By: Noel P. Sulay
Special Teacher-EGT I

Every individual is gifted with numerous gifts. The knowledge, talents, attitudes and skills that a person possesses are clear manifestations of such blessings. With proper guidance, love and support from parents as well as the motivation and moulding care of teachers, this individual is able to bring out the best in him. No matter how impossible a goal may seem on the initial trial, it will turn out into a reality in the next few trials because he learns to believe in the power of his gifts, practices the value of persistence and perseverance, and lives out the inspirations gained from persons who truly care for him.

This truth is happening to Charles F. Saludaga, an 11-year old boy and a Grade Six pupil of Dalahican Elementary School Annex. He is the reigning champion in the South District Meet for 100 m dash track and field competition held last August 30, 2013 at Mayao Castillo Elementary School in Lucena City. He also holds the other two silver medals for winning second place in 200 m dash and 200 m 1×4 relay. His talent, skills and positive attitudes have brought him the victory he truly deserves.

In an interview conducted for this article, Charles said that he was so nervous by time he stepped before the “starting line” as he was still being hounded by his last year’s defeat when he competed for the first time in the Zone Meet where he  only ranked 4th for the same event (100m-dash), the last among  contestants.

But he resisted such memory and filled his mind with positive thoughts and agreed to himself that “Mananalo na ako ngayon!” As soon as he heard the gun fired to start the event, he dashed as fast as he could. “Binatak ko na po agad sa simula pa lamang,” he would say in an interview. He was certain that he would reach the “finish line” ahead of other competitors. He thought as if he were being chased by a cheetah as his trainer would kiddingly utter to motivate him during training sessions. Sure enough, he was able to rule the particular event with an impressive margin. He celebrated his victory with joy and thankfulness.

Charles or “Chacha” as his family and friends would call him, was born on January 30, 2002 to Ricardo Saludaga, a security guard turned plain house husband and Gina O. Ferol, an OFW now in Hongkong. He and all his other siblings were born in Barangay Minoyan IV, Sapang Palay, Bulacan.

In this mountainous barangay as his father would describe during the interview, Charles spent his early childhood years. He would join patintero as his pastime until it became his favourite game. There were times when he and his father hiked the ten-kilometer rugged, winding, and steep path down to the town proper to buy some necessities or to visit his father’s workplace and witness some celebrations in the town plaza.

When he first entered the school in the same barangay, he was one of those pupils who walked daily and even played in the uneven and sloping way that led to their school back to his house. This experience could have contributed more to the development of his natural leg and body strength. His speed was first put to test four years after his parents decided to stay here in Dalahican, Lucena, his father’s hometown. Here, they are renting a small house in a shanty along the shores. Then, Charles transferred from Dalahican Elementary School (Main) to our school situated near the seashore where he and his friends frequently play after classes or during weekends. Charles is an average student who loves to go to school. He only makes absences when he is sick. He performs well in all of his subjects and a sweet friend to his classmates and playmates. But above all these, this boy really has the strong passion to run.

After winning the track and field events in the intramurals last year, he represented the school in the Zone Meet where he experienced his first defeat in a more scrappy athletic competition. There, he realized that his strength was no match as far as the level of competition is concerned. That loss marked and challenged him a lot. His display of speed in this year’s intramurals brought hope to this boy’s goal of winning bigger track and field competitions ahead. The teacher and trainer first took notice of this child’s talent in the mentioned school event and started to hold training sessions in preparation for the Zone Meet where he won second place in the 100m-dash.

He then continued to train himself following the program provided him by his trainer. Every morning he woke up ahead of everyone else in their house, endured the fatigue as he religiously and secretly followed the speed training program, on the seashore, on the vacant and shadowy streets. His father would just surprise every time Charles was sweating all over early in the morning but began to calm himself down when the boy honestly stated the reason. After discovering Charles’ secret, his father himself would accompany him on the following morning sessions to guide him in the conduct of the speed training while giving him some techniques and advice besides his trainor. And this lasted until the District Meet came.

Finally, Charles’ perseverance paid off as he captured the Gold Medal in the 100m-dash event in tract and field. Mrs. Lilian B. Paderes, the school head, is so proud because in just three years of the school operation, it is able and lucky to produce such athletic champion in the person of Charles F. Saludaga. His winning does not only give honour to his parents and teachers but energy and hope to aspire and strive for more.

Charles is able to inspire not only his classmates but his friends, peers, parents and teachers as well.