As the ‘Ironman’ fever spreads across the nation, more and more Filipino athletes and sports enthusiasts are seriously getting into the multi-sport discipline of triathlon, which consists of swimming, cycling and running, all combined into one grueling event.
A testament to the growing popularity of the sport was the recent successful staging of the 3rd Cobra Ironman 70.3 in the province of Camarines Sur. The premier triathlon event – which offered to its top finishers qualifying slots to the World Ironman 70.3 Championships in Las Vegas this September, and the prestigious World (Full) Ironman Championships n Kona, Hawaii in October – lured more than 1,100 participants from the Philippines and 27 other countries.
This Saturday, September 3, triathletes of all ages and from diverse backgrounds will again converge at the Alabang Country Club in Muntinlupa City. This time, they will compete not against each other, but will raise funds and donations together to help differently-abled children – proving once more that these ‘super’ athletes do not only possess iron wills, but compassionate hearts as well.
Now on its ninth year, the Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation’s (GSF) ‘12-Hour Multi-Sport Celebration in Memory of Gabriel’ is probably the only sports event of its kind, held in September every year to mark the birthday of Senator Pia Cayetano’s son, Gabriel, who died from complications of a rare congenital condition at the age of nine months in 2001.
In the words of Sen. Cayetano, herself an avid triathlete who recently won third place honors in her age group at the 3rd Ironman 70.3 in CamSur: “This is the annual celebration that I and my friends in the triathlon community hold to mark the first birthday which my son never had. What started as a gathering of friends and family has become a full-blown multi-sport celebration that benefits differently-abled children from all over the country. Gabriel continues to live on in our memories by touching the lives of other children.”
This unique multi-sport event-for-a-cause has been raising funds for almost a decade now to finance free surgical operations for young children born with cleft lip and palate (known locally as ‘bingot’), provide free hearing aids to children with hearing disabilities, and give out free artificial eyes to visually-impaired kids.
The GSF also helps the Philippine General Hospital’s (PGH) Pediatric Nuerosurgical and Craniofacial Operating Unit, a specialized unit which performs delicate surgical operations on children born with various types of cranial and spinal malformations.
Other beneficiaries include the ‘Barefoot Running Kids’ of Daang-Hari, a group of promising young athletes from poor communities along Daang Hari Road (a popular training area for bikers which traverses Southern Metro Manila), as well as the Marillac Home for Girls in Muntinlupa City.
Among the activities lined up in this year’s edition are individual and group events, including a swim-a-thon, bike-a-thon, run-a-thon, and triathlon, as well as the Super Tri Kids triathlon. It will also feature mile run ‘fun’ races, including the ‘Buddy Run’ and ‘Walk Your Dog’ contest.
Triathlete Maiqui Dayrit, who has already raised more than P1 million in donations in the last five years by doing a full Ironman distance (3.86-km. swim, 180.25-km. bike and 42.195-km. run) at the annual event, will skip this year’s edition to focus on an equally lofty objective. Having qualified for the 2011 World Ironman Championships when he placed third in his age group in CamSur, Dayrit has decided to bring over his act to Kona, Hawaii this October, where he will continue to raise donations through his ‘Maiqui’s Ironman,’ even as he competes with the world’s best triathletes. Already, donations have started pouring in for GSF’s resident Ironman.
Meanwhile, the web portal swimbikerun.ph – considered as one the top online resource sites of Filipino triathletes and multi-sport enthusiasts – decided to organize a shoe donation drive for the children being assisted by the GSF. Asked how he got the idea for the shoe drive, swimbikerun.ph’s Carlo De Guzman, also a triathlete and tthree-time Ironman finisher, explained: “If there’s one thing that we multisport junkies have lots of, it’s old shoes and race singlets right? Why let it rot in your closet when someone can still use it?”
Other prominent personalities who have joined events or supported past editions of the event include, among others, businessman-triathlete Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Fred Uytengsu of Alaska Milk, Ernie Lopez of ABS-CBN, David Charlton of David’s Salon and Mark Ellis of Fitness First, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Tessa Prieto Valdes, Sports Unlimited hosts Dyan Castillejo and Marc Nelson, TV host Drew Arellano, The Bull Runner’s Jaymie Pizzaro, lawyer and host Anthony Pangilinan, actress Bianca Gonzales, and World Bantamweight Champion Nonito Donaire Jr.
This Saturday’s fundraiser will likewise feature the ‘Recycling Depot Project.’ Friends and supporters are encouraged to bring their old denims, magazines and children’s books on event day. Old denims will be transformed into denim shoes and sandals, old magazines will be recycled into paper bags and old books will be donated to the ‘Let’s Read’ program of GSF for the use of children in poor communities.
Online registration for the 9th Gabriel’s Symphony is ongoing. Those interested may register online and view event details and mechanics at www.gabrielsymphony.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.