AGOO, LA UNION --- “Sports is important to national development, sports inspires and unites.”
Quoting the late African President Nelson Mandela, this is what Department of Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito M. Umali wants to instill into the minds of the athletes during the opening ceremony of the Region 1 Athletic Association (RIAA) at the Sports Center of the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) in Agoo, La Union last February 23.
ASec. Umali as the keynote speaker of the R1AA told the athletes, “ Habang kayo’y naglalaro hindi importante ang medalya, ang importante ay ang disiplina at mga aral na matutunan niyo na siyang isinasaad ng ating tema ngayon, fostering unity o pagkakaisa, teamwork, and peace through sports na siyang madadala niyo sa inyong paglaki na kayo’y ipagmamalaki hindi lamang ng inyong pamilya, ng iyong bayan kundi ng iyong bansa.”
With the 14 sports contingents from the various schools divisions throughout the region, the RIAA opening ceremony gathered more than 10,000 participants including athletes, delegates, technical officials, and spectators from the whole region.
Vice-Governor Ferdinand Calimlim represented Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. for the turn-over of the duties and responsibilities of hosting the RIAA to the municipality of Agoo, La Union as this year’s host , Pangasinan being the previous host of the regional sports activity.
Also present were the local government officials from the provinces who showed their support to their athletes.
The Pangasinan delegation consisiting of six contingents also came in full force numbering around 2,850, of whom 2, 000 are athletes.
Holding the RIAA over-all championship in 2013, Pangasinan II won the golds in javelin throw and triple jump in secondary girls category, 110 meter hurdles for secondary boys, 400 meter dash elementary boys, 1, 500 meter dash secondary boys, secondary girls basketball, sepak takraw girls, lawn tennis singles secondary girls and boys doubles and girls doubles, elementary and secondary boys in football and in the boxing competition.
It will be recalled that Pangasinan II also made history when it grabbed the championship in 2011 from Ilocos Norte which dominated the regional sports event for several years. The team expects to keep the title for the year.
The Pangasinan II schools division composed the biggest delegation among the Pangasinan contingents consisting of 642 athletes competing in various sports and athletic events.
On the other hand, Pangasinan I which holds the championship title in sepak takraw last year is fielding around 300 athletes to compete in various sports like basketball, hurdles, relay and other athletic events.
The city schools division of Urdaneta City came with 379 athletes, San Carlos, 320 athletes, Dagupan City 284 and Alaminos City with more than a hundred athletes.
Mr. Modesto Operania, provincial sports director, disclosed that the provincial government also provided full support for the 15 day training of the athletes of Pangasinan I and II in preparation for the athletic competition.
The Pangasinan athletes in return vowed to do their best to keep the championship anew as they expressed confidence in bringing honors to the province during the 5-day RIAA Meet .
The RIAA sport events are among the venues and training grounds for elementary and high school students to prepare them for bigger sports competitions like the Palarong Pambansa.