Pinoy volunteers recall experience at Olympics, Paralympics

By Edward Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Sep 11 2012 06:51 PM | Updated as of Sep 12 2012 02:51 AM

LONDON -- A day after the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games, tens of thousands of people packed London's streets to support Great Britain's athletes during a parade of its "greatest team".

The likes of gold medalists Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy led around 700 Olympians and Paralympians, who waved to cheering crowds whilst riding aboard a convoy of 21 open-top floats.

The parade, which began at 1:30 P.M (GMT), started at Mansion House - not far from St. Paul's Cathedral - before ending at the Mall beside Buckingham Palace at 4 P.M.

Among those spectating were several Pinoy volunteers, all of whom played their part in providing a successful London Games.

For their hard work, all volunteers were given the opportunity to win ballot tickets for prime spots to watch the parade.

Zarah Serrano performed in both Olympic and Paralympic opening ceremonies. The Birmingham based administrator watched from Piccadilly Circus.

"It's a nice way to end the Olympics. It's the final chance to see the athletes in person," she said.

"It has been a really brilliant day and the weather cooperated so it has been fun," Serrano added.

Lino Dela Merced, also a performer during the opening ceremonies, explains he really felt the camaraderie in the air.

"It was very amazing and awesome because you feel the unity of Great Britain. In our country the Philippines, it's like the EDSA revolution," he said.

"Here you can feel the amazing people, they are very patriotic," Dela Merced added.

Wilbert Ayap, a London based nurse, admits he was excited.

"Yun yung mga athletes nakikita mo lang sa TV, tapos biglan mo makikita nagpaparada sila. Parang artista, siguro yung equivalent nila," he said.

Ayap is proud of the Philippine team and feels its members did well considering their lack of funding and support.

"Sana magkaroon mas maraming support. Kase nakita sa ibang mga atleta, meron silang sariling physiotherapist, may sariling dietitian, even may sarili silang cook para ma-provide yung athletes sila yung kelangan nila," Ayap said.

He hopes the Philippine government, private companies or individuals will throw more weight behind the country's athletes in future "kase, sila yung representatives ng Pilipinas."

Before the parade, London Mayor Boris Johnson advised those attending "to plan ahead and leave plenty of time to find a good spot."

Sharron Ramirez left her home in Wolverhampton - in the Midlands - at 5 A.M.

The Pinay Games Maker, who was wearing her distinctive purple outfit for the last time, managed to secure a space at the front of her section along the Mall.

Despite the long day, she felt it was worthwhile.

"It's electrifying. Everybody is buzzing with excitement. I am so excited kase for the first time, all of Team GB is celebrating with the Games Makers who've made London 2012," she said.

Initially, Ramirez only wanted to watch one event, but she applied to be a volunteer, then one thing led to another. Soon enough she found herself rubbing shoulders with the whole Philippine Olympic team as one of their four assistants.

Ramirez shared their highs and lows, and revealed she even consoled boxer Mark Anthony Barriga after his loss to Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov.

During their time together, Ramirez developed a great admiration.

"It was fun, overwhelming. I saw the dedication of these athletes, the way they practiced early in the morning, their perseverance," she said.

"I attest to their efforts and to their courage to be in the Olympics. I'm so happy and I'm so glad I met all of them. They are a fabulous bunch of athletes and I wish them well in the future," Ramirez added.

The London Games may now officially be over, but the party is yet to start. All volunteers that helped to make the 2012 Olympics a success have been invited to an exclusive shindig in London this Thursday.