Sailing allows twins to fulfill their dreams
FOR AN archipelago like the Philippines, it is ironic that we have a very small pool of sailor-athletes. These are individuals who sail so they can compete in international competitions where sailing is a major sport like in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Great Britain, and even the United States. In the Philippines, sailing is something that you do to put food on the table — not exactly to bring home the trophy.
Still, this hasn’t stopped the Philippine Sailing Association (PSA), the governing sports organization for sailing in the country, in discovering new talents who are not afraid to reign in the sails and take on the ocean. For years, they have been training young talents at the Philippine Sailing Center located in Harbor Square at the CCP Complex, where kids as young as eight-years old would maneuver small sailboats amidst the beautiful backdrop of Manila Bay.
This kind of sailing (where sailors compete), is recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). This allows PSA’s sailors to become national athletes who can qualify to compete in the Olympics and other major events. The national sailing team is considered one of the most competitive and successful athletes in the Philippine roster. In fact, they recently won in the Keelboat class of the 2017 11th China Cup International Regatta held in Hong Kong.
Aside from this, the team has also won medals in the regional meets. Their sailors have also qualified to train extensively with other sailors abroad.
Bridging social classes
Contrary to misconceptions that sailing is only for the rich and that it is an expensive sport, the PSA actually encourages new students from all social classes to join and train under their helm. The Philippine Sailing Center is supported by the PSC in terms of training facilities and opportunities to compete against other countries.
To date, they have over 50 athletes training under notable coaches in different boat classes (Felipe Mosquerra; Ma. Remedios Fidel — International 470 Class Coach; Bernard Floren — International 420 Class Coach; Carmelo Apdo — Optimist Class Coach; Joel Mejarito — Laser Class Coach; Mario Malazarte, Jr. and Teodorico Asejo). The sailing athletes are a different mix of gender, age, and economic standing.
Two of these athletes are 17-year old twin sisters Jonalyn and Jonabel Parocha who have been trained by the PSA for over nine months. The duo was actually introduced to sailing via a friend who also trains at the center. Both are also athletes in the public school where they attend. Jonalyn and Jonabel are varsity players for both track-and-field and softball at the Dr. Arcadio Santos High School. Trying another sport was something of a challenge that they were willing to take.
“We were asked by our coach Bernard Floren before when we visited the center if we wanted to try sailing. He asked if we did any sports and when he found out that we were athletes, he encouraged us to join the sailing team,” said Jonalyn.
After a few months, the two decided to just focus on sailing instead. “Unlike softball and track-and-field, this is a watersport, it’s a different experience,” shared Jonabel.
What also encouraged the two to focus more on sailing was the fact that it showed them a promising opportunity. They said that they may actually consider it as a career in the future.
“It’s difficult to get a break in a sport but we realized that sailing may give us a better opportunity as it is a growing sport and we can also compete in international events,” Jonabel said.
The twins hope that they would improve their skills so they can eventually compete internationally like their fellow sailors (some as far as Barcelona). They also consider getting into the Philippine Navy someday.
“We really enjoy sailing. The people here are kind and the coaches are really good and we feel their support,” said Jonalyn.
Athletes in the sailing center get a monthly stipend courtesy of PSA president Ernesto Echauz who is also the Chairman and CEO of Standard Insurance, the center’s dedicated patron and supporter. Through his generosity, the athletes get much-needed support during training for various competitions. The philanthropist himself is known to compete in various sailing competitions involving big boats.
“What we get from the center is a big help to our family. We would usually give our allowance to our mother so we can help out in the household,” said Jonalyn. Their mom is a medical clerk while their father is a messenger for a BPO company.
PSA continues to look for talents who can sail under the Philippine flag as a ‘new blood’ may be the next one who can give the country an elusive Olympic gold medal.
“We encourage many of our friends to try sailing because it gave us a different direction in life. Before we would just hang out at home and do nothing during weekends, but now we really look forward to Saturday and Sunday because we have training here at the center,” Jonalyn said. “The training gave us discipline and a future to ‘sail’ forward to.”
For information on the Philippine Sailing Association, visit Facebook: www.facebook.com/philsailing.