Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

(Dis)Ability in Sports - Life, death & honor

This appears in the Monday, October 10, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Life, death & honor
by rick olivares

Last Thursday, October 6, in celebration of the UK-Philippines Friendship Day next month, the British Embassy Manila and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are hosting DisAbility in Sports, an adaptive multi-sport event at the Cuneta Astrodome for injured members of the AFP.

This event, according to British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, was inspired by the success of the Paralympics and the Invictus Games as conceived by Great Britain’s Prince Harry. “We took the word ‘disability’ and removed the prefix ‘dis’ in communicating that every human being, no matter what his condition is, has an ability,” said the hardworking diplomat. “The success of the Paralympics and the Invictus Games takes disabled men and women to compete in a serious manner. Of course, that is a branded activity and has its own modality. In a friendly way in the UK-Philippines Friendship Week, we are doing something with the (Philippine) Armed Forces. To show that real heroes are those who overcome misfortune.”

Close to 30 disabled Philippine servicemen took part in the event that was highlighted by the guest appearance of Philippine Basketball Association star RR Garcia of the Star Hotshots who mingled with the soldiers after their game of full court basketball in wheelchairs.

“This is good for us,” said in the vernacular by Philippine Army Sergeant Geruel Hipe who lost his right leg to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) last March during an operation in Maguindanao. “That we aren’t forgotten and that people care to help us move forward in life. An event like this helps us with our morale.”

I have been particularly impressed with Ambassador Ahmad for his work. The man is one of the busiest people with a variety of programs designed to foster better relations between the two countries. That his staff has grown from less than a hundred people to 200 in the past few years is a testament to the activity.

“This goes back to a decision we made five years ago to step up our political, business, and cultural engagement by being visible,” added Ahmad. The relationship with the defense forces between the two countries goes back many years with Philippine soldiers going to the UK for various types of training.

This was a very good activity that I didn’t want to miss despite a busy and crazy schedule.

Years ago, I followed with keen interest my father’s, Danny’s participation in the Alay Sa Kawal Foundation that was organized by my aunt, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, after my uncle, the late General Thelmo Y. Cunanan, was severely injured during an ambush by communist insurgents in Cagayan De Oro. This was that same ambush that claimed the lives of noted photographer Willie Vicoy and reporter Pete Mabasa.

ASK went around the country providing a USO (United Service Organizations) Show type activity for troops in the field. War is a grim and serious business and to see smiles on the faces of soldiers and even hear laughter was something welcome.

Since then, I have tried to write as much as I could about men and women in uniform.

When the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals tipped off last Friday, October 7, the color guard from one of the branches of the military was once more there. It was a proud moment for me to see the league continue this. Bringing in the AFP for the Finals was something I worked out with former PBA Commissioner Chito Salud beginning with last season’s Commissioner’s Cup. Since then it has been a staple of the finals.

I think that the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform are largely taken for granted. But you can’t blame people. I on the other hand, am glad that people like Ambassador Ahmad, my aunt, and others who toil in anonymity, haven’t.

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