JERROLD Mangliwan — a wheelchair racer about to head to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympics — could remember a time before the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons was amended back in 2016.
"Nung nagsisimula pa lang ako noon, galing Caloocan, kung saan nakatira 'yung kapatid ko, i-wi-wheelchair ko 'yan hanggang Ultra, Pasig para makapag-ensayo, pagkatapos namin, magwi-wheelchair ulit ako pabalik," Mangliwan told SPIN Life, recalling his early days with the national team almost a decade ago.
"Mahirap pa kasi mag-travel noon 'pag PWD ka, ang dami pang kailangan. Ganon ako hanggang nag-breakthrough 'nung mga 2016, naisabatas na, kaya ngayon, mas madali na ang lahat, laking pasasalamat ko sa mga tao."
That same year the modified Magna Carta was ratified into law, Mangliwan headed to Rio de Janeiro for the Paralympics, to participate in one of the competition's most exciting events.
Wheelchair racing has always been a game of strength and speed. The fastest and the strongest end up in the podium.
And while Mangliwan ultimately went home without a medal, he did make it to that finish line. He ended up seventh place in the 400m T52 para athletic event. (T52 is a disability in sports classification that refers to athletes with who have good shoulder and upper body control, but limited trunk and leg function, and no fine motor skills in their arms and hands.)
It's a lesson that Jerrold Mangliwan learned early, as he recalled his early days in national team training, almost a decade ago.
Even with the results fo the 2016 Paralympics, the race of life for Jerrold Mangliwan goes on.
Jerrold Mangliwan has been a para athlete for 15 years and counting
The 41-year-old Mangliwan, who has paraplegia, is one of the six Philippine representatives to this year's Tokyo Paralympics.
He's joined by para swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino, discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda, taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin, and powerlifter Achelle Guion.
For persons with disability, the platform and chance to wear the flag in the biggest stage is already achievement in itself, bringing life-changing opportunities — like being able to shed light on their needs to a more accessible transportability in the country.
"Dahil [sa pinagdaanan ko sa training], alam ko na kailangan paghirapan ang mga bagay. More than bringing home a medal, which is the main goal in the Games, gusto ko din makapag-ambag muli sa mga kapwa ko PWD at mag-raise awareness sa mga Pilipino," said Mangliwan.
After his qualifiers in Switzerland last February to this day, it's been a non-stop grind for the country's top wheelchair racer. He's currently in a training bubble organized by the Philippine Sports Commission in Imus, Cavite.
"For that reason, ang nasa isip ko lang talaga is keep going and keep on grinding kasi nakita ko na sa ganitong paraan, kaya ko mag-contribute hindi lang sa larangan ng sports, kundi sa development ng PWD sector," he explained.
Mangliwan is already a 15 years veteran in sports, and has brought home several international medals for the Filipinos, including two golds from the ASEAN Para Games.
Already in his 40s, retirement is still far from his mind, especially when fueled by his plight.
"Alam ko process 'yon na nagte-take time, biggest issue sa amin 'yung accessibility, pero overtime napapansin ko na pinaprariority na nila 'yung struggles namin, napapansin na din ng gobyerno," the Tabuk, Kalinga native said. "Andon na 'yung recognition, pero may mga kailangan pang trabahahuhin."
"Bukod pa dito, wala pang lalaking nagme-medal sa Paralympics. Isa 'yan sa goal natin. Dahil din sa success ng mga Olympians, high morale kaming papasok ngayon, nakakatuwa lang na nasa history books na tayo. Goal namin iduplicate ang ginawa nila," he said.
The Philippines has won only two bronze medals from the Paralympic Games since it began joining the competition in 1988 Seoul.
Mangliwan's eagerness to become great is rooted on the bigger fight for PWD rights.
"Ramdam ko 'yung suporta sa amin, ramdam ko 'yung tiwala na ibinigay nila sa akin, at ramdam ko 'yung bunga ng mga hirap na pinagdaanan ko kaya lalo akong nagpupursige," he said.
As he leaves for Tokyo this weekend (August 22), he carries these pleas inside of him as he banners the Philippine flag in the opening ceremonies, and as he suits up for the Men’s 400m T52, Men’s 1500m T52, and Men’s 100m T52 events.
"Special 'tong moment na 'to, pupunta ko ng Tokyo hawak ang bandila ng Pilipinas. Handa akong ipakita sa mundo 'yung top perfromance ko sa buhay ko, salamat sa oportunidad."
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