Paralympian Ernie Gawilan Is Aiming for the Philippines' First-Ever Paralympic Gold
Stimulated by the country's historic run in the Tokyo Olympics, the Philippine delegation to the Paralympic Games pledged to work just as hard to represent the Filipino nation.
Team PH will be bannered by six Paralympians, namely Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino for swimming, Jerrold Mangliwan and Jeanette Aceveda for para athletics, taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin, and powerlifter Achelle Guion.
For the record, the country has won only two bronze medals in the Para Games since it debuted in 1988 Seoul. Powerlifter Adelina Dumapong clinched the first in Sydney 2000, then 16 years later, Josephine Medina snared another bronze in Rio.
Now, the quest for more metal is on.
"Ang assurance ko lang is gagawin namin ang lahat ng makakaya namin dahil ang pangarap din namin ay makapag-uwi ng medal mula sa Paralympics," Gawilan, who is off to his second Para Games, told SPIN Life.
"Alam ko 'yun ang hangad ng lahat kaya hindi kami pupunta don para makipagbato-bato-pick," he continued.
For him, this year is even more special, as he was assigned as one of the country's flagbearers in the closing ceremonies. (Mangliwan will carry the flag at the opening.)
"Sa akin, nasa dibdib ko 'yung flag natin, kaya excited ako makita ng ibang bansa at ng mundo na kaya ng Pilipino," added Gawilan.
No excuses for Philippine Paralympians
"Hindi 100 percent 'yung training namin dahil nga sa lockdown pero ginagawa namin ang sapat para maging ready," the swimmer added.
Since access to facilities have been limited over the past year, the paraswimmer revealed he used the open waters in his province to train. It was the closest he could get to a swimming pool.
"Nagla-land training pero hindi pwedeng puro ganon. Nung lockdown, dati sa Davao, sa dagat ako nagte-training," he said.
Now that he's currently in a bubble organized by the Philippine Sports Commission in Timog, he makes the best out of the remaining time left before the competition.
Gawilan, who bagged three gold medals, and two silvers in the 2018 Asian Para Games, is set to compete in 400m freestyle, 200m individual medley, and 100m backstroke events in Tokyo.
A boost from the golden girl
Beyond his pride at having made it back to the Olympics stage, he's more eager than ever, especially after witnessing Hidilyn Diaz's winning moment at Tokyo 2020.
"Nanonood kami noon sa livestream. Napasigaw kami sa kwarto ng hotel, kaya mas ganado talaga kami. Biruin mo, sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, may ginto na tayo," he said. "Ganoon talaga ang goal namin, na makapagbigay karangalan."
He also revealed he's quite happy with the amount of support handed to them by involved sectors.
"Nakakatulong sa amin 'yung equipment na bigay ng PSC. Ramdam naman namin na all-out support yung bansa sa amin, kaya kahit andyan 'yung pressure, ibibigay namin ang best namin," he said.
This story originally appeared on Spin.ph. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.