I seem to have heard that Senator Manny Pacquiao, at one point of his political career, authored a bill converting the Philippine Sports Commission into the Department of Sports. He was reported to have said that if the Department of Education (it used to be of Culture and Sports as well) is mandated to nurture the mental and intellectual life of Filipinos, then there should be a Department of Sports that will develop and promote physical fitness and well being.
What a splendid idea, Senator Pacquiao! Carry on with that ultimate objective and push it further – occupy the Rizal Memorial Stadium Complex! Just imagine, thousands of students streaming into the RMSC to enjoy the Olympic swimming pool (see Loi’s letter below), to play basketball, football, and volleyball, learn boxing or race around the running track, to learn archery (I did that once), and to practice martial arts. Hundreds of barangay sports teams from the National Capital Region and surrounding provinces can hold their tournaments and sports fests in the RMSC, under the auspices of the Department of Sports. And when you are bored with all that legislative jousting, you can be appointed secretary of the Department of Sports, a role tailor-made for you.
With absolute certainty, President R. Duterte will sign Sen. Pacquiao’s bill into law because sports development is the keystone of the war against drugs and the dreadful consequences of addiction. In one of his countless interviews, Sen. Pacquiao humbly admitted that as a restless youth he tried all kinds of drugs, but when he became engaged in sports, specially boxing, his life was radically transformed. Today, he is the undisputed icon of discipline and success, an internationally acclaimed champion. Go for it Senator Pacquiao, create the Department of Sports, stake your claim on the Rizal Memorial Stadium Complex and save it from that marauding wrecker’s ball.
How encouraging to receive a letter from someone sympathetic to the cause of heritage conservation. Allow me to share Ms. Loi Castillo’s e-mail: “I was saddened by your column today (17 January.)
“Dear Mayor Erap”
Regarding the plan of the present City Mayor of Manila to tear down the Rizal Memorial Complex. I believe the RMC is one of the few remaining edifices with historical significance in the City of Manila.
“When I was still studying in Mapua, we used to swim in the pool of the RMC. I used to watch the NCCA games in the stadium. Later, when I became older, I learned the importance of having a sense of history. I believe Manila is fast losing its identity because of greed and money.
“The RMC was also the scene of the fiercest battle during the liberation of the city. It is a landmark of those sports icons that brought fame to the country. It seems that Manila never learns from its mistakes, like that building behind the Rizal monument in Luneta.
“I always tell my kids and students that when they go out on a trip to a certain place, they have to visit the areas of cultural importance. After all, why should they visit a mall when we have all the malls here in Davao? When we went to Laguna, I brought my kids to the Rizal Shrine instead of the hot springs. I was surprised when my kids told me that Rizal was an Atenista like them that was taught in the Ateneo de Davao.
“I am afraid that sooner or later, the City of Manila will lose its glitter, if they continue to convert the old edifices for commercial purposes. I would not be surprised if one day, Intramuros will also be converted into a mall, in the future. By the way, I learned about cultural things when you were the Department of Tourism secretary; I was with government then, with the DENR of the Davao Region. I joined the private sector in 2006. At that time, I read that your policy direction was for provinces and the cities to promote as potential tourist spots their rich heritage and cultural values. Since then, in every town I visit, I make it a point to know the history of the place and how each settlement was formed. This is also what I do when I have visitors here in Davao. I take them to the Davao Museum to show the rich culture of the Dabawenyos. It’s been a long while since I last visited Manila. Hopefully, I will see the RMC intact the next time I visit.