MANILA, Philippines – Looking back at her journey before becoming the Philippines' latest wushu star, Agatha Wong just realized that she has gone quite far.
Wong, a 2018 Asian Games medalist, revealed that she had overcome many challenges the past years – from bullying to lack of financial support for the sport
"I’ve always been a victim of bullying, you know not only just by guys, but by girls," Wong told Rappler.
The introverted 20-year-old recalled that she experienced bullying not only in school but also in other sporting activities that she tried.
"I was very shy so whenever they make fun of me, wala, they know na hindi ako papalag (they know that I won't go against them.)," added the Asiad bronze winner in the women's taijiquan and taijijian all-around event.
When Wong entered De La Salle-College for St. Benilde, she thought that she would again end up getting bullied by her peers. But when she started to commit to wushu, her outlook changed in many ways.
"I realized that I really shouldn’t have let [bullies] treat me like that, I shouldn’t have let them bullied me like that, played with me like that," said Wong.
"I’m not as scared anymore because I know that I can do so much better, I can be so much better, and I am much better [just by] representing this country."
The multi-talented athlete owed her new found confidence to wushu. And when she suffered a grade 2 slipped disc and patellar tendonitis on her right knee before the 2018 Asian Games, she still managed to believe in herself.
"Wushu has shaped me into a really better person, it gave me discipline, it gave me that strong mentality, it gave me peace of mind, it gave me orderliness in my life," said Wong.
But even after delivering a bronze medal to prove the sport's worth, Wong thinks wushu remains pretty much overlooked in the Philippines.
The martial artist revealed that before the continental games, the whole team struggled financially and lacked basic needs such as competition uniforms.
"May nagtanong sa akin na interview: 'bakit yun pa rin yung ginagamit kong suot?' So I said na it’s because I used it in the SEA Games and I decided to use it this Asian Games. But yung totoo is wala kaming budget, walang binigay na budget for us to get a costume," said Wong.
(Someone asked me why I wore the same costume. I said I used it in the SEA Games so I decided to use it this Asian Games. But the truth is we weren't given budget to get a costume.)
"Wala kaming coach, walang budget for shoes tapos late na yung budget for weapons and hindi kami pinadala sa China [for training]."
(We didn't have a coach, we didn't have budget for shoes then the budget for weapons was late and we weren't brought to China for training.)
The forms specialist added that it was "mandatory" for the team to prepare for a big event such as the Asiad and the SEA Games by training in China.
"That was one of the downsides," added the wushu wonder. "It started to show also in my other teammates’ performance because I knew that if we went to China, I think that we would have had a better spot for an Asian Games gold."
It also hurts Wong that when other Filipinos are unaware of the sport that she poured her sweat and tears into.
"Every time someone asks me what’s my sport, I tell them wushu but for some reason, they always make fun of the name like they also tell me: ‘Wushu?’ something like that," recalled Wong.
"In some part of my heart, it annoys me, it makes me sad because they don’t know how hard it is to train everyday and they don't know what wushu is, how hard it is."
Still, Wong intends to carry on and hope that more people will appreciate the sport that has changed her life both on and off the mat.
"It’s my responsibility and it’s my advocacy to share to Filipinos and be more aware of this beautiful form of art." – Rappler.com