In Zamboanga City, a neighborhood dojo brings village prideBy Julie S. Alipala
ZAMBOANGA CITY—It all started when Eduardo Gonzales, a retired government employee, thought of acquiring a small space where he can practice martial arts along with his niece, Mary Joy Rebollos, who was then 8 years old.
In 2000, he started building a small gym, using a portion of his retirement pay. He did not have any idea that his simple dream would later make the village proud.
Some parents in his neighborhood in Barangay Putik in Zamboanga City took notice of his efforts and offered to pitch in resources so that their children could also learn martial arts.
Gonzales, a karate buff, and six parents put up the dojo (martial arts training school) named the Young Tigers’ Shotokan Karate-do Club on Perez Drive. At first, only six students came for training under Felix Balan.
The instructor said the aim then was just to practice martial arts in a more accessible location.
Before the dojo, only the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex was the venue for training. “It’s very far from us and all the athletes from different barangays go there for training, so it was very crowded,” Balan said.
Rebollos, now 18, recounted that the neighborhood dojo was very small. “There were no mats, just plain grasses. It was an open type and just a roof,” she said.
However, Mark Jayson Silomenio, 18, said it proved to be convenient for children in the village to learn martial arts because they need not spend money. At the dojo, the children were also able to spend more time learning because it was easy for them to go home even late at nights, he said.
One thing the dojo contributed to the neighborhood was that it “drove children away from vices and computer games,” according to Aleli Ramos. Ramos said her daughter, 9-year-old Angel, learned martial arts techniques there.
Now, the dojo has 20 to 30 students, and many of them coming from poor families, Balan said.
“They could not even afford to pay the monthly due of P150, but I don’t care if they cannot pay for as long as I see them play and practice here,” he said.
Since it was put up, the dojo has produced medal winners in local and national tournaments. In May, Rebollos won three gold medals in the national karate-do championship held in Baguio City. Silomenio bagged two silver medals and a bronze medal.
Jose Felix Balan, 13, and Mila Grace Balan bagged silver medals, while Jeremia Sarabia won a bronze medal.
At the recent national Private Schools Athletic Association competition held in Cebu, Silomenio went home with a gold medal in karate.
“It was just a small dream and I am old now. I am proud in my own little way to contribute to our children’s development,” Gonzales said.
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