By Diana Mae Salonoy 

World No. 3 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena on Thursday announced that his team will donate P500,000 for the medical expenses of Asia's sprint queen Lydia De Vega, who continues to battle breast cancer.

Photo Courtesy of Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP/EJ Obiena (Facebook)

In a Facebook post, Obiena announced he will pledge his P250,000 reward from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) after winning bronze at the Worlds, while also coming up with another P250,000 contribution from James and Carol Lafferty.   

“I have just learned of the plans of PSC to reward me with a 250,000 pesos incentive for breaking the Asian Record. However, on the flight back to Italy, it occurred to me that despite my own training needs, Ma[a]m Lydia needs this money more than I do,” wrote Obiena on his Facebook account. 

Obiena, the first-ever Filipino athlete to stand at the podium of the World Athletics Championships, described the gesture as a way of giving back his “debt of gratitude” to the forerunners of Philippine athletics–including the “legendary Lydia De Vega”.

“I am also here today because I am standing on the shoulders of giants; the legends of Philippines Athletics who paved a way for me. I thank them for the route they have forged for us competing today,” he penned, referring to De Vega, one of the country's reps to the first-ever World Championships in 1983.

A product of the Gintong Alay Program in the 80s, the track legend spearheaded the country's glory years in track-and-field and was dubbed the ‘Asia's fastest woman’ during her reign.

"I have met Mam Lydia in Singapore on many occasions, and she has always been [a] kind, supportive and loving individual," Obiena added, coupled with his pictures with the track icon in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.

Team Obiena (EJ, James, and Carol Lafferty) had De Vega’s support during his pole vault competition in the Singapore SEA Games. | Photo Courtesy of EJ Obiena (Facebook)

De Vega’s daughter Stephanie on July 20 took to social media to ask for financial support and prayers for the decorated track athlete, who is in critical condition with Stage 4 breast cancer complications.

It was also found out that the disease progressed, and her condition declined despite undergoing several procedures, including brain surgery.  

Photo Courtesy of @paneng_mercado (Instagram)

Stephanie revealed De Vega was diagnosed in 2018 and had been battling in silence since then. De Vega even carried the Federation flag with fellow Filipino legendary athletes at the 2019 Manila SEA Games Parade in Philippine Arena.  

"We hope this makes a difference and gives Ma[a]m Lydia added strength to battle this horrible disease," Obiena continued. 

Help Is On Its Way

Meanwhile, financial help and prayers from the sports community keep on pouring for De Vega, with Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascariñas already pledging P250,000 to her family.  

“Madame Lydia is a living legend in Philippine sports. During her heyday, she was someone we looked up to as she broke barriers for the Filipina athletes,” said Mascariñas.

Olympians Eumir Marcial and Onyok Velasco handed the check to De Vega’s daughter and son-in-law, who in turn expressed their sincere gratitude for the support they continue to receive.

“Sobrang heartwarming because hindi naman kaila sa atin na my mom left for Singapore to work there. Ngayon kasama na natin siya. We are very happy at we are very thankful sa lahat ng sumusuporta sa kaniya at tumutulong para maka-recover siya,” Stephanie said in a Chooks-to-Go statement.

Edited by Kyla Balatbat