Thank you, PSA!

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I had this silly wish that when people read a newspaper, they would immediately turn the pages to the Sports section.

With all the not-so-pleasant stories lately about higher inflation rates and increase in the prices of basic commodities hogging the front page, I still believe that sports pages could still give that first positive jolt of information everyone should start their day with.

But when I read the sports pages, it seems the majority of news is about international sporting events.

Is it because local sports events are no longer relevant or newsworthy?

I remember when I was 12 years old, I was part of the Southeast Asian Age Group swimming team that went to Indonesia.

Upon our return, we were invited to the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night, which was organized by the most prestigious award-giving body that recognizes athletes, sports teams and executives.

It was my first-ever attendance in an Awards Night.

We were seated at the back and one by one, the awardees were called up the stage by PSA members. It started with the minor awardees, including our team.

As the night went on, the major awardees were feted and I remember standing from where I was seated and trying to see who were being called to go up that stage.

The highlight of the night was the awarding of the Athlete of Year.

I couldn’t hold myself anymore, so I decided to walk up close the stage, intrigued as to whom that coveted award would be given.

In 1982, the Athlete of the Year was awarded to Lydia de Vega of athletics.

The feeling I got upon seeing how much honor it meant to win the PSA Athlete of the Year that night touched me to my core.

I told myself that night that one day I will also win that prestigious award.

I worked so hard to win gold medals every year just to be invited to the annual Awards Night.

I remember picking up newspapers the day after to find out if I made it to sports pages.
And if I did, I would save the clippings.

I know it sounds narcissistic, but to me making the news was quite a big deal then, especially for someone who had been sitting at the back of the ballroom, dreaming of someday sitting at the front row to receive a major PSA award.

At first, I remember reading articles that started with another swimmer’s name on the title and my name would be at the end of the article with a side note that goes like “and Buhain also won a gold in this or that event.”

I remember asking my parents why does my name often appear in the last part of the story.
They explained that the swimmer’s name in the title is usually reserved for the one who won the most number of gold medals or is a record-breaker.

In my young mind, I wondered what would it take to put my name in the title.

As years passed, I doubled my efforts to win and break more records so that my name would be on top.

Again, with me being a grinder day in and day out, the title of the articles finally reads: “Buhain wins!”

In the 1987 SEA Games in Indonesia, I won four gold medals, and upon receiving my sixth PSA Awards Night invitation, I was rewarded as my name appeared on top with the biggest, boldest letters next to that of my friend and idol Lydia de Vega.

We were co-Athletes of the Year!

I fulfilled my dream.

I was so excited that I even had a new barong tagalog made and meticulously prepared. I rehearsed my speech for the big night as only the Athlete of the Year was given the opportunity to speak at the podium.

That was truly one of the highlights of my athletic career.

And when I was acknowledged the second time around in 1991, I became more emotional because it meant so much to me.

I hope PSA members would give more space in their papers for stories on local athletic achievers just like they did during our time.

I believe there are many sports achievements out there that are newsworthy and would inspire the next generation of champions.

I assure you that many young athletes would be gushing with excitement to receive an invitation from the PSA and be honored for their sporting excellence.

For sure, one of them will be just as inspired to someday stand on that podium to receive the highest honor — the Athlete of the Year.

What are your thoughts?

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