Category Archives: Emerson Obiena

Glory Days

The ageless Emerson Obiena uploaded an old photo to his Facebook account a while back. Judging from the designs of the Philippine team uniform, I figured that the picture was taken sometime during the early to mid-1990’s.

Photo from Emerson Obiena

Coach Emer’s subtitles confirmed my hypothesis. The bespectacled Filipino-Chinese athlete on the left is non-other than Coach Emer himself, the founder of the Philippine Pole Vault Club and a many-time international campaigner for the Philippines. On the rightmost side of the photo is Bruce Ventura, the Philippine national record holder for the shot put at 15.83m. Then Senator Joey Lina is at the center, beside the spunky-looking Edward Lasquette, the pole vault national record holder at 5.00m.

Obiena is the only holdover from that by-gone era. In his late 30’s, the father of two is still the best Filipino pole vaulter. Coach Emer is a two-time SEA Games Pole Vault silver medalist (1993 and 1999). He has a personal best of 4.95m, set during the 1999 National Open.

Obiena’s 4.93m clearance (Taipei, 2008)

The Herculean Bruce Ventura won silver in the shot during the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore. The Filipino-American Lasquette, who set the now 18-year old Philippine record in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is a three-time SEA Games champion (1991, 1993 and 1995).

Filipino SEA Games Medalists since 1991

During the early years of my track days, I could barely find write-ups about the Gintong Alay days. I was fortunate to stumble upon an old book, Philippine Sports Greats, which featured a lengthy piece on the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics High Jump bronze medalist, Simeon Toribio. Articles about the resurgence of Philippine athletics during the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s are also hard to come by. Looking for actual clips of those storied races online is an impossibility! And don’t expect our sensationalist TV networks to air replays of past Philippine track & field campaigns.

Hence, I had to make do with meager competition results available in the world wide web, taking pride in the fact that a handful of my compatriots had distinguished themselves in international competition. Yell Carreon’s insightful interviews with Hector Begeo and John Lozada and Zytrexx’s nostalgic historical piece on Toribio and Miguel White are rare informative examples.

It’s quite unfortunate how Filipinos today hardly even remember the sporting heroes of our past. Aside from big names like Lydia de Vega-Mercado and Elma Muros-Posadas, most of our local athletics greats have been almost forgotten by the very people – the very country – they fought so hard for.

If archived footage or even detailed write-ups somehow find its way into the mainstream, perhaps a new generation of Filipino athletes – not just track & field athletes – will be inspired by those feats of greatness to do better than their forebears. Indeed, Filipino sports has so much more to offer.

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Barefoot Running

The Men’s pole vault in the 2004 National Open was a hotly contested three-pronged duel between two Thais and the Philippines’ top vaulter, Emerson Obiena. Obiena fought valiantly against the younger Thais, but ended up in third place. After the event, the Thais took off their spikes and ran barefoot on the field. I was puzzled, for at that time, I was unaware of the benefits of barefoot running for cool down purposes. I did my research. Soon enough, running barefoot after an especially hard training session or a grueling meet became the norm. The cool feeling of the wet grass (or the hot track!) was refreshing for my tired feet.

At home, I rarely wear slippers. Unless the floor gets too dirty or my feet too caked in dust, I almost always walk around barefoot inside the house. Come to think of it, prehistoric men roamed their harsh environs barefoot. This genetic predisposition, no matter how dormant, probably explains my preference for walking unshod!

Back in 2006, Nike released the Nike Free line of shoes.  It was a catchy campaign, all right, but I just did not like the lack of support it provided. Being a track athlete – a cash-strapped student-athlete at that! – I needed shoes that can provide much needed support in running/hurdling drills, weight training and plyometric exercises. I’m a traditional sort of guy; hence, I preferred my regular running shoes to those expensive alternatives.

Months ago, I saw ads of the Vibram Five Fingers. The innovative shoes reminded me of legendary distance runners like Abebe Bikila and Zola Budd (who ran barefoot at the Olympics!).  For those who want to try barefoot running in the harsh, city streets of Manila, trying out those Vibram footwear is good insurance – if you want to err at the side of caution! The bare soles of a city dwellers’ feet aren’t used to running without shoes.  I have yet to try Vibram, but the shoes really do look interesting.

I guess the safest way to start running barefoot would be after a workout on a soft, grassy field or on a synthetic track – and to read up on the pros and cons of such such an unorthodox move.

The following sites seem reputable enough. See for yourself:

Wouldn’t it be nice if your feet get calloused enough to run barefoot all the time? At least you’ll save up on loads cash spent on running shoes!

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