Mendoza: A Palace moment to remember

Al Mendoza

IT IS not everyday that an athlete gets to meet President Duterte in the flesh.

That is why when that opportunity presented itself, our 600 or so medalists in the just-ended 30th SEA Games made a go of it.

This week, they were in Malacanang not just to shake hands with the President but to win some cash—and more.

The gold medalists each pocketed P300,000, silver medalists P150,000 and bronze medalists P60,000.

The cash incentives, personally handed to the athletes by Mr. Duterte himself, was in accordance with Republic Act 10699 of the Athletics and Coaches Incentives Act.

The total outlay was P79 million coming from Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.).

But on top of that was the prestigious Lapu-Lapu Award conferred our winners on Wednesday at the Rizal Hall of the Palace.

I know the thrill of just being at the Rizal Hall as I was there for the first time in 2016 to shake hands with the President in a historic occasion that is best kept in my treasure trove under the care of Valentin Dakuykoy.

The winning athletes definitely deserve the Lapu-Lapu honor, which is bestowed to individuals “deserving of merit and recognition, and to fully express the President’s appreciation of the Filipino people’s contributions to the success of the campaigns and programs of the government.”

Also present, aside from PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez, during the occasion were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Olympic president Bambol Tolentino, Phisgoc chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Philippine Sports Commission Commissioners Celia Kiram, Arnold Agustin and Charles Maxey.

Ramirez, our chef de mission who led our victorious country to a record 149-gold medal haul in the SEA Games, said during the affair: “We are lucky to have a President who supports us fully and has a big heart for our athletes.”

Indeed, we can only gain sporting success when we have a government that lends more than a helping hand. Consistently.