Advocacy in sporting events

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When Foundation University started organizing sporting events in 2006 with the first staging of the “Rice is Life” Leandro Sinco Challenge Races, it adopted as its institutional advocacy the conservation of rice– “the grain that has shaped the culture, diets, and economies of billions of people in Asia…for them, life without rice is simply unthinkable.” (Asia Rice Foundation website).

The following year, FU organized the Dumaguete Fiesta Adventure Marathon, the only “rice marathon” in the whole world wherein, instead of the usual cash prizes and trophies awarded to winners, cavans of rice were given. This sports tourism event is now supported by the Department of Agriculture and PhilRice, both leading government institutions concerned with rice production and sustainability.

FU’s sports programs with rice conservation as institutional advocacy has three sub-projects: a) “Porridge for Children” where hot lugaw and champorado are served, b) “Shoes for Children” where used-shoes are solicited and given to the needy, and c) “Children at Play” where kids regardless of gender, talent, ability, and social status are provided the opportunity to play in consonance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most-signed treaty among member-nations, “guaranteeing the right of the child to play and recreation”.

This past summer months, in partnership with Robinsons Place Dumaguete, FU staged competitions in basketball, volleyball, futsal, and sepak takraw, right inside the atrium of the shopping mall, participated in by over 500 children from as far as the municipalities of Mabinay in the north and Zamboanguita in the south.

In all these events, bags of rice, the Golden Grain of Life, were awarded to the participants, to reinforce FU’s institutional advocacy of rice conservation. And it is a source of pride and excitement that what we do, or started to do five years ago, attaching an advocacy to sports undertakings, is in consonance with current developments in sports events staging. Take the following examples: When Former Sen. Robert Jaworski was asked (PhilStar, June 23) about what Meralco should do regarding its entry into the PBA next season, he said, “The team must focus on advocacy (bold print mine) …employ a unique style of sports marketing where an NGO will be the beneficiary…The approach will not be to find a sponsor but to support a beneficiary…for example football’s F.C. Barcelona which supports UNICEF as its beneficiary and carries the UNICEF logo in uniforms, not a brand of a commercial sponsor paying for jersey space. Under this approach, Meralco will donate its share of PBA ticket proceeds to the designated beneficiary.”

For several years, I have been criticizing the 34-year old Milo marathon for its lack of a concrete advocacy. I used to say, “Look at Rudy Biscocho (race director and a friend of mine), he makes runners pay an entry fee plus some used sachet of a Milo drink, comes to town to set up his paraphernalia, asks some LGU executives to fire the starting gun, awards the prizes, gathers up his paraphernalia–and leaves town with what? Nothing! No advocacy.” The Milo marathon comes to Dumaguete on Sept 19.

But hear this welcome news. “Milo marathon launches advocacy program” (sports page banner, PhilStar, June 29).

“At last,” I exclaimed to people in my office. And look, (was it said that the best form of flattery is imitation?), the news report said: “The National Milo Marathon kicks off its 34the staging next month with new innovations, including an advocacy to inspire kids to excel in sports by providing rubber shoes (bold prints mine), to deserving public school students across the country…emphasis will be on raising 4,000 pairs of rubber shoes, which will be donated to student beneficiaries, who excel in sports with good academic standing…a portion of the registration fee will be allocated to the advocacy program…”

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I understand the City government of Mayor Chiquiting Sagarbarria is keen on putting in place a sports program that compliments what fellow columnist Dominique Gerald Cimafranca once wrote that a “passion for sports” is one of the notable characteristics of a University Town. It is suggested that a City Sports Council be created similar to the existing Tourism Council.

If such a plan materializes,it is imperative that a relevant advocacy be adopted to guide the vision, mission, and objectives that the sports council will adopt as bases for programs, projects, and activities that it shall pursue. A sports program without an advocacy will be meaningless and will not be supported.

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