Pinoy medical volunteer pays way to Rio - and ends up witnessing Hidilyn Diaz make Olympic history
Texas-based Marvin Delfin, a Filipino medical volunteer in the Rio Olympics, enjoys her time with provincemate and silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Jerome Ascano

RIO DE JANEIRO – All Marvin Delfin wanted was to fulfill his dream of being in the Olympics, so much so that he spent his own money to become a medical volunteer from the Philippines and be part of the XXXI Rio Games.

He ended up witnessing a special piece of history.

Delfin, a nurse by profession and now based in Texas, couldn’t contain his joy after seeing weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz win a silver in the women’s 53 kg. division and put an end to the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought.

Like the 25-year-old Diaz, Delfin is also from Zamboanga City.

“After she won, when I saw her outside she said in chavacano ‘Bien alegre gat iyo, asta ahora hinde pa yo ta kre (I’m so happy that up to now, I cannot believe),'” said Delfin in recalling her conversation with the country’s new sports heroine.

“I told her that the entire medical team (afternoon shift) was so amazed and happy about her winning.”

 A former instructor at the Western Mindanao State University prior to moving to the U.S. Delfin said it has long been his dream to go to the Olympics and represent the country.

“But since I have no sports ability, I'd rather use my profession as my ticket to come here in the Olympics,” he said, adding it was also his first time to be in the Brazilian city.

He is one of only 17 Filipino volunteers here, but only the second one involved in the medical field. He said there are around 70,000 volunteers from different countries working as part of the Olympics.

Cebu-based physician Rhoel Dejano, who is also the doctor of the Cesafi, is also a volunteer in Rio assigned to the basketball event.

Delfin applied for the job as early as December 14 and went to the Olympiad spending for his own fare and accommodation.

“But the Rio organizers gave us uniforms, shoes, some food, and passes like transportation, etc.,” he said.

While he said Portuguese food is nice, he brought with him items from the Philippines such as instant coffee, cup noodles, among others, for good measure.

“I know it’s expensive to eat here,” he said. “Besides, prefer ko talaga ang Filipino food. It’s just really a matter of being prepared.”

More than the experience, Delfin said he’ll never ever forget having worked and getting close with the person who became the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal - and only the third Filipino to win a silver in the quadrennial meet.

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“I told her (Hidilyn) that I was bragging about her to my colleagues that night and luckily, they were able to see her in person,” he said.

The feeling, it turned out, was mutual.

“Hidilyn was so thankful for us Filipino volunteers and fans in Rio who supported her during the Games,” said the Filipino nurse. “Yes, we (Filipino volunteers) are only a small fraction here, but we tried to make a difference by supporting our team.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @jeromeascano