Walking on, with hope in your heart

January 7th, 2012 is particularly significant for me, as it is my mother’s first death anniversary. This is an account of how I chose to commemorate it.

Football is more than just the beautiful game. It has become a universal language through which people communicate with each other.

Going beyond a common understanding of the game’s rules, it has become an effective vehicle for fans sharing a passion for the same team to connect and interact, for a nation to rally behind its players in international competition, and yes, for various countries and cultures to unite for a particular cause.

“Dili Kamo Nag-iisa” was special, precisely because it united the local football community for the cause of extending assistance to the typhoon Sendong victims.

What started out as a simple idea initiated by Chris Greatwich over Twitter came into fruition as a match between the Azkals-UFL Alyansa and CF Internacional de Madrid, a team that plays in the Tercera División of the Spanish league.

Moreover, fundraising efforts from the charity match and its complementary activities are now expected to raise a substantial amount to aid those that have lost and that have been greatly affected as a result of massive flooding in areas such as Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City, and Dumaguete City.

And sometimes, just sometimes, the team performance and the scoreline are not the biggest takeaways from a match.

At the post-match press conference, Inter de Madrid coach Javier Garcia Marquez commented that the primary objective of the game was to raise funds, and the team did enough to meet such objective. Inter de Madrid striker Rufino Familiar Sanchez added that when the team found out that they would come to the Philippines to help the typhoon victims, they felt happy at the chance to do so. He also sent a “mucha fuerza” (be strong) and “un abrazo fuerte” (a big hug) to all those affected by Typhoon Sendong.

For one group of supporters, “Dili Kamo Nag-iisa” was also a perfect opportunity to show unity with and support for the typhoon victims.  A group of fans that support Liverpool FC, known as the KOPinoys, also found time to organize themselves for the charity match. It was only fitting, especially since the charity match’s title, “Dili Kamo Nag-iisa” was inspired by “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, an anthem that has become inextricably linked with Liverpool FC.

 Photo credits: Mark Cristino
“The KOPinoys is just a small group of Liverpool FC supporters, so we worked hard to get the word out and connect with Liverpool FC supporters in the Philippines for this cause,” explains Michelle Cortes, one of the active KOPinoys. “We’ve also been in touch with other Liverpool supporter groups that have expressed their desire to help typhoon Sendong victims, and they are also mobilizing resources that they would donate to the Philippine Red Cross.”
Photo credits: Mika Palileo
For many KOPinoys, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” takes on a very personal meaning. Marj Bonifacio shares, “’You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is not just a chant, an anthem, or a battle cry—it’s an expression of immeasurable and unconditional faith and love.”

Mitzi Alojipan reflects, “That in this life, we share the happiness, joys, blessings, struggles, difficulties, and challenges with our family and loved ones, even strangers—our fellowmen in general—we never walk alone. What the song means to me is that we can feel and empathize. Goodness and kindness connect us with everyone, and we will never be alone in our journey and that we have to do our share in being there for others to pay goodness forward.”

Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your hearts, and you’ll never walk alone.

These were the words that were echoing around the Rizal Memorial Stadium as the players made the lap of honor and as people were filing out little by little. Yet, the Liverpool supporters stayed on to sing the song with all their hearts. What strikes anyone listening to the song is that it brings a strong message of hope and of comfort. For this group of supporters, all they could hope for was for those in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City, and Dumaguete City to hear those words of encouragement—that amid the loss of properties and loved ones, the typhoon Sendong victims could once again stand on their feet, walk on, and continue living their lives.

Photo credits: Fritz Dalida

“Dili Kamo Nag-iisa” enabled many people to express their support and extend their assistance in whatever little way they can. This is the power of a game and a song—that they can unite and move communities into action, and send a strong message of hope for those in need. This is what walking on with hope in your heart means—to wake up each day with faith and conviction that a brighter future will come soon enough.

To the victims of Typhoon Sendong: Nunca vas a caminar solo. Dili kamo nag-iisa. You’ll never walk alone.

Originally posted in Pinoyfootball.


Hablando a futboleros.

I found out yesterday that my Spanish skills aren’t too rusty. After all, I can proudly say that I have asked several Spanish football players to sign the You’ll Never Walk Alone banner.

OK, the first that I asked was Joaco—I was actually asking for his shirt, but he smiled and shook his head. I suppose they’ll reuse the shirts for the Tuesday match, since nobody exchanged shirts. So the next step—thanks to quick thinking—was to have the guys sign something, and all we really had was the banner.

I think it was Guille who was just in front of me, so I started hollering his name and asked him to sign the banner. Let’s give the guy mad props, he scaled the white fence to reach out for the banner, and for that he gets 1,000 pogi points.

Then Inter de Madrid striker Rufo, who scored the opening goal, came along. I asked him to sign the banner (but not before trying my luck with his shirt—and got the same reaction, haha)—but wait, I also asked him to have the entire team (“todo el equipo, por favor!”) to sign it, which they obliged.

The point of all of these is to just boost my confidence, so that when I see La Roja or Real Madrid, I should not have a problem with guts and the Spanish language. Tercera División, I conquered you. Time to move up the liga ladder.

(P.S. I have a meatier take on Dili Kamo Nag-iisa soon. This is just the flailing post.)

ETA: OK, here’s proof that Guille really scaled the white fence. (And yes, I am such a stalker for finding this photo on Tumblr. Credits to heyantoinette.)

Dili kamo nag-iisa.

There’s no need for me to repeat what’s on the poster above. The message is crystal clear.

A group of Liverpool FC supporters in the Philippines are also mobilizing items that will be donated during the charity match, and I tell you, there is no greater embodiment of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” than these acts of solidarity that we can offer to fellow Filipinos in need. Please visit lfckopinoys for more information.

On a personal note, I am helping because of a couple of reasons. First, Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete, two of the most badly affected areas of Typhoon Sendong, are some of my favorite places in the Philippines. I have not yet visited the areas in the wake of the devastation, but I’ve gotten my hands dirty a couple of years ago, when I helped build toilets in evacuation centers/temporary shelters with Habitat for Humanity for Typhoon Ondoy victims. It was an experience that made me realize that every little thing we can do to help would be tremendously appreciated by those that have none—whether it be a structure for them to relieve themselves or as simple as a hot bowl of arroz caldo to warm their bellies.

The second reason? January 7th, 2012 happens to be the first death anniversary of my mother. Knowing my mother, I know she would approve that I would spend the day by helping others in need, in however way I can. My mother is one of the most selfless and generous people I know, and I know that what I will be doing on January 7th is the best way to honor her.

I hope you all could either join us on January 7th or find the time and resources to be a hero for someone in need—and be able to tell them, “You’ll never walk alone.”