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That They May Be One
By: Marlyn Importante

It was an answered prayer and a dream come true!

Backdrop is the 5th Ceres Cup 7-Aside football tournament in Talisay, Negros Occidental. GK SipaG sent its 14U team with a merged composition of selected kids of GK SipaG-asa from Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao and SipaG players from the NCR GK areas to play, have fun and bond as one team under GK SipaG FC. Significant was it that for the first time, GK SipaG was able to pull off this combination of team players from faraway GK sources of the GK football program. There were 538 teams registered in the competition last May 19-20, 2018, with more than 5,000 players and coaches in the matches. This football tournament must be one of the biggest two-day festival in the country.

SipaG is a football program that Gawad Kalinga (GK) started back in 2005 and its goal was to introduce football to children who live in underprivileged communities. SipaG program teaches kids as young as 5 years old regardless of gender and develops them into competitive athletes, leaders and responsible citizens as they grow older. Not only do the kids improve in football, but they are empowered to demand more out of themselves and their lives. GK SipaG FC is playing for more than just football as they inculcate Values Formation in the program.

The kids from Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao had a land trip to the city of smiles with Jun Degayo, SipaG Coordinator in the area. He asked the parents of the kids if they will allow them to travel from Maguindanao to Bacolod. Without any hesitation, they gave him their approval. Jun Degayo asked them why they trusted GK in bringing their kids in a tournament outside Mindanao to play football. One of the parents answered him “Matagal na namin kayong kilala, kayo lang ang hindi naduwag pumasok sa lugar namin na napapalibutan ng gulo para magturo ng football sa mga anak namin. Puro kabutihan ang dala-dala n’yo simula pa noong unang tapak n’yo sa lugar namin. Hindi naging hadlang sa inyo ang pagiging Muslim namin,” he shared. Sobra-sobra ang suporta ng komunidad (in Maguindanao) pagdating sa GK SipaG Program, he also added. The NCR kids flew from Manila a day before the tournament, accompanied by Coach Chester De Torres and Dennis Montealto, NCR SipaG Coordinator. Chester is a former GK SipaG participant himself from GK Mandaluyong and who eventually got his AFC C-License as Coach. Like the kids from Maguidanao, the NCR parents also trusted the SipaG program. For them, it’s better to be involved in sports where some of the kids in the football program get varsity scholarships in their tertiary education.

On the day of their game, GK SipaG FC went undefeated, beating a strong Don Bosco Cebu A team in the process, but they missed the knockouts by a single point. A respectable performance for a new set of team, and most of them played their first time in an official football tournament (aside from being their first time to ride the airplane or the cruise liner, for some of them.) Nevertheless, the team played well, they had fun and learnt from each other through the medium of football. Indeed, the team displayed

solidarity through sports - they became one team who end the day with a Muslim and Christian thanksgiving prayer for a game well played. “The real victory/impact is seeing kids from two different worlds respect each other’s beliefs and end each day in solidarity and friendship with Muslim and Christian prayers. We can all get along." Michael Kevin Goco, GK SipaG Volunteer, said.

On the next day of their stay in Bacolod City, they joined the annual GK Kapitbahayan Assembly hosted by GK Sinigayan Village in Sagay City, Negros Occidental. This is where the delegations from the 45 GK Villages all over the province converged and experience activities prepared for them by the GK host community. The SipaG players took the opportunity to coach the kids of GK Sinigayan into the football sport. The newbies were taught different basic skills of football to the delight of the kids in the community. According to Coach Chester, it is their way of giving back the blessings we received. Truly it was a full day of fellowship and camaraderie for everyone.

“Our profound thanks to all those who supported us and who made this football campaign a successful one. Kuya Binsoi Rivera and Ate Girlie Rivera who hosted us, Kuya Kevin Caballero, Kuya Jose Mari Oquinena, Tito Bob Magalona, Tito Butch, Kett Genete and Raycil Villa Genete”, shared by Kuya Dennis. Our dream for next Ceres Cup is to have a roster from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, Kuya Jun added.

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