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Riding high for the Philippines

By Jojo G. Silvestre


Congratulations to the Philippine team that beat the Malaysian riders in the inaugural Equestrian Philippine Riders Tour 2019 this recent weekend at the Manila Polo Club (MPC) in Makati City.

With our own Paola Lorenzo outdoing two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Nabil Ismail in the 1.20-meter class, the Philippines made it as the overall champion in this milestone equestrian event organized by Equestrian Philippines headed by our dear friend, Carissa Coscolluela.

Just as resolute in their quest for victory were the other members of the Philippine team, namely, Nicole Camcam of the Philippines who outdid Faridah Baharum of Malaysia in the 1.00-meter class; and Alex Ynares Villalon of the Philippines who, in turn, overcame Sophia Johari of Malaysia in the .75-meter class.

Playing just as determined and confident were Lara Zobel in the 1.10-meter class, Mohammed El Akkad in the .90 meter-class and Minxie Romualdez in the .65-meter class, all of them contributing to the over-all points that contributed to our victory.



I must mention that Joker Arroyo, herself a champion in international competitions, was responsible for training the team for this dual meet which brought in the Manila Polo Club set in full force.

Only a few days before the competition, I had the rare privilege of meeting the team at the Last Chukker at the Manila Polo Club. Other than being exuberant, which was obvious, they were also quite fun and candid, sharing with me their experiences as riders, and how they all wanted to do the Philippine team proud.

The recent Equestrian Philippine Riders Tour was the first in a series that we can expect under Carissa’s progressive and inimitable leadership. I am told that with Carissa giving more of her time to strengthening riding, among other equestrian sports, in the Philippines, there has been a surge in young people’s interest in taking riding lessons, which says a lot about the drawing power of this woman achiever who has proven her mettle even in her volunteer work at the Philippine Red Cross and her brief stint as a legislator. Well, what can one say, but congratulations to Carissa, Joker and the whole team.

Here are the team members, talking about their lives as winners.

If one wants to keep smiling or laughing, one should be in the company of Nicole Camcam, who seems to see the humor in a lot of things. She sounded very chummy not only with me but also the Daily Tribune photographer, which negates the common perception about the horsey crowd being snooty. Nicole is very friendly and confident. She was Young Dressage Rider of the year 2017 at the Manila Polo Club. In the USA, she was recognized as the Young Show Jumper of the year in a Red Diamond Horse Show.





Nicole shares that her grandmother, the incomparable Edna Camcam, loves sharing with friends stories about her granddaughter’s wins in riding tournaments, which could be embarrassing for Nicole. But then, grandmothers will always be grandmothers. Nicole, of course, would always want to share with the family matriarch the joy of “flying over every jump in the course” whenever she rides.

Lara Zobel is married to Jake, the son of Inigo and Maricris who, of course, need no further introduction.

Lara’s father found a job in the Philippines when he was 19 and never left. He married a Maryknoller of Filipino-Chinese descent, making Lara’s roots quite an interesting mix. Lara first rode at Wright Park in Baguio, fell in love with the horse, named Amigo, and she would not leave Baguio unless they brought him home to Manila. Her father and the horse owner could not agree on the price, so it would be much later when she finally got her own horse.

She went to college in Australia where she went not only riding but also surfing. She and Jake also dated and when they returned to the Philippines, they eventually married. Lara, thus, is a mother and counts among her blessing having a mother-in-law, Maricris, who plays surrogate mother to her and Jake’s children whenever she is out of the country competing. Well, some daughters-in-law have all the luck. But from day to day, Lara plays the role of the usual mother who drives her daughter to school. She also makes sure to be home at noontime because “Jake always comes home for lunch.” She was Manila Polo Club Rider of the Year in 2002.

Paola de Leon Lorenzo is the daughter of Martin and Leah Lorenzo. They used to own the Pancake House, remember? Today, the family owns the Luisita Sugar Central in Tarlac where her brothers, assist their father.

She started riding in Bukidnon at age nine. She saw a lot of riding because her three brothers rode, one of them winning a gold medal for the country in the Southeast Asian Games. She actually rides with her brothers, from whom she would get some coaching too whenever she is competing.

Paola, once Show Jumper of the Year at the Manila Polo Club, loves going to Mass. She says that a lot of her motivation “comes from wanting to win.”

Alex Ynares Villalon, you guessed it right, belongs to the Ynares family of Rizal. Her grandmother is the governor of Rizal.

Alex started riding in the company of her dad, himself a polo player. This was in San Francisco where her mother was enrolled in a fashion school.

She is now in her senior year at the International School of Manila and is applying to universities abroad. She divides her time between riding at the Manila Polo Club and soccer in school. For both sports, she trains every day, while making sure to study as well.

Mohammed El Akkad is from Cairo, Egypt, although he had been staying in Germany for eight years before transferring to Manila where, today, he works for Lamudi.

He rides four times a week, and admits to enjoying the adrenaline rush when he is participating in competitions.

He loves to travel and, of his local trips, he has tremendously enjoyed Cebu, Zambales and Legazpi.

Minxie Romualdez was only six years old when she started riding.

A student at the International School Manila, she enjoys her English and Writing subjects. She practices every evening after school, after which she proceeds home for their family dinner which is always around 7:30. She eats a lot of carbs and vegetables.

Minxie has been playing the violin since she was eight years old. She likes the singer Shawn Mendes.

Again, congratulations to all of you!

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