By Trissia Aldave
Sports has always been responsible for uniting people, building relationships, and creating opportunities. It opens doors for possible collaborations between institutions, big or small, and sometimes even binds nations together for a great purpose—change. Two avid advocates of this change are Mr. Emmanuel “Noli” Ayo and then all-female provincial sporting event Mindanao Peace Games (MPG), founded by dedicated coaches and sports leaders from different universities all over Mindanao.
MPG started in early 2014 at a sports gathering in Davao City, attended by equally enthusiastic schools wanting to organize a Mindanao-wide sports movement. But the said meeting did not receive much attention that it concluded with settling for a Davao sports association instead. In November 2014, sports leaders from Xavier University – CDO (Region 10) and Ateneo de Zamboanga (Region 9) visited Ayo’s office in Davao to initiate another discussion on creating the sports movement. Unlike the first one, this meeting was successful for both schools committed to convince more schools from their respective regions to join. Not so long after that another meeting in 2015 was held, where schools from Region 12 and 13 were also present. They managed to convinced MSU Marawi, and another ARMM school from Maguindanao to join the growing family and participate in the Mindanao Peace Games.
Like every other successful story, MPG also faced few challenges and difficulties along the way. As a leader of MPG, this is what Coach Ayo had to say when asked about the whole experience. “The big challenge was the ‘novel’ approach we decided to take in terms of the culture we want to see in the MPG. This referred to the events we committed to make before we conducted the games in October 2015,” he said.
Ayo also added that one of the challenges encountered by him and MPG was “re-orienting” the other school leaders about the sole purpose of the organization—that it is more than just “athletes playing and coaches coaching”, but every leader personally caring about the well-being of each athlete. One more way to express the depth of care MPG has for their beloved student-athletes is the annual movie night they organize for all the participating athletes and coaches.
“When we introduced this concept to our leaders, the immediate concern was the extra expenses. However, we looked at the perspective that it is not an extra cost. That it should really be included in the cost of every MPG. In the MPG, we want to provide our athletes and coaches a better experience in sports so that in return, this kind of better experiences are the same things they can talk about and share when they go back to their area,” explained Ayo.
MPG’s vision is not limited to the mainstream fun young athletes look for and find when they join leagues out of town. Coach Ayo also added that enmities and animosity would already be reduced if we could simply add “positive and meaningful experiences” to the lives of everyone.
MPG’s mission and vision continue to spread all throughout Mindanao. With proper guidance, everyone involve keeps spreading the advocacy of the organization through the athletes themselves, by being role models in their communities and individually excelling in their academes. In 2017, its fourth year spreading peace, MPG has 13 participating schools and is evidently being heard and more talked about now in the country.
Ayo trusts MPG’s process so much that he had this to say when asked where he sees himself and MPG in five years: “our goal is to be replaced and forgotten – with this we mean that eventually that the athletes and young coaches we will mentor in the MPG will grow to be leaders to ‘replace’ us in our roles as movers and conveners. That eventually we will be ‘forgotten’ because the people that will replace us will create higher benchmarks that eventually will set the bar on how things should better be done in sporting events in Mindanao and perhaps, even in our country.”
Presently, the Mindanao Peace Games continues to redefine sports in every way, in hopes of creating a better world for now and the future generations.