“GOOOOOOOOOOAL!” cheered the crowd as the whistle blew to signal a score for GK Smokey Mountain FC. It was impossible not to see the contagious joy glowing from everyone’s eyes during the first Gawad Kalinga SipaG Futbol Festival, which was held last May 12 at the Marine Barracks football field in Fort Bonifacio. Over 500 youth participants from 10 GK sites were chosen for this year’s program. This was no ordinary football league however, because more than giving kids the opportunity to play football, it’s a program that gives hope and teaches kids that their dreams can actually be a reality.
No one knows this better than Gaudin Maasin, a young man from Bayawan City, Negros Oriental who gave a shot against all odds for his dreams to come true. “Sulti-an tika sa tinuod. Sauna, ga trabaho rakog bukid, mang-guna, mangahoy ug maghimog uling (To be honest, I used to work in the field taking out weeds, collecting wood and making charcoal).” He smiled as he recalled how he started football at the young age of 12. “Kita man ko sa news naa’y bata nga nakakuha ug scholarship kay bansay siya muduwa ug football. Didto nako nagsugod ug practice kada adlaw. Bisag ako-ako ra gud(I saw in the news that there was a kid who got a scholarship because he was good at playing football. That was when I started practicing everyday, even when I had to do it alone)."
During one of his practice sessions, the coach for the city’s football team came up to Gaudin and asked him if he would like to practice with Team Bayawan City. This was the first of many opportunities that came his way. Gaudin later on became an official member of the Bayawan Team, scoring several winning goals for his hometown as the star striker. At the end of his Senior year, he was drafted into the Palarong Pambansa team.
This was when a GK Full Time Worker informed his coach about an available college scholarship for football players. He was conflicted because the review sessions for the college entrance exams were on the same dates as the Palarong Pambansa, but he eventually decided to grab the opportunity. “Ang kaning scholarship kausa ra mahitabo sa akong kinabuhi. Gipangutana dayun ko ni Kuya Joseph, Palaro o future nimo? Didto nako gipangutana akong kaugalingun, igka human sa palaro, unsa naman? (This scholarship will only come once in a lifetime. Kuya Joseph asked me, will you prioritize the Palaro or your future? That was when I asked myself – after I go to Nationals,
Gaudin’s decision paid off and he now has a full scholarship from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. He’s well on his way to living the dream, and when asked if he had a message for other kids like him, he says “Ibutang ang football sa heart. Pasalamat sa Diyos. Ug paningkamot jud. Dili ka kinahanglan bright ug talentado para mukab-ot ug damgo, Sipag lang ang kailangan (Put football in your heart, thank God, and persevere. You don’t have to be smart or talented to reach your dreams, you just need to work hard).”
Gaudin’s story is just one of many, and it’s a story that can be a beacon of hope for everyone. To the hundreds of children who have dreams like Gaudin’s, know that that it is within your power to reach for these dreams. And to the partners, workers and volunteers who form Team GK, let us remember that it is within our power to create a pathway for these children to reach their dreams. In the words of Gaudin himself, SIPAG LANG ANG KAILANGAN!