A while back, I took some visiting friends to my office-library on the third floor of my home. When they saw the many trophies and medals in various sports displayed on the wall-to-wall shelves, they jokingly asked me, “Saan mo ba nabili ang lahat na ’yan? (Where did you buy all of those?)” I just smiled and said, “Napanalunan ko lahat ’yan (I won all those).”
There’s a story behind this accumulation of more than a hundred trophies and medals in different sports—track-and-field, basketball, tennis, practical shooting, and most lately, golf—not to mention my stint as a martial arts instructor in my 20s, my “addiction” to long-distance running in my 30s and 40s, and my unabated passion for riding motorcycles in my 60s up to this day.
As a young boy, I suffered from asthma, a chronic respiratory ailment probably inherited from my father’s side of the family. An asthma attack causes extreme breathing difficulty, and is often triggered by intense physical exertion. I was told that some people outgrow it, but others don’t.
In school, I noticed that some classmates who also had asthma were not physically active and hardly participated in sports. So I vowed I would not let this condition dictate my life, and that I would engage in as many sports as I could to overcome it.
Double the effort
Of course, with such a liability, it took double the effort to achieve even just modest success in athletic activities.
In college, I loved to run and joined cross-country races. Seeing my dedication, the American Jesuit coach of the track-and-field team recruited me to run the 400 m, the most difficult “sprint” event. But my budding career in track was cut short by exhaustion, which triggered asthma attacks.
I continued to be active in sports even after graduation. This was when I noticed my determination begin to bear fruit.
I began to excel. I concentrated on the sprint events (100, 200 and 400 m) where I won many of the running medals on my library shelves today.
My numerous wins in competitions such as the Rotary Olympics and industry-wide meets proved to me that with dedication and discipline, one can conquer physical limitations and win against opponents blessed with normal health. As a bonus, I also discovered that this positive mindset applies to other pursuits in life.
In the professional field, lawyers, architects, engineers, and especially doctors, display their academic credentials, specialty diplomas and awards in their offices to gain the trust of their clients and patients.
As an example, patients are impressed when they see that their physician is a “diplomate” or a “fellow” in his field of specialization, although they probably don’t know the difference. But they can be confident these credentials were earned.
Many people proudly display their diplomas and awards on their walls. But aside from those who spend years earning their undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from legitimate educational institutions, there are “academic climbers” who simply pay for their titles.
For a fee, they are conferred a “Ph.D.” or some other advanced degree of their choice by obscure foreign universities or academic bodies with impressive-sounding names. Ironically, it is people like these who insist on being addressed as “Doctor” or “Professor,” and who proudly proclaim their dubious credentials on their calling cards.
But what really takes the cake is when some individuals have the temerity to produce fake medals, diplomas and awards representing fictitious accomplishments.
Akin to this, there are those who claim to have graduated from prestigious educational institutions when actually they only took a few subjects, a short course or a seminar.
Yet their imaginary academic achievement is proudly reflected in their mythical bio-data when they apply for a job, seek appointment to some prestigious position, or run for public office. Some don’t even seem to care that the award-giving bodies concerned will eventually deny conferring such honors on them.
This piece wouldn’t be complete without mentioning “true collectors” at the other end of the spectrum—people who constantly seek and acquire things that are important to them.
Some collect paintings, sculptures and other forms of art. Others collect jewelry, crystals, watches and other fine items. Still others collect anything from rare coins, stamps and old books to porcelain dolls, miniature soldiers, sacred images and antiques.
To these collectors, the acquisition of their favorite things is the expression of their individuality, their own unique form of accomplishment. Their personal collections are their “trophies” to be privately treasured or proudly displayed.
I have chosen to value the medals and trophies which constantly remind me, not only of personal victories in sports, but more importantly, of my lifelong determination to overcome a genetic health disadvantage. When I look at these prized mementos in my library, I remember the extraordinary effort that went into winning them.
And the good thing is, I didn’t have to buy my collection, but earned every piece in it. —CONTRIBUTED
“A trophy’s value isn’t measured by the worth of its metal, but by the amount of work that’s required to obtain it.”