By Mark Mañez
QUEZON CITY—The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) joined forces to stage a unity event at the UP Diliman College of Science Oval among various sports sectors to prepare for the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games later this year and the ASEAN Para Games in 2020.
Billed as Olympic Day and Lakad Para Atleta 2019, the event witnessed for the first time ever, a unity walk of abled body athletes walking side by side with para athletes to give life to the event theme, "Unity and Transformation Through Sports".
The event was highlighted by a torch relay featuring five pairs of Olympians and Paralympians traveling the 500-meter oval, symbolizing inclusiveness and equality for all.
''We are overwhelmed by the show of support from our partners in government and private sectors, especially Citi Philippines. This is a big push for our national athletes who will be competing for the country in the upcoming SEA Games this November and the ASEAN Para Games in January 2020'', said PPC president Michael Barredo.
The torch relay culminated in a cauldron lighting ceremony followed by the Legacy Walk participated in by athletes and non-athletes, including key PPC and Paralympic movement supporter Citi Philippines which brought in close to 500 delegates.
After the walk, the Philippine Olympian Association turned over seedlings to the University of the Philippines to further express their advocacy that sports can be used for the betterment of the environment.
''Para Athletes are truly an inspiration as they overcome the odds to achieve and excel with courage and determination. Today is an opportunity for us to become advocates of their cause, so that we can break down the perceptions around disability and push for inclusion and equality for all,'' added Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed.
Exhibitions and participative activities followed in arnis, skateboarding, athletics, karate, underwater hocke, petanque, and parasports like braille chess, wheelchair racing, wheelchair basketball and para athletics entertained attendees.
A body combat session conducted by Fitness First turned the event into a sports fair.
Among notable attendees during the festivities include ABS-CBN talent and MPBL Imus Bandera star Gerald Anderson, the UP varsity teams who gamely participated in the booths and Gilas Pilipinas Women's National team with head coach Pat Aquino.
Skateboarding and Roller Sports Association of the Philippines also raffled off 3 skateboards including one signed by last year's Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Didal.