MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. has this Christmas wish to national athletes and coaches: Pray to the Sacred Heart.
"It helped me, I know it will help you," the 78-year-old Cojuangco told national athletes and coaches during Friday night's grand Christmas party celebration hosted and bankrolled by the PH Sports Commission at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
After saying that, Cojuangco talked about debacles and dispelling it before hundreds of athletes, local and foreign coaches and officials including PSC chairman Richie Garcia and commissioners Jolly Gomez and Akiko Thompson who attended the night of food, fun, music and raffle prizes.
"Hindi nila alam kung gaano kayo naghirap sa pagsasanay at sa pagsali sa kompetisyon. Sasabihin lamang nila na debacle ang ating kampanya (They don't realize the hardship that you'’ve gone through in training and competition. They just say bluntly that our campaign was a debacle)," sabi ni Cojuangco.
"Huwag kayong maniniwala sa nababasa ninyo sa pahayagan na kami ay nag-aaway. Sila ay mga bayaring media (Don't believe what you read in the newspapers that we're quarreling. They're paid media," he added.
Cojuangco also talked about a former ally who ran against an opposing party in the recent POC elections that his group won via landslide that was allegedly caught giving out bonus money to a mistaken national sports association head.
Interestingly, not one of the NSA heads that opposed Cojuangco in the last polls attended the event dubbed "Bayanihan para sa Gintong Medalya: POC-PSC Yearend Assessment" except for baseball chief Hector Navasero.
Cojuangco has been saying since he won his third term at the POC helm that their main focus is the next Olympics
"Our next goal now is the next Olympics, we'll never know, we might win our first gold medal there," said Cojuangco.
Cojuangco also made mention of preparing and training early and identifying athletes who have strong potential in competing and perhaps winning medals in the quadrennial multi-sports event.
"Early preparation will be key," he said.
And the former Tarlac Congressman has all the reason to be earnest and punctual in the PH's Olympic and SEAG preparations following some not so impressive finishes in the past editions.
While the country won a gold medal in wushu in the 2008 Beijing Games in a sport that wasn't even considered a regular event, the country has never produced a single medal both in Beijing and London.
Cojuangco is also hard-pressed in bouncing back from three disappointing finishes in the last three Southeast Asian Games when the country finished either fifth or sixth place.
On his first year at the POC, the Phl emerged overall SEAG champion after it amassed 113 gold, 84 silver and 94 bronze medals on home turf.
It was a downward spiral from there for Phl sports under Cojuangco after the country wound up sixth with a 41-91-96 (gold-silver-bronze) medal harvest in 2007 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, fifth with a 38-35-51 harvest in 2009 in Laos and sixth again with a 36-56-77 count last year in Indonesia.
But with a fresh start and a brand-new slate, Cojuangco remains optimistic.
That's his political wish.