Ancheta Dumapong-Ancheta: Keeping the dream alive.

Dumapong: A Paralympian’s not-so -impossible dream

September 11, 2021 Ed Andaya 1297 views

TWENTY-one years after producing the country’s first-ever medal — a bronze — in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta is still doing it all.

She is fighting a different battle for respect and recognition on behalf of her fellow physically-disabled but equally-determined para athletes.

There are no gold, silver or bronze medals at stake or even the cash bonanza usually given to deserving winners in the sporting field.

But Dumapong-Ancheta hopes to continue the uphill battle as long as she can until the ultimate prize is won.

“Mula noon sa Sydney hanggang ngayon sa Tokyo yun naman talaga ang pangarap naming lahat,” said Dumapong-Ancheta during the 117th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Sept. 2.

“Sa tulong ninyong lahat, gusto naming mas lalo pang maging malawak ang sports program para sa mga differently-abled athletes. Gusto naming mas lalo pang dumami ang magka-interes na pumasok sa sports sa kabila ng kanilang kapansanan,” added Dumapong-Ancheta during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).

The 47-year-old powerlifting champion from Kiangan, Ifugao, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of six, believes there are a lot of talented but physically-disabled individuals, especially in far-flung provinces, who have not come out into open because of the stigma associated with their disability.

“Pangarap naming lahat na mga dati at kasalukuyang miyembro ng national para athletes team na magsilbing inspirasyon para sa mga kagaya naming physically-disabled,” added Dumapong- Ancheta, who has compiled 10 golds, six silvers and two bronzes since taking up powerlifting in 1997.

“Gusto naming palabasin ng kanilang mga bahay yun iba pang may mga kapansanan, lalo na mga kabataan. We want them to get into sports and change their life,” added Dumapong-Ancheta, who was joined in the forum by International Physically-Disabled Chess Association (IPCA) world champion Sander Severino and National Council on Disability Affairs board member James Infiesto.

Both Severino and Infiesto supported Dumapong-Ancheta, saying physically-disabled athletes in chess, powerlifting and table tennis can be just as good as their abled-bodied counterparts.

All three, however, adniitted encouraging more physically-disabled and visually-impaired individuals to take up sports is easier said than done.

Dumapong-Ancheta, who took up powerlifting upon encouragement of her male friends at the Philippine Orthopedic Center in Banawe, Quezon City, said it is a big challenge then and now.

“Malaki ang naitutulong ng sports hindi lamang sa pisikal kundi maging sa mental na usapan ng mga taong may kapansanan. Pero bago sumali sa anumang sports, madami pa din ang iniisip kung paano makapag-trabaho, kung paano lagyan ng pagkain ang kanilang mga sikmura.”

“Kung minsan, the parents of the differently-abled athletes are afraid to allow them to come out and get into sports, especially those in the provinces,” added Dumapong-Ancheta, who also now works with the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently-Abled (PHILSPADA) under president Mike Barredo.

The support of the government and private sector could be a game-changer, according to Dumapong-Ancheta.

She was very thankful to the PSC, headed by Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, for taking the initiatives now in helping the para athletes.

A seven-time ASEAN Para Games gold medalist, Dumapong-Ancheta recalled her own challenging beginnings.

Paralyzed from waist down since childhood, Dumapong-Ancheta said her family was forced to send her to a school for children with disabilities run by a Belgian missionary.

It also started her lifelong love affair with sports.

“I tried everything when I was there. I tried wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing and even swimming. But I wanted to find a sport that made me strong –powerlifting,”recalled Dumapong-Ancheta, who also served as athletes’ representative in the Women in Sports committee of the Asian Paralympic committee.

Dumapong-Ancheta, also a veteran of the 2004 Athens and 2012 London Paralympics, also expressed the hope to see the day that outstanding paralympians will also be financially rewarded for their achievement in the sporting world.

“When I brought home the bronze in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, wala talagang mga financial rewards. Yung Republic Act 9064, or the Sports Incentives Act, naipasa nun 2001,” explained Dumapong-Ancheta, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer at the St. Paul’s College in Quezon City.

“Pero sabi nga, sana lahat. Hindi pa kasama yung mga atletang may kapansanan dahil sa batas, yung Olympics, Asian Games at SEA Games lang daw ang kasama at baka hindi pumasa sa COA ( Commission on Audit). Pero may counterpart events naman sa mga para athletes. Yun SEA Games, may ASEAN Para Games kami. Yun Asian Games, may Asian Para Games. At yun Olympics, may Paralympics.”

The wheelchair-bound Dumapong-Ancheta recalled she even attended hearings in both the Senate and Congress and submitted position papers why para athles also deserve financial incentives.

“Before we can’t really take pride to say that we’re part of the national team. Hindi namin maramdaman. Even when nagkaroon ng mga amendments sa PSC Law in November 2015 at nabigyan na ang mga kagaya namin ng mga allowances at benefits, pagdating sa incentives ay 50 perent less pa din sa mga athletes with disabilites.”

Dumapong-Ancheta, however, was very thankful for PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and the four commisisoners for doing their best to help the para athletes.

But more help is needed, especially from the private sector.

“Sa tingin namin, hindi lang yan ang kabuuan para sa kapakanan ng mga atletang may kapansanan. Una, yun accessibility ng mga training venues, lalo ngayong pandemic. Yun equipment, pati titirhan at makakasama during bubble training. Madaming pangangailangan ang mga para athletes na kailangan tugunan.”

Asked about the possibilty of seeing more physically-disable athletes represent the country in the Paralympics, Dumapong-Ancheta exuded confidence.

“Hindi imposible. Madami tayong magagaling na mga para athlete, na kapag nabigyan ng tamang suporta sa training at parehong incentives, kaya natin.”

“Dati, isa or dalawa lang kami lalaban sa mga international competitions. Sa London, umabot kami ng siyam na atleta. Sa Rio, lima.At ngayon sa Tokyo, anim sila. These are really exciting times for a lot of us.” With reports from Gab Ferreras