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The promise of weightlifting

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo October 23,2017 - 03:13 AM

Filipino Olympian Hidilyn Diaz shows off her muscles to participants of the ASSY and BUTTS event held in Barangay Luyang, Carmen town, on Sunday.

Carmen, CEBU – It could have just been an ordinary sports and wellness event held on a Sunday morning and attended by more than 100 people in the sleepy village of Luyang in the town of Carmen, northern Cebu.

But it was by no means ordinary as Filipina Olympian Hidilyn Diaz graced a gathering of athletes and sports enthusiasts in an event that highlighted the importance and benefits of weightlifting.

“I am inspired by all of you. You reminded me of what I was like many years ago. Because of weightlifting, I got scholarships, work opportunities, traveled to different countries and represented the Philippines in the Olympics. In weightlifting, I learned how to be (truly) beautiful. I also learned how to be a disciplined human being,” Diaz said in Filipino.

The event she attended was dubbed as “Miss Cebu 2016’s ASSY & BUTTS” which stands for Artemis Strength for Saving Youth and Boys Ultimate Test to Strength.

It was spearheaded by Miss Cebu 2016 Gabrielle Raine Baljak, the last woman crowned with the title after Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña called for the end of the pageant.

Baljak wrote a letter to Diaz inviting her for the event. In turn, Diaz reached out to her friends from weightlifting groups in Cebu to co-organize the event with Baljak.

The event was attended by young weightlifters, coaches and trainers from the Cebu Weightlifting Association and the National Weightlifting Team in Cebu.

“I was introduced to some weight and strength training during my childhood, in rock climbing and in competing in high school varsity football, volleyball and basketball,” said Baljak.

Recently, her strength conditioning coach told her that “if you can carry your own weight, you can consider yourself healthy.”

The event was also a venue for Baljak to distribute school supplies to children of Barangay Luyang who were later on treated to a wellness talk, song numbers, ice cream and free snacks and lunch.


Kicely Hermoso, 10, was among the Cebu weightlifters who joined Carmen children in yesterday’s ASSY and BUTTS event.

When her name was called, Kicely stood up, walked straight to the center stage, bent down to hold the barbell with both hands, and with all her strength, raised up 27 kilos of weight above her head.

Her mother, Adel, a weightlifter in her younger years, was among the audience cheering on her firstborn to achieve what only a few 10-year-old girls can accomplish.

Kicely, a grade five pupil of Carreta Elementary School, weighs 22 kilos but she was able to carry a barbell loaded with bumper plates, which is heavier by five kilos than her actual weight.

“I like the feeling of being able to carry the weight of the barbell and seeing the look of happiness in the eyes of the judges,” said Kicely, who started out as a weightlifter two years ago when she was eight years old.

It was not difficult to convince her to embrace the sport as her mother was also a weightlifter, who started at the age of 16.

“Mama taught me to stay focused and to take this sport seriously because this is no joke. I learned to manage my time … school is from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon. Practice can happen afterwards,” she said.

Her mother Adel and coach Gary Hortelano are childhood friends in Barangay Carreta. Both became part of the national weightlifting team when they were 18 years old.

“The barangay where we came from is known for drug-related issues. It was weightlifting that helped me stay away from vices and bad company,” said Hortelano, assistant coach of the University of Cebu weightlifting team and assistant trainer of the national team in Cebu.

Hortelano said more people got interested in weightlifting when Diaz earned a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Aside from being a venue to instill in the minds of children the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the event was also the fulfillment of a promise that Baljak made during her reign as Miss Cebu.

She vowed to continue her advocacy of providing avenues for children to learn in the spirit of fun and play even after she relinquished her crown.

The sports and wellness event last Sunday is the first of the many activities that Baljak plans to roll out in the coming years.

There was no shortage of cheers and claps for weightlifters last Sunday as Olympian Diaz herself requested participants and parents to have photos taken with the children.

“I was once like them … I see myself in them. The children are really the future so as young as they are now, it is important that we encourage them and nurture them to love this sport. Every Filipino deserves to know about weightlifting,” said Diaz.

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TAGS: Hidilyn Diaz, weightlifting

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