Sports buffs bond with home workers in pay-it-forward project

Arlene Burgos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2017 01:52 AM | Updated as of Aug 15 2017 10:43 AM

A dragon boat team of newbies beat more seasoned paddlers to the finish line June 25, 2017 at the Kallang River, Singapore. Video courtesy of Nelly Las Piñas

Fifteen Filipinos who came to Singapore as domestic workers nearly paddled their way to victory in a dragon boat competition in the city-state during this year's commemoration of the Philippine Independence Day held June 25. 

The team was organized by Race2Share, a small group of Singapore-based Filipino professionals who, in their free time, organizes sports clinics or events to raise funds or collect equipment for poor schools or athletes in the Philippines. 

The dragon boat team fielded to the Independence Day celebration consisted of Filipino domestic workers Race2Share met in earlier fun runs or sports clinics. 

Filipino Jennifer Macapagal, 29, came to Singapore and joined her parents residing there after graduating with a degree in Development Studies from the University of the Philippines. She has been working as a program manager for a financial training company. During her personal time, she is a Race2Share organizer, along with 5 others aged between 30 and 45. 

The idea behind her group is to use sports to get more people involved in community work, Macapagal said. That makes sports more fun, she said. A phrase on the group's website says it all: ''Pay it forward through sports.'' 

Since 2015, Race2Share has raised P249,713 for four advocacy groups in the Philippines and two organizations in Singapore, benefitting more than 500 people. Macapagal said the effort to raise funds or collect equipment and send these to the Philippines mobilizes people and draws them to bond over common goals. 

"It's (Race2Share) a network of athletes focused on community volunteerism, fund raising, and providing nurturing environment for people who would like to go to sports," Macapagal said. 

"We could be training together, and nurturing the younger athletes... When you do it together, mas madaling gawin, mas fulfilling." 

This community spirit seems to have resonated with new dragon boat paddlers Jenna Pascua and Nelly Las Piñas, whom Macapagal coached in biking and running, respectively, in separate Race2Share events earlier. 

(From left) Race2Share's Jennifer Macapagal with Jenna Pascua and Nelly Las Piñas, new dragon boat racers and sports enthusiasts with a purpose. Photo by Arlene Burgos, ABS-CBN News

In June, Pascua and Las Piñas were among the 15 domestic workers who nearly won the dragon boat race. 

The two came to Singapore separately to work, driven mostly by financial hardships in the Philippines, and the desire to better their lot. But they now find fulfillment in participating in events that spur help for the poor back home. 

Pascua, for instance, participated in the late 2016 fun run organized by Race2Share for the Blessed Ville Special School catering to children with special needs in Cavite. She has been participating in Race2Share activities since. 

Las Piñas, meanwhile, attaches deep meaning to her participation in these group activities. She equates participation in Race2Share with helping her own family. During times when she misses them, doing something for other people feels like actually doing something for her loved ones, she said. 

Macapagal said she hopes Race2Share would continue enabling Filipino workers. Sports bring confidence and sense of purpose, she said. 

"It's more meaningful kapag may matutulungan na ibang tao," Macapagal said. 

Pascua, Las Piñas, and 13 other domestic workers would have taken home the bacon during the Independence Day dragon boat race had it not been for a technicality: the team overlooked and went in excess of the 18 allowed people on board. 

But then, that seems to make little difference. In the participants' hearts, they believe they have already won.