TO athletes of lesser stuff, the world might have ended that one bright day at the historic Rizal Memorial Track and Field Stadium.
Like he’d been doing for years, Ralph Waldy Soguilon, sweat covering his chiseled frame, sprinted like a man possessed on this oval of dreams. Suddenly, the three-time winner of the De La Salle Alumni Sports Achievement Awards, heard something crack as he approached the final 30 meters of the century dash.
“Right there and there, I knew that something terrible had happened,” recalled Soguilon of this life-changing event more than three years ago.
As his fellow national athletes watched in horror, Soguilon fell like freshly-cut timber. He never reached the finish line as he was bodily carried by stunned teammates before being brought to the nearby Manila Adventist Hospital.
It turned out that Soguilon, a bemedalled high school student from Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City, broke his right tibia and fibula bones. This would spell disaster for any athlete.
More painful was the fact that Soguilon, after a stellar collegiate career, was heralded as King of Philippine athletics after breaking the 45-year-old Philippine record in 100 meters of Rogelio Onofre and the 200-meter mark of Isidro del Prado set 23 years ago while competing for TMS Ship Agencies in California.
Coached by Jerry Cablayan, Soguilon clocked 10.45 seconds, faster than Onofre’s 10.57 mark, and 21.17 seconds faster than the 21.44 record of Del Prado.
The injury broke not only this athlete’s bones, it also shattered his emergent dreams of making it big. “Deep in my heart, I knew that there’s room for improvement. I could have run faster,” said Soguilon.
To be able to walk again, he endured three surgeries from various bone specialists, the last one at St. Luke’s under Dr. Randy Molo and Dr. William Lavadia. Interlocking screws held his tibia in place and a steel plate mended his fibula during his first surgery. He then underwent a painstaking rehabilitation process.
“It was the darkest moment of my life,” recalled Soguilon. “It pains me not to be able to do the thing I love most, which is to circle the oval. I even blamed the sport for my misfortunes.”
Soguilon said he found strength from God, his family, friends and supporters, among them his father and former athlete Waldemar. He also thanked De La Salle men’s basketball and track and field patron Terry Capistrano, Manny Salgado and UAAP mentors Jeoffrey Chua and Cablayan for their encouraging words during his recovery.
“They never turn their back on me despite the fact that my career is finished,” said Soguilon.
Faith also kept him grounded. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:47),” wrote Soguilon in his blog.
A licensed Electronics and Communications Engineer, Soguilon, 27, became a Cisco Certified Network Associate 1 last year and is now general manager of Wireless Link Technologies, Inc., which holds office in Manila. Previously, he worked with Globe Telecom and Hua Yang Electronics.
“I just told myself that there’s still life after what happened. It didn’t take long before I accepted the signs from Him,” Soguilon said.
When requested to revisit the Rizal track for a photo shoot, Soguilon said yes without thinking twice. He gamely smiled for the cameras, scanning the horizon where he once reigned supreme. He confessed to still feeling a rush of emotions as he left the other athletes training in his shadow, while the motley crowd cheered .
Occasionally, former teammates with the national team would greet him enthusiastically, perhaps as a sign of respect and admiration for the man whose track to greatness was cut short by injury.
“I don’t feel sad returning here. This was the scene of my many triumphs,” mused Soguilon. “But I’m running an altogether different race now. I know that I’ll still be a champion in my other races.”