A HERO'S welcome awaits Hidilyn Diaz on Friday in her hometown of Zamboanga City, where the local government is rolling out the red carpet for the celebrated weightlifter before handing her a P500,000 incentive for winning the silver medal in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Zamboanga City sports division chief Dr. Cecil Atilano said a program will be held at the Zamboanga City Hall where Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar will be handing a symbolic check of P500,000 to Diaz, as per a city ordinance where an Olympic gold medalist from the city will receive P1 million, a silver medalist P500,000, and bronze P100,000.
Diaz is set to make her triumphant return from Rio on Thursday, around 4 p.m., aboard a plane that will first make a stop in Dubai before heading to Manila.
Right after her arrival at NAIA 3, Diaz then heads to a press conference at Resorts World, where she will stay for the night before flying off to Zamboanga City the next day using a private plane owned by PLDT and Smart chairman Manny V. Pangilinan, whose TV5 network is the official broadcaster of the Olympics to the Philippines.
Atilano also said a motorcade for Diaz will be held around the city, which will also pass by Mampang where the Philippines' latest sports heroine lives.
“We are preparing a heroes’ welcome sa pagdating ni Hidilyn sa Friday. We are preparing a welcome program for her and after that, magkakaroon kami ng motorcade,” said Atilano.
Atilano said Zamboanga City, a hotbed for weightlifters that has produced the likes of Jaime Sebastian, Ramon Celis, among others, takes pride in Diaz’s accomplishment as she came from a poor family.
“Siyempre, masayang masaya ang buong Zamboanga at ang buong Pilipinas. They are very proud of her kasi nag-umpisa siya, walang wala, galing siya sa mahirap na pamilya. Mabuti na lang at nabigyan siya ng pagkakataon na ma-discover sa weightlifting,” said Atilano.
Atilano said Diaz was able to study at Unibersidad de Zamboanga through weightlifting where she was discovered by Elbert Atilano, currently an official of the Philippine Weightlifting Federation.
“Binigyan siya ng scholarship hanggang nakatapos siya. Honor student siya nung high school pagka-graduate niya,” said Atilano.
Atilano added that Diaz’s Olympic silver medal is a well-deserved honor for all the hardships that she experienced in her life.
“Hinid madali ‘yung pinagdaanam niya kasi may mga dark hours talaga siya,” said Atilano.
Meanwhile, Philippine Olympic Committee first vice president Joey Romasanta assured that Diaz will receive in full the P5 million incentive from the government for her Olympic silver medal feat.
The country’s chief of mission in the Olympics said the Philippine Sports Commission is planning to have the check ready by August 27.
Diaz stands to receive P5 million from the government as per Republic Act 10699 or the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act where a winner of an Olympic silver medal receives the said amount.
Diaz could also have a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte as the Philippine secretariat in Brazil has received information that the Chief Executive wants to meet her in Davao as soon as possible once she gets back to the Philippines on Thursday.