This, now, should put to rest the myth of the woman as the weaker sex. For nearly a century, Filipino athletes had been on the dogged hunt for that elusive Olympic gold. The hunt was over on July 26 in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 instead due to the Covid-19 pandemic) as decorated weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz lifted one kilo more than her closest competitor to snatch both the Olympic record and the gold medal in the women’s 55-kg weight class.
And as we wait with bated breath for what may possibly be a second gold medal, this time from women’s boxing courtesy of featherweight Nesthy Petecio who qualified for the finals match this coming Tuesday (August 3), we can now confidently declare that the Tokyo Olympics has truly been a defining milestone not just for Filipino women in sport, but for the entire Philippine sporting world.
What makes Hidilyn’s feat even more remarkable were the seemingly insurmountable challenges she had to face outside of the arena, during her journey to Tokyo. Lacking financial support for her training, then being unjustly implicated in a controversial “matrix” of government dissidents, and then suffering an unexpected pandemic lockdown in Malaysia for months, Hidilyn and her training camp relentlessly slogged away, focused solely on achieving their goals in Tokyo.
It wasn’t hard, therefore, for many women trying to leave their own mark in their chosen careers to relate deeply with Hidilyn’s story and victory. In the male-dominated auto industry, in particular, a handful of such women have shown similar steely determination. We’ve asked some of them what they thought of Hidilyn’s triumph.
Ma. Fe Perez Agudo, president and CEO of Changan Motor Philippines Inc, said: “Ms. Hidilyn Diaz, you just created history. The Philippines finally got our first-ever Olympic gold medal. Maraming salamat! We’re immensely proud of you. Thank you for being an inspiration. We saw in you that we can all drive change with dedication, hard work, and humility. Mabuhay ka!”
Ginia Domingo, president of Pilipinas Autogroup Inc, said: “When you need someone to do a good job, get it done quietly and on time, with no fuss or aggrandizement, someone who will do it because it’s the right thing and will benefit the greatest number … you need a woman. Because sometimes, it takes a woman to do a man’s job.
“Hidilyn, like many other women who have taken on the challenge in otherwise men’s domains, has proven yet again that what it takes to triumph is a big heart, a courageous but humble spirit and a fierce determination to beat all odds. We salute and support all women who dare to break the glass ceiling. Never underestimate that behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”
Lyn Manalansang Buena, The Covenant Car Company Inc (TCCCI) executive vice-president and director for marketing and customer services, said: “Hidilyn Diaz’s historical achievement was an amazing faith-filled journey. She reminds us that hard work, courage and determination pay off, and that we should always allow ourselves to dream big. For her to triumph in a sport more readily associated with male dominance, her win truly breaks barriers and sends the messages of empowerment, equality, and grace through adversity.
“Personally, these notions take on greater significance when I encourage my daughter—herself, a student-athlete—to chase her ambitions in sports and in life. Hidilyn’s victory is a straightforward touch point for all women to be empowered through their personal journeys. Thank you for moving the needle for us Filipinas, Hidilyn. We needed that spark of hope now more than ever,” said Buena.
Elijah Sue Marcial, Toyota Motor Philippines’ vice president for marketing services, said: “On behalf of TMP, a big, big congratulations to Hidilyn Diaz! It was a historical day, indeed, in more ways than one – the Philippines won its first gold through one strong woman’s hard work and perseverance, and in a sport generally precepted as a male-dominated one as well!
“More than just getting the gold for the country, Hidilyn’s victory was a powerful statement for Filipinas and women all over the world. Her story, from the humble beginnings to the top podium finish, is truly an inspiration for us to strive and Start our Impossible. Amidst the tough and challenging days that we are facing, Hidilyn was tougher on any obstacle that came her way. May her victory continue to unite us and inspire us to better days ahead. Again, congratulations, and thank you for the lift, Hidilyn!,” said Marcial.
Sophie delos Santos, veteran organizer of several pioneering Philippine automotive events, including the Trans Sport Show, Manila Auto Salon, Sport Truck Show, and the Tour de Cebu Historic Sports Car Rally, said:
“Hidilyn’s victory borne out of her sheer courage and determination is nothing short of awe-inspiring for me. It will forever remind me that regardless of how difficult the path I am treading on now, no matter how long it will take me to achieve my goals, there is a reason for everything and I just have to keep working on being a better version of myself. That alone is already a form of victory. To all women out there, bring out the Hidilyn in you and that is … in everything you do, feel like a winner, because it is only then that you become one.”
Beth Lee, EMotors Inc president and former president of Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers Association of the Philippines Inc (Campi), quipped: “It just goes to show… never underestimate the power of vulnerability turned into strength. Each seeming setback was a set up for what is to come. She shattered the ceiling with a gold, no less …for the country. I admire her mental strength and her faith. Truly proud to be a Filipina.”