THE deadly coronavirus pandemic could also bring out the best in people.
For 2019 SEA Games Latin dancesport gold medalists Steph Sabalo and Michael Angelo Marquez, it is also an opportunity to find time to share their talents to aspiring young athletes even thru online.
“Even with the pandemic, we managed to keep moving, stay in good shape and dance,” said Sabalo and Marquez during the 123rd “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Oct. 8.
“Right after winning the SEA Games golds, we did several dance workshops to keep us physically in shape while at the same time encourage and help train aspiring dancesport athletes,” recalled Sabalo 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).
But the pandemic, which has reportedy caused the most significant disruption to the internatioal sports calendar since World War, did not affect the two dancesport champions.
A BS Tourism graduate of Lyceum of the Philippines University, Sabalo said the pandemic pushed them to work harder.
“Akala namin it would just be a couple of months but humaba ng humaba at nagkaroon pa ng mga lockdowns. But itinuloy pa din namin yun mga plano. We managed free dance workouts or dance activities in our Facebook page para matuloy yung goal namin to help and at the same time, keep us moving,” expliained Sabalo.
“As an athlete, I think the most difficult and challenging part is to stay physically fit and mentally stable during this pandemic, so we keep moving and keep dancing,” added the Baguio City-raised Sabalo.
Marquez admitted they have to make a lot of adjustments since the outbreak of pandemic in March 2020, or three months after winning the gold in the SEA Games in December 2019.
“Nasanay na kami sa daily activity na pag-gising sa umaga, mag-ready agad ng mga gagamitin sa practice at pag-dating sa studio, punta sa gym at magpa-
kundisyon, then practice. But nahinto lahat yun,” said Marquez.
“Luckily, nandun pa din yun federation, yun mga coaches namin to help us and give us advises kung ano gagawin namin. Pati ang PSC binigyan kaming mga atleta ng sports psychology sessions via Zoom. Malaking tulong yun ma-assess namin yun mga nararamdaman namin during this pandemic at kung ano tamang gawin.”
Two years ago, Sabalo and Marquez helped the country win the SEA Games overall championship by capturing 10 of the 12 gold medals in the dancesport competition held at Royce Hotel in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
Sabalo and Marquez, who bagged two golds in Latin American five-dance and paso doble events, are again expected to represent the country in next year’s SEA Games in Vietnam.
They will join three other Filipino gold-medal winning pairs — Sean Aranar and Ana Nualla (tango, Viennece waltz and standard five-dance), Mark Gayon and Mary Joy Renigen (slow foxtrot and waltz) and Wilbert Aunzo and Pearl Caneda (cha cha, rumba and samba).
The only two golds which escaped the Filipinos’ hands are quickstep and jive — both going to 2021 host Vietnam.
“Right now, we are practicing all the five dances even though may lection process to determine kung ilan ang sasayawin namin. Siyempre habang nag-practice ka makikita mo kung alin ang mas strong dance mo. Like in the last SEA Games, ang strong dance namin tatlo — paso doble, jive and five-dance,” said Marquez.
“But definitely, it would be the five-dance. Yung kumpleto ang limang sayaw. Namimili na lang kami ng dalawa, although paso doble hindi na namin siguro kukunin,” added Sabalo, whose partnership with Marquez also earned a silver medal in the 2019 Kaunas Open in Lithuania.
Why not paso doble?
“Naiisip kasi namin we already got the gold medal for paso doble. We are thinking of choosing another dance, na hindi namin napili noong last time. Hoping na mai-gold din namin ang sayaw na yun.
Added Marquez: “Sa next SEA Games, I think the same din yun mga makakalaban namin. Sila sigurado uli. As of now, parang wala pa din silang national competitions gaya sa atin. Nun 2019 SEA Games, nagkaroon kami ng selection. Everyone can join and everyone can compete to represent the country sa SEA Games. But since walang competition, kami pa rin uli.
Same with other countries. More or less, kami-kami uli ang maghaharap.
With breakdance debuting as an Olympic sport in Paris 2024, can dancesport be far behind?
Both Sabalo and Marquez certainly hope so.
“There’s still a good chance that dancesport will become an Olympic sport, too,” said Marquez.
Added Sabalo: ” I remember when we were doing our workshops and preparing for the SEA Games, one of the officials of the World Dancesport Federation (WDSF), the mother federation of our sport, said they are now trying to modify the structure to gain approval like what they did in breakdancing. We are hoping.
The two said the return of dancesport competitions in most countries in Europe is also a good sign.
“Sa ibang bansa like Russia, Italy and most countries from Europe and even China, they are already holding face-to-face competitions. Yun iba nakikita namin sa mga Facebook pages, naka face mask pa din kapag workshops, yun iba, wala na,” claimed Sabalo.
“Pero dito sa atin, hanggang ngayon ang competition is all online. We’re hopeful magkaroon na din dito,” added Sabali, who also tried online selling to keep herself busy.
“Even face-to-face training, medyo mahigpit pa. Even sa studio, tatlong couples lang kaming allowed. Yun kasabayan namin parehong nasa national team. But we understand yun gusto ng studio owner. Kailangan vaccinated na lahat kami. Health and safety protocols,” explained Marquez.
“Mas mahirap kasi yung training sa bahay kasi maliit ang space. Kaya kapag bukas ang studio, we take advantage and maximize our training. I know may mga dance studio na bukas na three times a week but limited. Minsan naman sarado uli kapag may bagong restrictions.”
Wearing a face mask during practice could be difficult, however.
“It’s another challenge. Pag mabilis na yun sayaw, hihingalin ka talaga dahil may face maSK.”
Asked about the possibility of having their own bubble training before the SEA Games, Sabalo welcomed it.
“We wanted that bubble. We already suggested that to our federation and our national coach is workjng on having one,”
“We told our Latin national coach that we are very much willing and we just need to choose a good location. Iba kasi yun mind-setting by training together, not just individually.”
“Mindsetting plays an importanr role in our performance. If you could isolate us and give us a mindset again na we have an upcoming major event na kailangan we need to have a gold, iba yung feeling.
Both Sabalo and Marquez agreed the challenges facing them can be daunting at times.
“Dancesport is a very difficult sport especially during the pandemic, which limits close contact but it should not stop us from discovering more of our self and doing our best We always have to keep moving forward,” chorused Sabalo and Marquez.. with reports from Gab Ferreras