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Starting small, dreaming big

By: Glendale Rosal October 29,2018 - 09:31 PM

John Philip Dueñas (standing, left) and his runners from JPD Coaching who participated in the 42nd National Milo Marathon Cebu last October 14 gather after the race.

JPD Coaching aiming to be the future breeding ground of champion runners

Great things start from small beginnings.

This is what John Philip Dueñas and Mary Joy Tabal had in their minds when they started a grassroots running program in Cebu five years ago.

The mission was simple: to make Cebu a breeding ground of talented long-distance runners. Now, Dueñas and Tabal are starting to reap the fruits of their labor as their program has begun to produce top-tier runners.

The program started small in Tabal’s turf in Barangay Guba, Cebu City.

As years passed, Dueñas has transformed Tabal to be a star in the sport, making her an Olympian, a Southeast Asian gold medalist and a five-time National Milo Marathon women’s champion. But his achievements didn’t stop with Tabal.

Together with his star athlete, Dueñas has turned the grassroots program to something big, expanding to Liloan town in north Cebu, to the Sisters of Mary School (SMS) Boystown in Minglanilla, south Cebu, and the SMS Girlstown in the neighboring city of Talisay.

The best part of it is that the program is slowly producing promising runners such as 12-year-old Jessel Ochia of Barangay Guba and 20-year-old Ronelyn Borres of Liloan. Ochia is a varsity trackster for the University of Cebu (UC) while Borres competes for the University of San Carlos (USC) track and field team.

“We have gone a long way,” said Dueñas. “I’ve seen tremendous improvement. Some of our runners are now recruited to universities, enjoying the benefits of being an athlete scholar. It means that our grassroots program in running is very effective in developing young and aspiring runners.”

Tabal also believes their grassroots training program is headed in the right direction.

“I see myself in them, that is why I never get tired of helping out these kids and provide the opportunity to become better athletes in the future. I want to see them grow and reach their dreams in the future. Their achievements are also our achievements,” Tabal said.


While Tabal and Dueñas are happy with the outcome of the program, that’s nothing compared to what the runners of their program are feeling.

“I will never forget the things that Kuya Philip and Ate Joy taught me when I was still training with them in Guba. I am very thankful that they gave me a chance to become a competitive runner. Without them I would not be here,” said Ochia, who was the 3k champion of last year’s National Milo Marathon Cebu leg.

Ochia settled for second place this year, but that didn’t bother Dueñas much, especially since nine of his runners managed to land in the top 10 in the 3k and 5k distances of this year’s race that attracted more than 19,000 runners.

Dueñas said the annual National Milo Marathon is instrumental to their grassroots training program’s success, saying all of their trained runners test their skills here. It also an avenue to be noticed by scouts. More importantly, this is where Tabal started her dreams nine years ago and eventually became a five-time 42k champion in the National scene.

As both Tabal and Dueñas continue to build up their program and hopefully produce champions through the Milo race, the two are also looking to go further.

According to Dueñas, they are aiming to teach and train 1,000 kids in the next five years, but their ultimate goal is to set a scholarship program for their runners.

“I certainly feel the needs of these kids and I know the existing problem that there is not enough support to build their dreams,” Dueñas said.

Aside from that, they are also looking to expand to Carmen town, north Cebu, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City.

Should everything go as planned, expect big things to come out from Dueñas and Tabal’s running program in the future. Maybe this is where the next Joy Tabal will be coming from.

“The formula to success that I always share to (aspiring runners) is to always dream big. Because it’s free. Bit will take a lot of courage, hard work, time, sacrifice, and most of all, humility to achieve that,” Tabal said.

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TAGS: big, small, starting

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