A small town kid with big ambitions, this is what best describes 17-year old Ronaldo “Nald” Dapena who is one of the members of the Cagayan Valley Regional Athletic Association (CAVRAA) football team. He came from San Antonio, Delfin Albano, Isabela, which is considered as one of the poorest barrios in the area. The third of five siblings, Nald’s father works as a farmer while his mother works part-time at a local bakery.
“Medyo mahirap din po ang buhay namin pero kahit paano po nakakaraos naman po kami sa pang araw-araw at kung may pagkakataon, tumutulong din po ako sa aking ama sa bukid,” says Nald.
Aware of their difficulties in life, Nald often finds solace in playing the sport he fell in love with at a young age, “Ten years old pa lang, naglalaro na ako ng football at madalas akong sumali sa Intramurals sa school. Nakapaglaro na din po ako sa mga Provincial Meets. Doon po ako nadiskubre ng coach po namin ngayon na si Mr. Alexander Tabubuca," says Nald.
With continuous mentoring and guidance, Nald’s game continued to improve and develop along with his team mates. With dedication and team work, they became the champions in CAVRAA Meet where they won P15,000 and were qualified for this year’s Palarong Pambansa.
Not resting on his laurels, Nald used his P1,000 share of the cash gift to apply for an NC II for Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) at the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA). Asked if he was hesitant to let go of his prized money given their financial situation, “Alam kong para sa gaya namin, malaking pera na ang P1,000, pero wala naman akong panghihinayang sa ginawa ko dahil magagamit ko din iyon para sa aking kinabukasan," he said. By investing his money wisely, he is now a proud holder of an NC II certificate.
Everything seems to be going well for Nald until a little bump on the road temporarily stopped him in his track. In preparation for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, all the delegates were required to train in Tuguegarao City, a place far and unfamiliar for Nald and his parents. All his life, he has only competed in his home province. Playing on a much farther venue meant additional expenses for Nald and his family, although the fare is only P50. Just when Nald was about to throw in the towel, coach Tabucaca came to the rescue.
“Pumunta si coach sa bahay namin at sinabi sa mga magulang ko na siya na ang bahala sa pamasahe ko at titingin sa akin habang nasa malayo ako para hindi na sila mag-alala,” Nald recalls smiling.
Believing in Nald’s potential as a good football player, there was no way Coach Tabubuca would let that go to waste. “Sayang naman ang talent ng bata kung hindi siya mabibigyan ng opportunity para mahasa sa sport na mahal niya, masipag naman at mabait kaya hindi ako makapapayag na mawala sa kanya ang oportunidad na makasali sa Palarong Pambansa,” said Tabubuca.
When asked if Nald plans to further his football career, “Gusto ko po sanang ipagpatuloy itong football, makuha sa mataas na paaralan, makakuha ng scholarship, at matupad ang aking pangarap na maging propesyonal na football player. Pero tanggap ko din naman po na maaring hindi rin siya mangyari kaya iyon din po ang dahilan kaya kumuha ako ng SMAW. Hindi ko man maabot ang aking pangarap sa buhay at least po secure naman ang aking kinabukasan dahil may NC II na ako na maari kong magamit upang makakuha ng magandang trabaho at makatulong sa aking mga magulang at kapatid,” says Nald.