The Tattered Flag

I wasn’t in the best of moods last Thursday. Coming from a weeks long illness, I was still reeling from the waning effects of the virus. Too see the work that I’ve put in the past few months crumble was simply frustrating. The track was dark when I got to Ultra. As I sat by the bleachers eating a quick snack, I felt horribly drained – an increasingly common occurrence in my “lone wolf” training routine. There and then, I felt the hopelessness of my hurdling enterprise, now that my Saturdays have been eaten up by a one-year certificate.

But one vivid image clung to my mind. The image of a tattered Philippine flag strewn ingloriously in the locker room room below.

I first encountered that a flag almost a month ago. I know for a fact that the simpleton who placed the flag on top of the locker room cabinet, for all the track users to see, hardly knew the Philippine Flag Law. I pitied the guy, whoever he is. Deep down, I was seething with anger. Taking part in sports (whether as an athlete or as a spectator) should instill national pride. Government-owned facilities are at the forefront of disciplines that require expensive venues, such as track & field and football.

To see the flag disrespected in the confines of government property reiterated the fact that Philippine sports is in the doldrums. The crowning glory of any athlete’s career should be on top of the medal podium, hearing one’s national anthem proudly play as the flag is raised for everyone to see.

For some reason, I did nothing. Opting to join my other insensitive countrymen who saw the flag in its undignified manner of storage. For my exhortations of competing proudly for my country, I could not even spare the time to right the most fundamental of wrongs. The medal ceremonies at the Daegu World Championships reminded me of my dream of seeing the Philippine flag raised in a major international competition – and of the disgrace in Ultra. The story of a little girl who braved a raging storm to save a muddied Philippine flag was the clincher.

That night, I took out the box where the flag lay half-stored in plain view. There were two flags. I folded it neatly and placed it inside a black plastic bag in the box.

Why do I hurdle? I do it for flag and country.

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