Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ondoy hero picked as torchbearer


MANILA, Philippines - For sacrificing his belongings to rescue a helpless elderly neighbor at the height of Typhoon Ondoy three years ago, Joven Mallo was nominated by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to join a cast of 8,000 torchbearers in a 70-day, 8,000-mile relay journey ending with the opening of the London Olympics on July 27.

Mallo, 30, was chosen by a panel of London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOGOC)-authorized selectors from 28,000 nominees to carry the Olympic flame with another IHG nominee Marcy Reyes through Whitefield on June 23. They leave for the UK on June 21 and return home on June 27.

“We will be carrying the torch for 300 meters,” said Mallo, a sales and service associate assigned to the Xin Tian Di restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria. “This is my first time to go abroad. That’s why I’m nervous and excited at the same time. We are well taken care of by IHG from arrival to departure. They’re arranging our travel needs from when we arrive, from transfers to meals to accommodations.”

The Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria is part of the IHG chain. Mallo joined the Crowne Plaza in 2006 after graduating from the Southern Baptist College in his hometown of M’lang, North Cotabato. The second oldest of eight, Mallo was nominated as a torchbearer for his heroism in saving a woman’s life during Typhoon Ondoy.

“I lived on Araneta Avenue near Tatalon in 2009,” he related. “My neighbor was a 65-year-old old woman who was alone in her house with her husband and children at work when the typhoon hit hardest. I heard her shouting for help because the flood waters had reached her house and were quickly rising. Without hesitating, I rushed to save her. I carried her on my back to take her to higher ground not knowing that my own house was already full of water and all my belongings were lost. I thank my Crowne Plaza family for their support during that time of my agony.”

Mallo, who likes to swim, said he is dedicating his Olympic torch run to his country. “My message as an Olympic torchbearer is keep praying and try your best to win every game that you are going to join,” he said. “I also pray for all Filipinos and for the success of the Olympics. I pray that we will become united as a people. My participation shows that for Filipinos, nothing is impossible.”

To Mallo, the Olympics symbolizes unity. “The Olympics is an opportunity to respect each other’s differences and to showcase human greatness through sportsmanship,” he said. “When I found out I was chosen as an Olympic torchbearer, it was an overwhelming feeling and still is. There are many participants from all over the world and I was chosen to be among them. It’s an honor to become a representative of our country. When I’m there, I will run like I’ve never run before with head held high because I am a Filipino. I will represent our country with thousands and thousands of other nationalities.”

Mallo said his favorite Filipino sports hero is cue artist Efren (Bata) Reyes. “I admire his simplicity and love for our country,” he said. “Despite his age, he can prove to other nations that Filipinos can excel in different ways. He still remains humble after all his achievements.”

Mallo and Reyes will be given their running uniforms when they arrive in Manchester. The uniform is a white track suit consisting of a jacket and jogging pants.

There are five Filipinos in the torchbearers lineup. Aside from Mallo, the other Filipino torchbearers are Reyes, Rodolfo Carlos, Steven Cheung and Reymund Enterina. Reyes, 47, is the executive housekeeper at Holiday Inn Manila. Carlos, 38, is the manager of feasibility and investment analysis at the IHG Americas headquarters in Atlanta. Cheung, 22, was the youngest candidate for the European Parliament in 2009 and lives in the UK borough Waltham Forest. Enterina, 30, is an occupational therapist residing in Tonbridge.


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