Ernie Gawilan's mind on fellow Dabawenyos, Duterte days before Paralympic Games debut
Ernie Gawilan counts provincemate President Duterte among his biggest supporters.

A DAY away from competing in the Rio Paralympics, Pinoy parathlete Ernie Gawilan took time out from practice to express his support for President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Dabawenyo paralympic swimmer recalled their memorable meeting last December when then Davao City Mayor Duterte gave him words of encouragement after his smashing triumph in the Southeast Asian Para Games in Singapore where he earned a ticket to the Rio Paralympics.

“Nahinumduman pa nako iyaha kung gisultihan na motuo lang sa aong kaugalingon (I remember him telling me to just believe and trust in myself despite my disabilities),” Gawilan narrated to in a chat from the Olympic Village in Rio.

“Karon, ako na sad ang magpasibaw sa akong suporta ug pagsalig kaniya (Now. It’s my turn to show my support and trust to the President),” he added.

“Tabangan nato si Presidente, dili nato i-asa lang sa iya kay daghan pa ang problema niya sa atong pinalangang nasod so please lang mag coordinate ta sa mga utoridad (Let’s help the President, let us not leave everything to him because he has so many problems for the country. Let us do our share and coordinate with the authorities).”

Gawilan’s message came in the wake of the deadly Davao City bombing on Friday that killed 14 and left 71 others injured. He also had a message for his fellow Dabawenyos to help out iBYbeing more vigilant against possible terror attacks.

“Ang mensahe nako sa taga Davao sir, kailangan kita tanan magtinabangay aron dili na mausab ang ingani na pang hitabo. Dapat vigilant ta sa palibot tabangan nato ang administration ni Presidente na sugpuon ang mga daotang elemento sa nasod kita tanan naa tay gamit gihatagan ta ug dila,mata,dalongan,ug kamot para gamiton (My message to my fellow Dabawenyos is for us to help each other so that this will not happen again. We should be vigilant of things around us and let us help the President in fighting lawless elements because we all are born with the faculties we can use to do our part),” he said.

Meanwhile, Gawilan, born with underdeveloped arm and legs, will compete in his first of three events — the 400-meter freestyle — on September 8 in the quadrennial showpiece for athletes with disabilities, the equivalent of the Olympic Games for regular athletes.

Despite the sad news from his hometown, Gawilan was in high spirits as he made a few laps in the practice pool on Tuesday.


“Handa na ako, sir (I’m ready),” he said.

He earlier vowed to dedicate his performance to the Dabawenyos who are reeling from the terror attack.

The entire Philippine delegation for the Paralympics arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. Gawilan was accompanied by his coaches Antonio Ong and Ral Rosario along with fellow parathletes Josephine Medina (Table Tennis), Adeline Dumapong Ancheta (Power Lifting), Agustine Kitan (Power Lifting), and Jerrold Pete Manglinaw (Athletics). The lean delegation looks to end the country’s fruitless hunt for a gold medal in the quadrennial showpiece.

Gawilan, orphaned at an early age and raised in a monastery, will compete in the 400-meter freestyle,100-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke in his category.

He qualified to the Rio Paralympics after winning two gold medals in record-breaking fashion and a silver in last year’s Asean Para Games in Singapore.

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