Olympics medalists, Hidilyn Diaz and Eumir Marcial returned to their hometown in Zamboanga City on September 1. They were greeted with a heroes’ welcome but in accordance with implemented health protocols.
Military officials welcomed the two Zamboangueños at the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB). Weightlifting gold medalist Diaz is a staff sergeant, while boxing bronze winner Marcial holds the rank of sergeant in the Air Force.
The Inter-Agency Task Force cited restrictions on the event beforehand. A local ordinance specified a maximum of 40 people in the audience to avoid mass gatherings. (Read: Inspiring Pinoy Athletes Who Set Records During Tokyo Olympics)
Honoring their success
They boarded their respective floats adorned with a barbell and a boxing glove, as well as well-wishers for a motorcade parade to the RT Lim Boulevard and for the unveiling of their commemorative markers, where they put their handprints.
According to MindaNews, Zamboangueños were waving welcome and congratulatory banners such as “Bienvenidos,” “Felicidades,” and “Enhorabuena.”
As the motorcade arrived at the Zamboanga City Hall, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco led a short program. Diaz and Marcial along with their parents were honored by the mayor, Representative Cesar Cimenez Jr., and other local officials.
The program included the turnover of the local government’s cash incentives for the two athletes and coaches. Diaz received PHP 2.5 million as incentive for her victory as a gold medalist in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Read: PH Olympic Medal Tally Now At Four)
Meanwhile, Marcial received PHP 1.2 million for winning the bronze medal in the middleweight boxing division of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, including PHP 200,000 for his performance in the Asian Boxing Confederation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in May this year.
Heartwarming heroes’ welcome
Both of them were emotional as they greeted and addressed the small audience during the heroes’ welcome. It is their first trip to their respective hometown after their successful stint in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Marcial encouraged the people, especially the youth, to engage seriously in sports. “I would not have reached this far if it is not because of sports,” he underscored.
The bronze medalist also remembered the past decade when he used to visit the Zamboanga City Hall as a seven-year-old kid and teen boxer to claim his incentives.
Diaz started her short speech by thanking God, then she recalled her experiences in Malaysia during her training, referring to her struggles as “anxiety to the highest.”
She talked about her curiosity in weightlifting that led her to love sports. “I started weightlifting because I was curious about it. My father is a tricycle driver and I went with him whenever he goes to drive for a living. We started from nothing and this is here now,” Diaz said.
The Olympic gold medalist expressed her gratitude to her family, early trainers, and all supporters. (Read: Gold Medalist Hidilyn Diaz Proves Nothing Is Impossible With God)
“Gracias (thank) to all of you even under the rain you are all here supporting me. I thank God and without him I would not be here. Really, life is difficult. We were stranded in Malaysia, but I am home now,” she ended.