Bernardo M. Villegas
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Ironman 70.3 A Family Affair

           I wouldn't exactly include it in my "bucket" list.  I was, however, extremely glad that I was part of the fourth Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines held in Mactan last August 5.  Don't get me wrong.  I am no triathlete (the only bicycle I ride is the stationary one for aerobics!).  I had the chance to hobnob with world triathlete champions like Pete Jacobs of Australia and Arland Macasieb of the Philippines, Formula One star Jenson Button and actor Piolo Pascual because my nephew Mike Arcenas of Nike Palace asked me to manage an amateur team of professionals in their fifties and sixties who participated in the relay portion of the triathlon event.  Predictably, Pete Jacobs won the solo event of the triathlon handily.  Nike Park Team A won the relay with a total time of 4 hours, 1 minute and 16 seconds doing the 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike and 21 km run.  Astonishing as usual was the feat of Wetshop Para-Tri Team of physically challenged triathletes who finished sixth in the relay race among 53 participating teams with a total time of 4 hours, 47 minutes and 35 seconds.  I was even able to take a photo of one-legged swimmer Arnel Aba, who formed a relay team with club-footed cyclist Godrey Taberna and one-armed runner Isidro Vildosola.    The team I managed, called Crossroads, ranked 44 among 53 with total time of 6 hours, 10 minutes and 3 seconds.  Not bad for a first attempt.

          The event has added another feather to the tourism industry of the Mactan-Cebu area that could make it Number One again in tourism visitors after a short reign of Camarines Sur during the last two to three years.  The organization of this world class event, which took several months of planning, was a perfect example of a public-private partnership among the provincial government of Cebu led by Governor Gwen Garcia, City Mayor Paz Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City and Alaska Milk Corporation President and CEO Wilfred Uytengsu.  It was impressive to witness how the entire community of Lapu-Lapu City was mobilized to make the event a smashing success.  Residents of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu sacrificed convenience when several main thoroughfares were closed for the bike and run portions.  Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Radaza, some 65 pump boats lined the swim route, with a team of drummers to provide the cheering.  The boats were adorned with multi-colored sails, adding a very festive air to the event.  Lining both the biking and running routes were some 25,000 well wishers complete with flag-lets to give the triathletes the encouragement to finish the race.  I heard the foreign participants (there were more 31 countries represented) remarking that even triathlon is more fun in the Philippines.

          What I enjoyed most in this first ever triathlon I have attended was the family-oriented atmosphere of the event.  Even a good number of the foreign participants brought their entire family, including little children.  More than a hundred couples accompanied their children who participated in the Alaska Ironkids Event the day before the Ironman 70.3.  These parents should be emulated by Filipino parents who should take a special interest in getting their children initiated very early in such active sports as swimming, cycling and running to counteract the dangerous lifestyle of a sedentary existence in front of computers or tinkering with their smart phones and other electronic gadgets.  Open to girls and boys, the Alaska Ironkids race has four age categories 6-8 years old, 9-10 years old, 11-12 years old and 13-14 years old.  As the Camp Director of Alaska Ironkids remarked:  "We can feel the support of the parents who cheer for their kids during the races.  They stand by the children during training sessions and even wake up early to bring them to the race venues."  This parent participation in the athletic lives of their children is a most effective channel for the completely indispensable bonding that parents should have with their children in early childhood in order to be truly the first educators of their children, especially in the realm of character training.  Triathlon can be one of the channels for this parents-children bonding.  Other sports could be football and martial arts.  I know of fathers with small children organizing youth clubs centered on these sports in the major subdivisions of urban conglomerations in the Philippines.     On August 5, the day of Ironman 70.3 itself, I was also impressed to see entire families (spouses, children and grandparents) accompanying  and cheering the triathletes.  Everyone was up as early as 4:00 a.m. in order to be on time to actually witness the start of the swim event at 6:15 a.m.  There they were at the beach, then along the bike trails and finally along the running routes joining the crowds in cheering the participants and meeting them at the finish lines.  Some of the relay teams were made up of immediate members of a family.  An outstanding example was the family of media celebrity Tessa Prieto-Valdes who biked, while her husband Dennis Valdes swam and their son Bryan ran.  There were husband-and-wife teams as well as father-and-son teams.  This practice augurs well for the physical, psychological and emotional health of future generations of Filipinos whose values formation will be strongly bolstered by the family-centered participation in sports events.  A much appreciated remark made by the Catholic priest who gave the homily in the anticipated Mass on Saturday evening was the one addressed to wives who consider themselves as "triathlon widows" competing for the time of their respective husbands with the physical training needed to be a triathlete. He told them that they should be very happy that they know where their husbands are and not involved in some mischief or another.

      We should thank Alaska and such other companies as Unilab, Century Pacific, Nestle, Carrier, Nike, Gatorade, Cobra Energy Drink and an increasing number of business corporations that are sponsoring all types of sports events in which entire families can participate.  They will help to ensure that future generations of Filipinos will not fall into the trap of a laid back, obese and lethargic lifestyle that has ensnared some economically advanced countries of today.  For comments, my email address is