“Our spaceship known as Earth does not have any passengers. As residents of Earth, we are all crewmembers of this spaceship.” – “Give the Planet a Sporting Chance,” Japanese Olympic Committee Sport and Environment Commission
The great thing about living on this planet is that we all have a choice. We can forge our own path and if we are lucky enough, figure out what it is which makes us happy and actually have the opportunity to do what we are most passionate about. As competitors, our sole focus is that of the next big game or race. As working individuals, an ongoing project, as homeowners, preparing for the family’s meals—all of which are important functions and which definitely contribute to making our world better and more interesting.
We also make a lot of mistakes along the way, which we hopefully learn from and which are, of course, part and parcel of the human experience. Personally, I love my life so far and I feel extremely blessed on so many occasions. I get to do what I like best and work and play with people whom I can relate to best—athletes. Just like everyone else, I make many boo-boos, but I recover from them and most of the time get another shot at improvement, which is a most convenient and beautiful process in my opinion.
But there are times that we only get one chance to do things the right way. And when we fail, there is just no way to go back and rewind the clock. Like when you neglect your hydration during one of the biggest races of your life, cramp up, and miss a spot on the podium by mere milliseconds. Even if you play the scene over and over in your head, it is done and you cannot do anything about it anymore. Tough, but that’s how it is.
I went to Tokyo and other parts of Japan last November for a Study Tour Project for Leaders of Asian Youth Sports organized by the Japan Sports Association. My friend from the National Rowing and Wushu Team, Jercyl Lerin and I were sent there by the Philippine Olympic Committee to interact and exchange knowledge with 27 other Asian representatives. Our main topic of discussion was Sports and Environment. All of us were asked to present something which was relevant to our country with regards to the subject matter. We reported on what our own nations were doing (or not doing) to better the state of our environment. We showed beautiful pictures of progress and painful portraits of destruction. Our Japanese hosts were tremendously sincere in sharing their well-thought of programs and instilled in us a strong sense of urgency and advocacy primarily as citizens of our planet as well as influential sports leaders. Needless to say, I was moved beyond expectations.
Personally, I have always viewed myself as someone who did her part, however tiny, in helping to save the environment, even before it became a “trendy” thing to do so. I joined HARIBON Foundation in my university and we planted a couple of trees and did some clean-ups here and there. I have a habit to reject plastic bags from the cashier when I shop and just put the items in my purse when possible. We have a compost pit in the backyard.
But now I feel the burden and a burning desire to play a more active role in this campaign. If I were to bring back home a single nugget of insight from this particular trip of mine, it would be this: whatever your profession may be, it is your business to save Mother Earth. You cannot ignore Global Warming just because you don’t have snow in your country and cannot see that it is melting. You cannot ignore the denudation of the forests just because you live in the city and do not think that it is relevant to you. You cannot keep wasting water just because you are far removed from the desert and have an abundant supply of it for now.
What I love most about my sport, triathlon, is that I get to see some of the most magnificent places on this planet. I love swimming in azure waters and traveling to the most exotic beaches. I love feeling the wind on my face and rolling on unique terrain when I ride my bike. I love breathing fresh air and discovering new trails when I run. I never take these for granted, even for a minute.
Sadly though, most people do. We have become too preoccupied with trivial things to even bother with something huge but isn’t really concrete to us. But the fact is, environmental degradation is real, and it’s here. And it involves each and every one of us.
We only have One Planet—there is no Planet B. And we only have one chance to do it right for our children and future generations. Don’t be a spectator. Be an MVP for Mother Earth. You’ll be rewarded with more than just a trophy.