How Manny Pangilinan's Sports Foundation Is Helping the Government Churn Out Champions
When Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, she had a lot of people to thank. In her corner was Team HD: her coaching staff (that included a Chinese national), a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach, and a sports psychologist. She also had her family, a loyal group of supporters, and, of course, every single Filipino cheering her on.
But there was at least one group that has been supporting Diaz way before she won the gold. It was there even before she bagged the silver medal at the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro.
That organization is the MVP Sports Foundation.
It’s no secret that PLDT Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan is a sports lover. He’s a well-known benefactor of Gilas Pilipinas, the country’s national basketball team, as well as collegiate teams from his alma maters, San Beda and Ateneo De Manila University. In fact, pre-pandemic, he was a fixture in the teams’ games, cheering them on like any regular fan.
And it’s not just basketball. His support extends to other sports disciplines, with the companies he manages often tapped as sponsors of different sporting events.
Sports is such a priority for MVP that he established an organization dedicated solely to it.
“The MVP Sports Foundation was founded in 2011 to be a driving force in the development of world-class Filipino sports champions as well as the leading proponent of culture of winning through sports using grassroots programs established through chosen sports,” Jude Turcuato, executive director of the MVPSF since January 1 this year, tells Esquire Philippines. “It is driven by our chairman Manny V. Pangilinan and funded by the MVP Group of Companies.”
It’s interesting to note that the MVPSF’s vision—as outlined in its website and emphasized by Turcuato—is “to inspire and empower the Filipino athlete towards the first Philippine Olympic gold medal.”
And now that Diaz has accomplished exactly that, there’s no doubt that that counts as a win for the MVPSF, too.
That the MVPSF was a major benefactor of Diaz and weightlifting as a sport in general here in the country is a testament to how seriously it took its vision to heart.
How the MVPSF is working with the government
Turcuato says that the Foundation works with the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and the National Sports Associations (NSAs) and athletes themselves to assist in training to develop world-class athletes. More specifically, according to the MVPSF website, the Foundation’s programs are geared towards the “advancement of elite athletes and national teams; developmental athletes and junior national teams; talent identification platforms; and grassroots programs.”
“The Foundations also has a Community Sports and Youth Development Program to tap the various grassroots talent across the country,” he says. “The MVPSF plugs any gaps from the support given by the government. We work hand in hand with the Philippine Sports Commission to ensure our athletes are taken care of.”
In fact, in addition to Diaz’s sport, among the programs that the MVPSF supports are basketball, boxing, taekwondo, golf, gymnastics, rowing, skateboarding, rugby, football, badminton, cycling and surfing.
Check that list against the sports and athletes where the country is fielding competitors in the Tokyo Olympics and you’ll get at least six. There’re the boxers (Carlo Paalam, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, and Nesthy Petacio), the golfers (Juvic Pagunsan, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Yuka Saso), the gymnast (Carlos Yulo), the rower (Cris Nievarez), the skateboarder (Margielyn Didal), and, of course, the weightlifter (Diaz).
“The support is both financial and logistic-tapping into the various resources of the MVP Group of Companies and its partners,” Turcuato says. “We also utilize our media assets to tell stories of our athletes for better connection with Filipinos.”
Turcuato explains that the decision to back these specific sports lay on which had the best chances of producing that ever-elusive Olympic gold medal, and those with the potential to be world-class and give glory to our country.
“An important criteria is the integrity and commitment of the athlete or the NSA (National Sports Association) to utilize the resources properly to achieve the mission and vision of the Foundation,” he adds.
Is the government doing enough?
Asked about the oft-repeated complaint that the government is not doing enough to support the country’s athletes, Turcuato gives a diplomatic answer. “In my experience, this is case to case dependent on the sport and the needs of the athletes. We can all do more to contribute to the overall success of the Filipino athlete.”
In addition to the MVPSF, at least one other tycoon pledged monetary rewards to Olympic athletes who will be able to bring home medals: San Miguel Corporation’s Ramon Ang. However, since Diaz’s extraordinary feat, the deluge of gifts, rewards and perks from the private sector extended to the hometown hero has been nonstop. Though it certainly would have been nice if these companies had extended assistance to Diaz during her long, hard climb to reach that golden goal—and not just afterwards—the fact that she has finally broken that barrier and that more private companies are taking notice are developments that shouldn’t be discounted.
If anything, the private sector, arguably led by the MVPSF, has proven that it can step up to the plate and provide that much-needed support for our athletes in areas where the government falls short.
“In my opinion, it is extremely important for private companies to support Filipino sports and athletes,” Turcuato says. “Sports brings people together and is a great tool for nation-building. It certainly makes a difference to athletes when the private sector chips in and gives support.”