MANILA – Philippine javelin queen Erlinda Lavandia believes that age has no limitations. No wonder, she’s still competitive at 70.
“I have a formula in life, I call it my 3Ds — dedication, determination and discipline. I have been following the formula all these years,” said Lavandia on how she keeps her winning form, in an interview on Saturday.
“I am thankful to the Lord that at my age of 70, I am physically fit and no synthetic maintenance at all,” she added.
Last December, Lavandia brought home three medals — two golds (javelin throw and discus throw) and one silver (shot put) — from the Kuala Lumpur International Masters Athletics Championships in Malaysia.
A month before, she ruled the javelin throw, discus throw, hammer throw and shot put events at the Philippine Masters International Athletics Championships held on November 11-12 in Philsports, Pasig City.
“I always do my best in every competition. Every victory is special for me because I know that I’m doing it for my country,” said the soft-spoken Lavandia, who has been living at the Teachers Camp in Baguio City since 1979.
“Right now, I am busy training for the many tournaments lined up this year. The last is the ASEAN Masters which will be held here but there is no schedule yet,” she said.
Lavandia was born on April 9, 1952 in Barangay Marga, Tubod town in Surigao del Norte province.
She is the eldest and the only athlete among eight children (four girls and four boys) of Pedro Lavandia Sr. and Eutequia Bacasnot.
She studied at Tubod Elementary School (elementary), Surigao Del Norte National High School (secondary) and earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Education degree from Surigao Del Norte School of Arts and Trade.
It was during her senior year in high school in 1972 when she was recruited for the national team by then Surigao del Norte Governor Jose Sering.
Sering, the president of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA), was impressed with Lavandia, who won the gold medal in the javelin throw at the Northern Mindanao Meet in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental and the Palarong Pambansa in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
“I got into the national team because of Governor Sering. He saw my unique strength. He developed my talent and pushed me to be the best,” shared the 5-foot-4 Lavandia, a gold medalist at the Pesta Sukan Meet in Singapore, her first international tournament.
While still with the elite team, Lavandia also joined the Masters in both world and continental competitions.
“I was able to join the Masters tournaments because the age eligibility is 35 years old and above,” said the three-time World Masters champion.
She bagged 12 gold medals at the Asian Masters from 1992 to 2016.
She tried other sports but got hooked on athletics.
“Actually, my first sport was baseball, I was a catcher. I also played volleyball. Then I tried athletics, my first coach was Lotheo Seftimo, a PE teacher from Surigao Del Norte School of Arts and Trade where I studied after graduating from high school,” recalled Lavandia, who admired Asia’s sprint champion Lydia de Vega.
She has collected nine medals, including three consecutive golds at the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG), six gold medals at the ASEAN Meet, and nine gold medals in various Invitational tournaments abroad as a member of the elite national team from 1972 to 1997.
“I liked athletics because I saw the opportunity to help my family, since I am the eldest of the siblings. So I kept my focus on athletics,” she stated.
After many years of hard work, Lavandia soon became successful in her chosen career and most importantly, she achieved what she had wanted for her loved ones.
“What I consider the most memorable in my life as an athlete is that I was able to lift my family out of poverty and send my siblings to school,” she said.
“If I didn’t become an athlete, I wouldn’t have finished my education and I wouldn’t have become a police officer. I would probably be a typical farmer in our province,” said Lavandia, who retired as a police captain in 2008.
Learning from her experience, she encouraged aspiring athletes to never give up on their dreams.
“Focus on your dreams and goals in life. You can overcome whatever difficulties as long as you don’t forget the “3 Ds” formula and of course, humility in everything you do,” said Lavandia, who expressed her gratitude to former Gintong Alay head and now Laoag City Mayor Michael Marcos Keon, the chairpersons and commissioners of the Philippine Sports Commission, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and Benguet Governor Melchor Daguines Diclas.
When asked to comment on the bigger allowances and incentives given by the government to current athletes, Lavandia said, “I am happy for them because the money is a big help to their families.”
“Back then, my incentive was small but I was happy and contented,” she said. “Athletes should always appreciate what they receive, whether big or small.” (PNA)