Ernie Gawilan, who is expected to get a total of P4 million for his winnings, said he never expected to win these many medals in third Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Ito na ang pinakamalaking achievement ko. Mahirap ang labanan dito (Asian Para Games),” said the 27-year-old Gawilan last Sunday following his return to Manila with the rest of the Philippine delegation.
Gawilan took home three gold medals in the men's 200-meter individual medley, the 100-meter backstroke and the 400-meter freestyle.
He also had two silvers in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle.
His hard work, according to one of her three coaches, Majonie Pulumbarit, was a big factor during training for Gawilan, who was born in the Paquibato district of Davao City.
“He has been training hard since last year. Ernie is a hard worker. He comes in, he puts in the work,” said Pulumbarit, as the Philippine delegation was greeted by a small group of well-wishers at the NAIA-3.
The athletes who saw action were greeted by Paralympic Committee of the Philippines president Mike Barredo, along with volunteers and staff members of the PPC and the Philippine Sports Commission staffers.
Woodpusher Sander Severino, cyclist Arthus Bucay and bowler Kim Chi were the other athletes who had numerous medals during the meet.
The Philippines finished with a total of 29 medals (10 golds, 8 silvers and 11 bronze medals), well beyond its expected haul.
“I'm super happy, jubilant. I think the Philippines exceeded all expectations. I'd like to think we overachieved,” said chef de mission Francis Diaz.
Diaz added there was something other than the honor and prestige which made the athletes even happier.
“The Paragames became a vehicle for them and their families to really have a brighter future because of the incentives, that by law, the government will grant after their good performances,” said Diaz.
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