Just like when he successfully vaults a pole, EJ Obiena also inspires us in the way he overcomes life’s hurdles and stands for what’s right and true.
Recently, one of the people that’s been embodying the meaning of “Pinoy Pride” triumphantly is the Filipino pole vault sensation, EJ Obiena. Making consecutive podium finishes (four golds, two silvers, and one bronze) in seven out of his eight competitions for his indoor season, the Olympian, two-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist, and Asian record holder carried the flag to greatest heights. Add to that historic win at the World Athletics Championships (first Filipino to win a medal) last year in Oregon and indeed, EJ is a national treasure.
But as you may all be aware of, it has not always been a smooth sailing journey for the world’s third best pole vaulter. From facing unfair allegations from his own sports association to repeatedly suffering financial woes that threaten the future of his career, EJ has been through a lot of obstacles that have put his will to test. Yet always, EJ leaves us proud as he overcomes these challenges with that same grit every time he jumps the pole. Below are some of the moments that shows why EJ Obiena is the ultimate inspiration for all of us.
STANDING UP FOR TRUTH
It was in late 2021 when EJ Obiena was accused by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) of allegedly falsifying liquidations of his coaches’ salary expenses and was even recommended to be charged for swindling. You can just imagine how demoralizing it was for EJ, who was preparing for his next season at the time, to be attacked and unfairly treated by his own sports federation and to be judged by the public without due process. This dispute even went as far as PATAFA threatening EJ to be dropped from its roster of athletes and to stop competing for the country.
But EJ, thanks to his solid resolve and determination, courageously stood up for truth and never kept the public in the dark about it. Even when pressured to keep silent, he did not waver in informing his fellow Filipinos and shedding light on the said issue with grit and integrity. As you may all know, the celebrated pole vaulter has eventually succeeded in this battle even amid the stress and pain of his reputation being put at stake. “My every jump is my defiance to everything that is wrong in the sport,” says EJ Obiena. “[It is] an affirmation that the Filipino is tough, enduring, loyal and will stand up for what is right and true.”
Another quality of EJ Obiena that makes him beloved by the nation is his being open and vocal about his struggles as an athlete. Not only does he let us celebrate with him during his successful stints, but also keep us abreast of the problems that he encounters along the way. Just like earlier this month, when he took to online to share that because of logistical and financial reasons, he will be unable to participate in the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan, one of the supposed highlights of EJ’s indoor season. While brokenhearted to break the news, EJ’s tenacity still shines as he looks forward to his future competitions with optimism and hope, and continue to bring honor to his nation.
The dedicated and decorated athlete that he is, EJ Obiena deserves all the best support that he can get. But even after experiencing unjust treatment by his mother organization and being encouraged by concerned Filipinos to consider international offers to achieve his full potential, EJ remains committed to carry the Philippine flag. “I see these statements on social media and active encouragement to switch allegiances,” shares EJ. “But this is not who I am and why I do this. I want to win for the Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us.”
A MAN OF INTEGRITY
Even when the going gets tougher, EJ Obiena never forgets to stay humble and honorable. After posting about his inability to join the Asian Indoor Championships, EJ received an outpouring of support, with some even willing to help him in his finances. And while appreciative of their support, EJ recognizes that these supporters are the same Filipino taxpayers who have already contributed to his expenses. And that it would be questionable and unethical to be “double dipping” and taking advantage of others’ kindness. What an honorable Filipino indeed.
A TRUE INSPIRATION
While busy collecting medals and reaping the fruits of his effort, EJ Obiena takes the time to impart lessons he’s learned throughout his own challenging journey. And there’s no other better person to get these wise words from than the man who’s been through it all. “Even if it’s a tough path and uphill, go forward, don’t stand still,” declares EJ in one of his “My Pole Vault Life Lesson” posts. “Take a step, one at a time. You’ll be amazed [by] how far you’ve come.” Take it from the man who has steadfastly jumped over life’s hurdles and landed ever so successfully.