'Turbo' used to start fights for gang. Now he's waging battle for country

Apr 28, 2019

DARWIN, Australia – John Lloyd Cabalo was once a member of a gang, often called upon to start a fight then run away to safety.

Now, Cabalo is using his speed to good use

The 18-year-old Cabalo is one of the rising stars of Philippine athletics, having already won several medals in international meets - the last two as a member of the national team in the Arafura Games on Saturday.

None of that would've been possible had it not been for the help of a teacher, who found athletic potential in the mischievous kid tasked by fellow gang members to start fights with rival gangs.

“Kasi dati, gangster-gangster ako sa amin. May isang teacher na nagsabi sa akin na sumali ako sa takbo, may magandang future daw ako kesa maging basagulero ako,” said Cabalo.

That Cabalo often came out of those gang fights unscathed can only mean that the kid, indeed, can run fast.

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“Nakikipaghabulan po ako sa amin sa mga gang doon. Ako po ‘yung starter nila. Panghabol nila. Kunwari po, sa lugar namin, siksikan tapos kapag pupunta ka ng ibang lugar, ako ‘yung (sasabihan ng), ‘Sapakin mo, sabay takbo ka lang,’” said Cabalo.

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Fortunately, the teacher was persistent in giving Cabalo a shot at a better life.

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“Nagsimula sa binibigyan niya ako ng allowance pang-training ko at pagpunta ng sports complex. Parang tinuloy-tuloy ko,” said Cabalo.

Cabalo became so good in several meets that he was spotted by National University and was eventually recruited to join the Bulldogs' athletics team.

He has also made a mark in the local athletics community that most of his teammates here in the Arafura Games call him ‘Turbo.’

Now the sacrifices are bearing fruit.

“Sobrang thankful din ako kasi sobrang nabago buhay ko sa paglalaro nito. Nakapag-aral ako sa Manila, nakakatulong ako sa mama ko. Hindi na siya gumagastos sa akin. Sarili ko na lang din iniisip ko,” said Cabalo, who is now in Grade 12 at NU.

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“Hindi na ako humihingi ng pera kasi may allowance ako sa NU tapos ‘yung pag-aaral ko, full scholarship, at may pagkain,” said Cabalo.

As of Saturday, Cabalo has already ruled the 400-meter run and was a member of the victorious 4x200m relay team to match his gold medal output in his first international competition, the BIMP-EAGA Friendship Games.

He has three more events on tap.

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