HOME OF CHAMPIONS – Mayor Belen T. Fernandez (left, center) leads the victory parade to honor the Balon Dagupan athletes for their victory in the 2019 Region 1 Athletic Association Meet in Laoag City and the Batang Pinoy Luzon Qualifying Leg in Ilagan, Isabela. The city clinched its second consecutive R1AA championship crown after ensnaring 87 gold, 64 silver and 55 bronze medals. Dagupan City also hauled 16 gold, 13 silver and 11 bronze medals in the Batang Pinoy, placing eighth overall among more than 100 delegations from Luzon. (CIO photos by Jojo Tamayo)

DAGUPAN CITY – For their victorious campaigns in major sports events, more than 600 athletes and coaches received a hero’s welcome from Dagupeños when they marched along the city’s main thoroughfares during their victory parade on March 25.

These included athletes who again made history for bringing home the second consecutive overall title in the Region 1 Athletic Association (R1AA) meet crown and those who competed in the recently concluded Batang Pinoy Luzon Qualifying Leg where Dagupan ranked eighth among more than 100 cities and provinces in Luzon.

Mayor Belen T. Fernandez, Liga ng mga Barangay President Dean Bryan Kua and city councilors, along with DepEd Dagupan officials led by Schools Division Superintendent Lorna G. Bugayong, commissioners of the Dagupan City Sports Commission (DCSC) led by Finnela Sim and the officers of the Dagupan City Athletic Association (DCAA) led by  Renato Benitez, paraded  along with the athletes, coaches and city employees from Perez Boulevard, Marcelo H. Del Pilar street, A.B. Fernandez Avenue and finally to the city plaza.

The delegation later convened at CSI Stadia where a victory party was held.

The mayor, in her message, extolled the efforts of the city’s young athletes when they registered another historic feat by winning the back-to-back championship.

Dagupan City clinched its first-ever R1AA championship crown last year, its first after 40 years of seeing action in the meet that was formerly called Ilocos Region Athletic Association meet

“No one can beat this beautiful story – the young people of Dagupan authored their own victory. I salute all athletes because of the determination, heart and sportsmanship that you have shown to your fellow athletes,” said Fernandez.

DCSC Vice Chair (Finnela) Sim also paid tribute to every parent, coach, trainer, staff and members of the working committee who played significant roles as individual moving together to earn such a collective victory.

Meanwhile, star swimmer Janelle Alisa Lin recalled her entire R1AA journey since she first joined in 2014, less than a year since Mayor Belen T. Fernandez reformed the city’s sports policy with the establishment of the DCSC.

Lin shared how the city’s sports program has allowed athletes just like her to discover their talents which in turn contributed to their personal growth and development.

“Without this sports program in my daily life, I would be a totally different me – a less confident, quiet and timid me, and that’s not the version of myself that I want to be. So, I try my best to always remain grateful and to never take this for granted, because not everyone is as fortunate,” said Lin.

She also recalled the lessons she had learned from other athletes during her time competing in national and international events.

“In the euphoria of victory, it’s easy to believe that we bested our opponents through sheer superior ability but these athletes have worked as hard as we have. The biggest difference between us, however, is the outpouring support (we received) from our city and our Mayor,” said Lin.

One of the city’s star swimmers, Lin hauled a total of seven gold medals in the 2019 R1AA meet as well as three gold and two silver medals in Batang Pinoy Luzon Qualifying Leg. She has earned a total of 32 gold medals since she first joined in the annual R1AA meet in 2014.

Fellow bemedaled athlete Susan Ramadan, who earned three gold and two silver medals in Athletics Secondary girls during the recent R1AA Meet, also thanked those who supported her during the competition.

The city prepared a feast fit for champions which the athletes heartily enjoyed during the victory party. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO)