminton player someday, if he doesn’t attend an engineering college.
After morning competitions, lunch was served.
As usual, the center provided a nutritional meal for everyone. And after lunch, the older children participated in the afternoon games.
Typical sports for the youth are basketball for the boys and volleyball for the girls.
Mary Rose didn’t participate in the volleyball competition this year because she participated last year. Mary Rose is 15 years old. She was only 4 when she was first registered in the Child Sponsorship Program.
“I’m happy just to be here and hang out with my friends at the student center. Growing up together, we understand each other’s needs, and we grew up knowing that we need the Lord. I have genuine friends here.”
With testimonies like Mary Rose’s, Rey can say that this year’s sports festival was a success. It blessed everyone, including those who didn’t get to play, like Mary Rose.
This center and the other student centers in Luzon are preparing for a region-wide Pinoy Olympics.
Rey shares with us,
“As with the sports fest that we just had here, the goal of Pinoy Olympics is to put all the children together in one place, strengthen friendships, develop sportsmanship and discover talents.
“Events like this serve as a springboard for us to see how best we can intervene in the lives of the children.”