The decision of the schools division in the region to no longer compete in most team events at the upcoming MIMAROPA regional games, which serve as a prelude to the Palarong Pambansa, is disconcerting, if not downright wrong.

The explanation provided by a local official was that other regions were simply too strong for them, and MIMAROPA’s seven schools divisions, therefore, opted to focus only on individual events. They will still hold competitions in the team events of futsal, football, and sepak takraw, in which they apparently feel they have a competitive chance in the national games.

Sports competitions have long been embraced by the country’s education system as an integral part of the Filipino youth’s development. Sports immensely contribute to physical and mental health and to developing valuable life skills. The Palarong Pambansa is an established sports program where the best of the best among Filipino youth athletes are discovered, honed, and prepped to represent the country in international sporting events such as the SEA Games and the Olympics. It is, for all intents and purposes, the only grassroots athletics program in place that is a necessary foundation for having a robust Philippine sports.

The school division’s decision to limit most team competitions to provincial-level games is a defeatist attitude that goes against the core values being promoted by the Department of Education. It has the consequence of the younger generation becoming increasingly disinterested in participating in sports competitions.

Sports competitions are fertile ground for character development and the acquisition of vital life skills. Participation instills discipline, perseverance, teamwork, and leadership qualities, shaping individuals into well-rounded personalities. In the face of competition, athletes learn to overcome challenges, manage setbacks, and strive for excellence. These invaluable lessons acquired through sports competitions translate into success not only on the field but also in various spheres of life, such as academics, careers, and personal relationships.

The absence of participation in these games is a bane to the athletes in the region, depriving them of the opportunity to compete even under immense pressure, strive for excellence despite all odds, celebrate triumphs, and accept defeat as part of the experience.

Sports competitions offer a plethora of inspiring stories and role models who can motivate and drive individuals to strive for greatness. The story for MIMAROPA in this year’s games is one of sadness and frustration, not only for the athletes and their parents who provide them support but for the region’s reputation.