BANTAY, Ilocus Sur—Princess Sheryl Valdez had fighting sticks as magic wands to go five-of-five in the arnis program and emerge with the most gold medals won so far after two days of hostilities in the 61st Palarong Pambansa.
Only 11 years old, Valdez was obviously taught well by her master in the indigenous martial art that could turn from artistic on the competition mat and lethal when it comes to defending one’s self.
The incoming Grade 6 student at the New Isabela Central Elementary School in Tacurong won three individual programs—single weapon, double weapon and single espada y daga—and two team events—single weapon and mixed event.
Valdez accomplished the feat in San Vicente town, a 30-mute ride from where the cameras and crowd were at the President Elpidio Quirono Stadium where the centerpiece athletics and swimming were being contested.
Now the pride of Soccsksargen, Valdez was already more than satisfied with four gold medals around her neck. But when the fifth mint came, the ecstasy of winning sank into her system and she had no one to profusely thank but her parents.
“I’m happy because my parents supported me even with their little resources,” said Valdez, who, along with older sister Shena May, already made their mark in last year’s Palaro in Antique where they clinched a combined seven gold medals.
The sisters earned a total of P100,000 in incentives from the Department of Education and their local government unit and instantly, they bought for the family a tricycle with the major purpose of making their father, who is stuck with Parkinson’s Disease, happy.
Valdez pulled off the multiple gold medal performance without her trusted teammate and training partner, her sister Shena May, who surprisingly failed to qualify for this year’s Palaro.
Soccsksargen benefited much from Valdez’s haul and found itself nestling atop the medal tally board with six gold medals, three silvers and five bronzes.
Western Visayas was in a familiar spot at second place with five gold and as many silver and bronze medals, while reigning overall champion lurked in striking distance at No. 3 with a 4-4-2 gold-silver-bronze tally.
Keane Cedric Ting and Gwyneth Amber Cawaling kicked off NCR’s quite surge with two gold medals in boys’ secondary division of swimming also on Tuesday. Ting clocked four minutes and 17.95 seconds to win gold in the 400 meters freestyle, beating Regan Joseph Garbanzos of Western Visayas (4:19.24) and Russel Lattorre of Soccsksargen (4:21.09).
Cawaling, on the other hand, won gold in 4:43.00, followed by Davao Region’s Juliana Marien Villanueva (4:45.01) and Soccsksargen’s Krisha Apin (4:45.56).