My column last Oct 10 had a titillating title: “Unitown could pioneer in mixed-gender sports.” I wrote about FU President Mira Sinco writing City Schools Supt. Dr. Profetiza Lim requesting her to allow our elementary pupil, Michaela G. Jumawan, to play in the boys football competition of the City Division Meet.
Mixed-gender sports among children is a desirable practice because there are no significant physical, mental, social or emotional differences among children that prevent them from playing together.
There are studies supporting mixed-gender sports and in the recently-concluded Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore, mixed-gender swimming was part of the calendar of events. In the Visayas, it is a common sight to see children of mixed-gender playing football together.
Another reason for our advocacy of mixed-gender sports is to correct the imbalance in the provision of opportunity for sports participation among girls in the Palarong Pambansa and in other sporting leagues. This advocacy is in consonance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child which guarantees the “right of the child to play and recreation.”
In my column, I wrote: “We hope that Dr. Lim will approve the request, and in doing so, she will go down in the history of the Palarong Pambansa as the first enlightened school official of the DepEd who supports mixed- gender sports in the annual school games.”
The City Division Meet is over and Dr. Lim has not answered President Sinco’s letter.
I continued to pursue the campaign by getting in touch with Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richie Garcia and suggested to him that since the PSC is mandated by law to “provide the leadership, direction and guidelines” for sports to issue an Order urging all agencies involved in sports development to integrate mixed-gender sports in their programs. I volunteered to craft the draft Order.
Chairman Garcia on Oct. 13 texted back saying: “We are trying to talk to DepEd about what you said. I am with you that we should have mix gender in some sports. Please send me a copy (of the draft Order). We will see what we can do about this.”
I worked furiously on the draft Order, writing up to 3 in the morning, hoping against hope that Chairman Garcia and the PSC Board, although in the midst of a budget hearing, could issue it prior to the start of the City division meet on Oct 14. However, Chairman Garcia texted me on Oct 15 saying: “Sorry that I have not really gone through the papers yet. Congress is giving us a hard time. Today is my 5th time to go there (Congress) in a week. I will go through it later and talk to the commissioners. I talked to Chito [Loyzaga, one of the Commissioners] and he is all for it. Thank you for the support.”
Akiko Thomson-Guevarra is the lone lady Commissioner in the PSC Board. She is also secretary-general of the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association. As a school girl, she competed in swimming in the Palarong Pambansa. She became an outstanding swimmer and she represented the Philippines in the Olympic Games. She is in-charge of women’s sports programs of the PSC.
I provided Commissioner Akiko a copy of the draft Order and asked her to support its issuance. The proposed Order is titled: “Inclusion of Mixed-Gender Sports in Government- Supported Sports Program.” It mandates that “All government funded and supported sports programs, projects and activities such as, but not limited to the conduct of the Palarong Pambansa, the games of a) the State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association, b) Commission on Higher Education, c) Government Corporations Athletic Association, as well as, those organized by the private sector but receiving funds and material support of any form from the government, shall include and integrate mixed-gender sports in their programs of training and competition in order to provide greater opportunity for sports participation among Filipino girls and women.”
I found out that Chairman Garcia was leaving for abroad on Oct 18, without any positive move towards the issuance of the Order. I was resigned and ready to give up the campaign for the rest of year when I realized that there’s one last opportunity for mixed-gender sports to be included in this year’s sports calendar: the University Games to be held in Dumaguete City starting Sunday, Oct 24.
I sent Akiko the following text message: “May you and the PASA be the first to stage mixed-gender swimming in the PSC-backed Unigames next week. Create media millage of the event. Ask the swimming tournament committee to stage a couple or more of mixed-gender swimming relays as demonstration sports. Chairman Garcia and you will donate the medals in this mixed-gender historic event in Phil swimming at the Unigames, ala Singapore Youth Olympic Games. Give statements to media favoring mixed-gender sports. ”
Being told that Unigames President Roger Banzuela was already in town, I texted him late at night of Oct 19: “Consider the Unigames as the first in RP to hold a mixed-gender sports event by having some mixed-gender relay in swimming as was done by FINA in the recent Singapore Olympic Games. It will be good publicity for the Unigames, a historic event. Kahit demo sport lang. Unahan mo na ibang sports leagues bago maging uso ang mixed-gender sports.”
And, early next morning, once again, I sent the following text message to Akiko: “Here’s Roger Banzuela’s cp number in case you want him to include a few mixed-gender swimming relay in the Unigames as demo event and an experiment. Roger is president of Unigames. He’s in Dumaguete now for opening on Sunday. A call from you as PASA Sec-Gen and as PSC commissioner could start the ball rolling in the mixed-gender sports campaign.”
I thought that was my last desperate effort to make our University Town the “pioneer” in mixed-gender sports. But look at this. “Good proposal, I’ll inform the Tournament Managers and the Coaches in our Tech Meeting.” This was Unigames President Roger text message to me on Oct 19 at 09:02.32.
Will Dumaguete City, our University Town, be the setting of the first event in mixed-gender sports?