World champ in the making

Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan

JENIFER Sumagang Kilapio, 16, has been blessed with so much athleticism that she already tried playing volleyball, taekwondo and karatedo before making up her mind to embrace Wushu Sanda.

She surprised not only herself when she captured a bronze in the 2015 Batang Pinoy National Championships then followed it up with a golden finish in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa in Legazpi City with barely two years of learning Wushu Sanda.

Kilapio’s Palaro feat, thus, earned her a spot to the national training pool in Manila where she is currently based.

The sport of Wushu Sanda was first launched in Davao City in 2011 by the Wushu Federation of the Philippines-Davao chapter in partnership with the King's Sword Martial Arts at Gaisano Mall.

The King's Sword Wushu Sanda Team of Davao City emerged overall champion and gold medalist Evita Zamora was selected to join the national team that eventually led her to compete in the Southeast Asian Games 2013 en-route to clinching a silver medal.

Jenifer is currently taking the path that Zamora has started and opened for Dabawenyos in this sport that King's Sword Martial Arts chief instructor Nell Jone Astudillo described as Chinese kickboxing.

"In Wushu Sanda, punches in the body and head is allowed, kicks in the thigh, body and head is allowed as well as throwing and stand-up wrestling. It is played on a Wushu Sanda platform with gears like boxing gloves, body protector, head gear and groin protector," Astudillo said.

Jenifer's background in taekwondo and karatedo easily helped her adjust to Wushu Sanda that she has grown to love. Deciding to leave her parents Leonardo, a vendor, and Emma, a house helper, in their Agdao home to study and train in Manila is one major sacrifice for the family as she is the couple's only child.

She is a Grade 9 student at Pasay City North High School Tramo Campus and is residing at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) athletes' dormitory in Malate, Manila.

Kilapio trains from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily and attends her classes from 12 noon to 7 p.m. Her tiring daily routine, however, only motivates her to give her best as she has learned to enjoy the life of being a student-athlete, a dream Jenifer had since she was nine.

Her family, coach Nell and God inspire her to be resilient in her dream despite the many challenges she face every single day.

Her ultimate dream though is to be able to share the Gospel just like his sports idol Senator Manny Pacquiao.

"Ang astig kasi ng story nya sa buhay (His life is so cool)," Kilapio said.

Jenifer's brand of discipline and dedication will indeed be stepping stones for a more colorful and successful campaigns ahead.