Ten days before the Palarong Pambansa 2017, Gerly Insong receives news that her grandfather, who taught her how to play tennis, succumbed to heart attack
ALL FOR LOLO. Twelve-year-old tennis player Gerly Mae Insong dedicates her games to her Lolo Gilberto, who died a week before the Palaro. Win or lose, she knows that her Lolo is proud of her. Photo by Lester Dave Pua/Rappler
ANTIQUE, Philippines – Weeks before the Palarong Pambansa 2017, Gerly Mae Insong’s number one fan and first trainer Lolo Gilberto had foreseen that he might not be able to witness his granddaughter represent Northern Mindanao in the biggest youth sports event of the country.
“Ayusin ko daw ang paglaro ko kasi kung namatay na siya, hindi na niya makikita,” she said. (My grandfather told me to play well because if he dies, he won’t be able to see how I play.)
Ten days before the event, while training under the sun, Gerly received the sad news which made her drop her racket and cry.
Lolo Gilberto had succumbed to heart attack.
Passing on the skills
When Gerly was 10, she used to watch her Lolo Gilberto Retiza and other tennis players on a court near their house in Lanao del Norte. To earn money, she acted as a pulot girl who picked up tennis balls for the players.
Yet Gerly was meant to be more than an assistant on a tennis court.
“Meron pong naghiram sa’min ng racket. Natuto na kami." (Someone lent us a racket. From there, we learned.)
Lolo Gilberto saw Gerly’s interest so he started training her and her 4 siblings on the same tennis court.
“Binilhan niya (Lolo Gilberto) kami ng racket at tinuruan niya kaming maglaro," she added. (Lolo Gilberto bought us a racket and taught us how to play tennis.)
One out of five
The 5 Insong siblings made it a weekly routine to play tennis and train with their Lolo. Getting better and better, they went on to compete in different youth tennis competitions in their area.
Tennis court neighbor lawyer Justin Dela Cruz heard of the siblings and started supporting their needs not only in sports but also in school.
“Siya ang nagbigay ng mga damit namin. Binilhan niya kami ng mga sapatos. Siya rin ang nagsuporta sa’min sa eskuwelahan, mga notebook, school supplies.” (He gave us our tennis uniforms. He also bought us shoes. He even supported us in school. He bought us notebooks and other school supplies.)
With Lolo Gilberto’s guidance, Dela Cruz’s support and their own hard work, the siblings made it to the Northern Mindanao Regional Athletic Association Meet, but it was only Gerly who reached the Palarong Pambansa.
This year, her second time on Palaro, Gerly says that she is willing to travel far to pursue her and her Lolo’s dream and love for tennis. She has been independent and fond of being away from her family even at a young age.
Watching from above
It was April 12 when Gerly had to pause from her training to go home and see her original tennis teacher lying on the coffin.
Though feeling depressed, she tried to recover after a week since she’s bound to Antique for the Palarong Pambansa – an achievement she shares with her grandfather. She had to go on and show the country the tennis champion in her which her grandfather molded.
Although Lolo Gilberto’s gone, Gerly believes that he would be watching her and cheer from above.
“Itong laro ko, para sa lolo ko.” (This game of mine is for my grandfather.)
Win or lose, Gerly finds it enough to be able to reach the Palarong Pambansa 2017 and dedicate her game for her Lolo Gilberto.
Gerly is set to play today at the Binirayan Sports Complex, 1:00 pm. – Rappler.com
READ: Palarong Pambansa 2017 stories by campus journalists