In Philippine sports where financial support is hard to come by, it is quite difficult to find somebody who would go out of his way to lend his resources, his time and his guidance to young, impressionable but talented athletes.
Fortunately, the members of the Kasilawan Taekwondo Club in Makati have someone like Carlo Batalla.
But unlike most sports godfathers, Carlo is no stranger to the world of Philippine sports.
A muay thai and judo practitioner himself since he was 15 years old, Carlo was also one of the major figures behind the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Sports from 1987 to 1991.
As Pagcor’s point man in sports, Carlo was responsible in channeling support for several sports events such as golf, tennis, bowling and chess and for other sports organizations, which asks Pagcor for financial backing.
“Marami na rin kaming natulungan nu’ng time na ‘yun, pati na rin ‘yung mga lumalapit sa amin para humingi ng support, mga basketball tournaments at iba pang sports,” Carlo recalls.
After his stint in Pagcor, Carlo went into politics (he was a provincial board member of Camarines Sur LGU) and later on as secretary-general of the Citizens Crime Watch, but he had never abandoned his passion for sports.
Fast forward to the present, Carlo finds himself an ‘accidental’ godfather to several future taekwondo champions, most of whom are based in Makati City.
The Kasilawan jins used to hold their practices at the Makati Coliseum, but when the jins and their coach Isagani Domingo crossed paths with Carlo, a partnership soon blossomed between the jins and their future sports godfather.
In 2017, Carlo sort of adopted the Kasilawan jins, offering his newly-built Carlos 2 gym in Olympia St. to be their permanent practice venue.
Carlo actually owns two ‘non-profit’ gyms both named after his eldest child, Carlos Rafael: Carlos 1, located along Pio del Pilar St., and Carlos 2.
The decision to adopt the Kasilawan jins was made easier, not only because of Carlo’s passion for martial arts and sports in general, but also because his children happen to be taekwondo players.
“Malaking bagay din na naglalaro din ng taekwondo ang mga anak ko. At saka hindi ko talaga maiwanan ang sports,” Carlo says.
Aside from the 12-year-old Carlos Rafael, his daughters Serena, 11 and Tatiana, 8 are active taekwondo jins. Tatiana, the youngest, is also a champion swimmer and a budding basketball player.
Aside from the Batalla kids, the Kasilawan Taekwondo Club boasts of some of the country’s topnotch jins, including champion jins Kristiana Catalina Tiu, Carlos Palanca Jr., Justin Agno, Aldrich Vincent Paul Merin, Charles Benjamin Gavan, gold medalist Victor Rodriguez, Patrick Odrada Rafael Ongkiko, Marco Julio Tiu and Diana Supangan.
Other promising jins under Kasilawan’s fold include Lavaine Ashanty Valeroso, Pearl Angeline Torrico, Lex Provido and Kenji Uchida.
Aside from stamping their mark in local and international tournaments, most of the Kasilawan jins have been taken in as athletic scholars by their respective schools, something which they all thank for.
In a recent press forum held by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports at the National Press Club, the jins expressed their gratitude for their burgeoning career as student-athletes to their godfather, a sentiment shared by coach Gani.
“Si Sir Carlos (Batalla) po ang aming ‘godfather’. ‘Yung suporta po niya ay naging daan para mas maging mas competitive ang aming mga atleta sa Kasilawan. Taos-puso po kaming nagpapasalamat sa kanya.”
On June 8, the Kasilawan jins will once again see action at the Smart New Face Taekwondo tournament at the Music Room of the Mall of Asia, and needless to say, Carlo Batalla will be there not only to lend his support, but also to boost the jins’ morale as they continue their journey towards becoming future world-class jins.
Asked what is his ultimate goal for his jins, Carlo simply says: “The goal is the gold medal in the Olympics.”
The road to the Olympic gold medal is long and hard, but with the jins’ perseverance and skills, and Carlo’s undying support, nothing, really, is impossible.