MANILA - Filipino pole vaulter and Olympian Ernest John “EJ” Obiena was formally commended by senators through a resolution on Monday for his recent achievements in Europe.
Senator Pia Cayetano filed the resolution, which her colleagues also co-sponsored.
“EJ was the only Asian and the first Filipino pole vaulter to win a medal in the World Athletics. He set a new Asian, national, and personal record after clearing 5.94 meters," Cayetano said in a speech during their plenary session with Obiena in attendance.
"For the record, his previous record was 5.93m, tallied in 2021 at the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Austria. He also broke the Asian Record set by Igor Poptapovich from Kazakhstan, almost 23 years ago. So he broke a 23-year-old record,” the senator noted.
“EJ's athletic year so far has garnered an impressive medal haul: 12 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals, in a span of 8 months. Saan naman tayo nakakita niyan? So, EJ, we are very, very proud of you."
"I pray and hope that you continue to be an inspiration to the Filipino youth, continue to be humble, continue to work hard,” she added.
Sen. Joel Villanueva hailed Obiena as a hero for raising the country and its flag "high above for the whole world to see" and for making "us all feel na napakasarap maging Pilipino."
Sen. Bong Go said Obiena's triumph is a source of inspiration for Filipinos amid the challenges in the country.
While they applaud Obiena, most of them could not help but remember the challenges he faced before achieving his recent victories, particularly the controversy with former Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association (PATAFA) President Philip Ella Juico regarding liquidation issues, resulting in his exclusion from the national team earlier this year.
Obiena was eventually reinstated to the Philippine squad.
“He had a knee surgery this year. He contracted COVID-19 in the middle of the year causing him to miss some competitions. Of course, there is also the high profile controversy sa mga sira-ulong tao sa PATAFA,” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said.
Sen. Imee Marcos noted that Obiena's coach, Vitaly Pedro, has yet to be paid from the start of the year.
“Ngunit, sa kabila ng ating parangal, ang walang humpay na pagpupuri kay EJ, nanatili pa rin ang mga problema ng mga atleta sa Pilipinas... Tuldukan na po natin ang problema ng ating mga atleta at ang sports sa Pilipinas,” she said.
The Senate expressed their support for Obiena and vowed to help him with his funding, especially now that he is setting his sights on the next Olympics.
“Paris Olympics 2024, I predict, Mr. President, because of his great character, EJ Obiena will be a gold medalist,” Sen. Francis Tolentino said.
The bemedaled athlete just arrived in the country from his successful campaign in Europe and is enjoying his 3-week vacation with his loved ones.