An act of faith (an fate)

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An act of faith (an fate)
Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
Philippine Graphic
March 7, 2005

If Commissioner William ‘Butch’ Ramirez would be made to describe his first month as the officer in charge of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), he could have had answered in a form of a numerical sequence such as this:

1-2-5-7-14-50-80-200-300-400.

That would mean one straight and clear direction where he wants to lead his office: one gold medal target for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, two million bedding expected to be delivered to players’ quarters, two relieved officers in the ULTRA management, the five-point directive ordered by the president herself, seven years in government service, seven million uniforms to suit up athletes, 14 different sports that will benefit greatly from foreign aide, 50 different sports associations to deal with every day, 50 press entities on the lookout for his every action, 80 million Filipinos to serve, 200 medal athletes to train, 300 souls in the training pool that needs to be sharpened and 400 athletes in the national team that is in need of a stronger push to perform better for the country.

Binding it all securely in firm hold is the credence of one man – in his office, in his men and in his mission.

“I have a clarity in purpose, consistency in work, a mission and a sense of commitment to the country as the guiding principles of my leadership. Yes, I think I am on the right track,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez’s first taste of government service came when he was tapped as sports consultant in his hometown.

“Back then it was pure servitude. We are all sports educators there, walang halong business interest. When I become a commissioner here, I realized that it was a very treacherous place. Now, it gets worse as I started receiving threats through text messages,” confessed Ramirez.

But all of these expected birth pains didn’t hinder Ramirez from pushing his visions forward and making it all happen.

“Yes, the local sports are heading in the right direction and yes, we are a bit out of schedule with the South East Asian Games preparations but were working on it and I haven’t lost faith in the ability of the Filipino to deliver, especially when the name and the pride of the country are on the line,” said the former Ateneo de Davao athletic director.

Indeed, the soft-spoken seminarian-turned-public servant isn’t anywhere near computing the huge amount of work demanded of him. In contrary, he feels humbled to be given the task of standing at the helm of the organization in time when local sports is at the crossroads.

“I work seven days a week. I believe servants like me should have enough time to attend to the demands of the work,” said the 54-year old father of three. He added that he ‘does not care’ if he stays in the office for just a month or two. “The fact that I was given the chance to have this position is honor enough for a man with humble beginnings.”

A dyed-in-wool Davaoeño who isn’t ashamed of his poor beginnings, Ramirez finished his tertiary course and earned his post graduate degree Major in Management in Ateneo de Davao. Ramirez’ owes his present status as a self-made man by struggling early in his life, in the process keeping in the pocket of his heart faith in God, the hope of better things to come and Fate’s rewards to the good deeds he managed to do to others along the way.

Today, with barely eight weeks in the office vacated by now Games and Amusement Board top brass Eric Buhain, the blessings brought about by his prayers, hard work and karma are pouring not in trickles but in rain showers, like heaven’s confetti for Ramirez’s milestone first month anniversary.

On February 15, Philippines and China signed the 2005 RP-China Sports Cooperation pact that will enable athletes and coaches alike to be trained in the country touted as ‘Asia’s sports powerhouse’ and the next sports superpower after the United States, a project Ramirez is happy to have happened under his term.

“After my seven years in the seminary in St. Francis Xavier in Davao, I have never prayed as hard as I did when the project is still in the works. Now that it is a signed deal, I am looking forward to enhancing our linkages with Cuba and Australia, both are also willing to undertake a similar project with us,” said Ramirez, who took his sports education in Australia.

In the said agreement, which served as a kick-start as well in reviving the Philippine National Institute for Sports which was created during former president Fidel V. Ramos’ term – local athletes and coaches chosen from 14 different sports – which include archery, athletics, basketball, badminton, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, wushu, football, fencing, shooting and wrestling – will be trained in China. The training will focus on events that offer more medals and where the country can produce more medal potentials.

“I’m happy because China isn’t asking anything in return, just an act of camaraderie and brotherhood in their part and coinciding with the celebration of the 30th year of RP-China friendship. Through this training we improve the skills of both our athlete and coaches and at the same time increase our chances of finishing first in the upcoming SEAG.”

Despite the intrigues surrounding the preparation of the Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PhilSOC) for the biennial meet which Philippines last hosted in 1991, Ramirez still exudes a very positive outlook on the chances of the country to reassert its dominance in the sporting arena in the region.

“When we were discussing the plans regarding our hosting, were not considering ending up third. We want to be champions.”

Part of Ramirez’s gameplan to achieve that goal and to resurrect local sports is to take into the fold those who have already stamped their class in sports, that includes former athletes and tournament organizers as well.

“One cannot argue with success. Diay (Lydia De Vega) and Mike (Michael Keon) are successful in their fields and maybe their expertise can be of great help in improving and implementing our sports program,” said Ramirez.

Keon, a certified Project Gintong Alay man, is currently the National Training Director while De Vega’s role according to Ramirez is to serve as a liaison officer between the athletes and his office.

Ramirez also has immediate directives from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself which he is proud to report accomplished in just a month’s time. That includes taking measures to curb corruption, attending to the needs of the athletes, fostering unity among the national sports associations (NSAs), the relegation of grassroots programs to the Department of Education and the reengineering of the PSC.

“But we must remember that what is important here is the actions we will be taking next.”

But Ramirez’s doesn’t stop once the flame of the Manila SEAG dies down. Now, given the chance to realize what his predecessors failed to accomplish, Ramirez sees himself entrusted with a more difficult task, that is, leading the ‘new heroes’ in the quest to bring home the elusive Olympic gold.

“Sports can unify the country. It connotes excellence, discipline and character. As I see it, when a boxer makes his punch, the fists of the 80 million Filipinos are merged into his, when an athlete runs, the legs of 80 million Filipinos gallop with him or her. It is the one moment wherein in victory we cheer in unison as well as we all grieve as one in defeat. We are now at the crossroads and if we make the right move today we are a step nearer in achieving that goal and perhaps be a more united country.”

Who knows, it might really be the poor man from Davao who will shepherd the local sports back into greener pasture.