Barefoot runner gets stellar support

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Southeast Asian Games silver medalist Mariano Reduban Masano if Leyte instantly messaged this reporter when a post of Daily Guardian about 11-year-old runner, Rhea Bullos of Balasan, Iloilo winning three golds in a local sports meet went viral on Tuesday.

Bullos who preferred running almost barefoot raked three golds in one day for three running events during the Iloilo Schools Sports Council (ISSC) Meet 2019.

Masano who recently bagged silver medal for 1,500-meter run during the 30th Sea Games said he was deeply inspired with the photo of Bullos since he also started his sports career in the local sports meet.

“Track and Field din ako kagaya ni Rhea. And kagaya ni Rhea nanggaling lang din ako sa kahirapan na nag simula sa wala. Pasalamat ako na may mga coaches na nagsumikap sa training and tumulong sa akin sa financial problems ko,” he told Daily Guardian.

Days after the photos went viral via Daily Guardian, star athletes, private individuals, groups, and netizens reached out to the coaches of Bullos to sponsor shoes and extend their help.

Apart from Masano, basketball stars Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Alex Cabagnot, and Titan co-founder and Alaska Aces head coach Jeffrey Cariaso were also moved by the viral photo of Bullos.

“I’ve spoken to Coach Leone and Rhea. Such an inspiring story. Thank you to everyone that helped me in the process,” Cabagnot commented in the viral post of Daily Guardian.

The show of support from netizens and star athletes came in as a surprise even for one of the athletics coaches of Bullos, Benedicto Prasas, Master Teacher I of Carles Elementary School.

Since 2006, Prasas said their athletes from the fifth district of Iloilo preferred running almost barefoot with only bandage wrapped around their feet.

Indi gid siya totally barefoot kay may gingamit da sila nga bandage aside from that may spike shoes sila pero wala sila gagamit kay tungod gahinay sila dalagan,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Prasas said their makeshift bandage got an upgrade when one of his co-coaches decided to put a Nike logo on the foot bandages just for fun.

“One of the coaches, Joemarie Sandoy of the athletics boys was holding a market and namangkot if gusto nila tatakan sang brand ila tiil and the athletes agreed,” he said.

The makeshift bandage etched with the Nike logo then went viral Tuesday after photos of Bullos were posted online.

Prasas said they handle 24 athletes competing in athletics and the makeshift bandage could be a lucky charm because the team has been the champion in elementary athletics of ISSC meet since 2006.

“For this year we bagged eight golds for athletics girls and six golds for athletics boys. Ever since we have produced athletes that are now playing for national universities,” Prasas said.

Even before the support poured in for the athletes, Prasas said they have been working hard to bring the athletes to the higher meets.

Waay man kami ga-expect matabo pero without that gatinguha man kami gihapon bisan wala ina siya, gatinguha kami sa mga kabataan para mapasaka sa higher meet like Palarong Pambansa,” he said.

With the show of support and donation from the netizens, Prasas said the athletes including the coaches are even more inspired to improve their performance.

Sa sina nga bulig ma-inspire pa gid ang mga bata namon. Isa na ka paagi para maayo pa gid ang performance sang bata for the next level,” he said.

Aside from the athletes, Prasas said SM City, manager of the brand Thirsty, and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go through his staff also approached them to extend help.

After being declared as the champions in the recent ISCC meet, the next target of the athletics team of Prasas is the Western Visayas Regional Athletic Association (WVRAA) Meet.

“To the athletes and coaches tinguha lang, focus especially to my fellow coaches dapat disiplina ang gina-inculcate nila sa mga athletes and dapat pisan gid sila,” he said.