Philippines in the Olympic Games

In this year's Olympics, the Philippines managed to (at least) repeat the success it had two decades ago with female weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz garnering a silver medal in the 53-kilogram division. She is also the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal. However, despite this success, her medal is only the third silver medal won by the Philippines up to this article's date of publication. Overall, the Philippines already won ten (10) medals in the Olympic Games. In addition to this, the Philippines is yet to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. Still, the Philippines in the Olympic Games had a long history that this article aims to introduce.

Teofilo Yldefonso
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Olympic Games that we know today was organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1896. The first host of the modern Olympic Games was Athens, since it is long held that the Olympics originated from Greece. The Philippines, meanwhile, had joined the IOC in 1918 and participated in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1924. This made the country to be first to compete in Southeast Asia. In addition, it is also one of the partipating nations which were not yet independent. At the time, the Philippines was under American colonial rule. The 1924 Olympic Games, hosted by Paris, saw one athlete from the Philippines compete in track and field. His name is David Nepomuceno (1900-1939). He did not win any medal, but he would later garner the gold medal in the 1925 and 1927 Far Eastern Championship Games (founded as Far Eastern Olympics). In the 1928 Olympic Games, hosted by Amsterdam, four atheletes were sent from the Philippines. One of them, Teofilo Yldefonso (1903-1942), won the bronze medal in swimming. This made the Philippines win a medal for the first time, and the first to win any medal in Southeast Asia. He won another bronze medal in swimming at the 1932 Olympic Games, hosted by Los Angeles. With this feat, Yldefonso was the first Filipino to win more than one medal in the Olympics. Meanwhile, his swimming style earned its own name, which is the "Yldefonso Stroke." In the same Olympic Games, two more Filipino athletes won the bronze medal as well. Simeon Toribio (1905-1969) won in high jump, while Jose Luis Villanueva (1913-1983) won in the bantamweight division of boxing. It was in 1932 when the Philippines won the most medals (three bronze medals in 1932) in its history in the Olympic Games.

The 1936 Philippine men's national basketball team
Photo courtesy of the International Olympic Committee
In recognition to the bronze medal finish of Yldefonso, the IOC designated the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF) as the National Olympic Committee of the Philippines in 1929. The PAAF was organized in 1911. The first Filipino PAAF president was Manuel Quezon, who served from 1916 to 1935. Succeeding him as president were Jorge Vargas (1936-1955), Antonio de las Alas (1956-1968), Felipe Montserrat (1969-1970), and Ambrosio Padilla (1970-1976). In 1936, the last Olympic Games before World War II, the Philippines sent 28 athletes. This is the most number of athletes sent from the country so far, but only Miguel White (1909-1942) won a medal. White garnered bronze in track and field. It is also this year when the Philippine men's national basketball team performed best in the Olympics thus far. The team landed in fifth place when it defeated Uruguay with a score of 32-23. After the war, the Philippines had not won any medal until the 1964 Olympic Games hosted by Tokyo (the country sent 47 athletes). Jose Villanueva's son, Anthony Villanueva (1945-2014), won the country's first silver medal in the featherweight division of boxing. He lost to the Soviet Union representative Stanislav Stepashkin via a controversial decision (a score of 3-2 in favor of Stepashkin). In 1965, Anthony entered professional boxing and ended up with five fights total. Meanwhile, in 1975, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) replaced the PAAF as the National Olympic Committee of the Philippines. Nereo Andolong served as the first president of POC, serving from 1977 to 1980. The POC remains to this day, with Jose Cojuangco as its president since 2005. Ever since the Philippines joined the Olympic Games in 1924, the only time the country did not participate is in the 1980 Olympic Games hosted by Moscow. Only 80 nations participated in the 1980 Olympics, the least number of participating nations since 1956. The boycott of the Olympic Games hosted by the Soviet Union was done mainly in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

File:Anthony Villanueva.jpeg
Anthony Villenueva
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Philippines would again win a medal in the 1988 Olympic Games, hosted by Seoul. Leopoldo Serantes garnered a bronze medal in the light flyweight (or junior flyweight) division of boxing. Besides Serantes, thirty (30) more athletes were sent by the Philippines that year. Later on, he would be the first beneficiary of the Anthony Villanueva Trust Fund, set up by the first Filipino silver medalist. Filipino athletes continued to shine in the sport of boxing as another bronze medal was won in the same division in the 1992 Olympic Games, hosted by Barcelona. This time, the medal was taken home by Roel Velasco. Meanwhile, in 1996, Roel's younger brother Mansueto Velasco, Jr. fought in the same division in the Olympics hosted by Atlanta. Mansueto, nicknamed as "Onyok," won the silver medal after losing in a decision against the Bulgaria representative Daniel Petrov (a score of 19-6). This is the second silver medal of the Philippines, and the first one since 1964. However, with 12 athletes sent in 1996, this is the least number of Filipino participants in the Olympic Games since 1976 (when 14 athletes were sent). Meanwhile, the most number of athletes sent by the Philippines was 53, which was at the 1972 Olympic Games hosted by Munich. It is also in 1972 that the Philippine men's national basketball team qualifies to the Olympic Games for the last time thus far. The team was at 13th place, the same position it was in the 1968 Olympics at Mexico City, when it defeated Japan with a score of 82-73.

Three Filipino medalists in one photo: Leopoldo Serantes (center)
flanked by Mansueto (left) and Roel (right) Velasco
Photo courtesy of
Despite a seemingly weak performance at the Olympic Games in general, as well as the apparent underfunding of its athletes, the Philippines does have incentives for its representatives. In 2001, Republic Act No. 9064 (Sports Benefits and Incentives Act) provided for a cash award of five million pesos (106,000 US Dollars) to an Olympic gold medalist, two and a half million pesos (53,000 USD) to an Olympic silver medalist, and one million pesos (21,000 USD) to an Olympic bronze medalist. They shall also be given medical insurance through the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), a social security program through the Social Security System (SSS), scholarships through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), priority in livelihood and housing programs, and death benefits equal to 30,000 pesos (638 USD). Their coaches would receive half (50%) of the cash award given to the medalists. In 2015, this law was repealed by Republic Act No. 10699 (National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act). The main difference between the two laws would be the cash award. An Olympic gold medalist shall receive ten million pesos (213,000 USD), an Olympic silver medalist five million pesos (106,000 USD), and an Olympic bronze medalist two million pesos (43,000 USD). The Olympic gold medalist shall also receive an Olympic Gold Medal of Valor. Whether the incentives of the new law are effective or not, it is yet to be revealed in the near future.

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Philippines in the Olympic Games Philippines in the Olympic Games Reviewed by Al Raposas on Tuesday, August 09, 2016 Rating: 5

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