Pinoy heroes carry Olympic torch in Manchester

Posted at 06/26/2012 2:27 PM | Updated as of 06/27/2012 1:30 PM

MANCHESTER - As the Olympic torch relay makes its way towards the second largest city in the UK, two local heroes all the way from the Philippines came to take their spot in the limelight as they carried the sporting symbol closer to the London Games.

Mother of two Marcy Reyes at the start of her Olympic torch relay in Whitefield near Manchester in honor of her relentless charity work in the Philippines

Manila-based Joven Mallo and Marcy Reyes from the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) in the Philippines bested over 28,000 nominees to secure a place as one of the lucky 8,000 torch bearers from around the world.

Following a grueling selection process scrutinizing their character, professional career, and personal achievements, the Filipino torch bearers impressed the selection panel from LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games) for outstanding contribution to their local community.

“I’m just a simple person. I didn’t think I will end up here in the UK. This is a one-in-a-million lifetime experience for me, so words are not enough to express the happiness in my heart,” said Reyes, an executive housekeeper in Holiday Inn in Metro Manila.

Mallo, a sales and service assistant from Crowne Plaza, added: “I’m so happy. Of the millions of people in the world, especially in the Philippines, why were we chosen for this? Perhaps it’s God’s purpose to bless us with this opportunity.”

Proudly representing the Philippines, both runners hope their achievement will send a positive message, emphasizing the importance of hope, humility and community service.

“Try to do good deeds, and if you do, don’t expect anything in return. Just do the right thing for the sake of your fellow human being,” said Mallo, originally from Cotabato.

Reyes, who is married with two children, added: “The torch represents unity, peace and friendship, so I’m offering this to all my fellow Filipinos. There may be a lot of economic and political crises in the Philippines, but we should not focus on the negatives. Instead we should look at how we can contribute to developing our nation. Let’s not waste opportunities, because the Philippines is a good country.”

Local heroes

Joven Mallo carried the Olympic torch in Bury near Manchester in recognition of his heroic act during typhoon Ondoy in the Philippines

The Filipino torch bearers were nominated by their employer, IHG Manila, which spotted the life stories of both employees. The company itself, a sponsor of the London Games, held a worldwide search for worthy employees to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay in the UK. Mallo and Reyes were among the chosen few, beating 1,000 other nominees from the international IHG group.

Mallo was chosen for his heroic act during typhoon Ondoy in September 2009, when he saved the life of an elderly neighbor as floods hit parts of Quezon City.

Reyes, on the other hand, is being recognized for her extensive charity work, including running marathons for environmental causes, getting involved in social projects by IHG, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and feeding street children in Pasig City.

Warm welcome

The pair travelled from Manila to Manchester to take part in Day 36 of the torch relay between Blackpool and Manchester, each running 350 yards in the towns of Bury and Whitefield in northwest England, where Filipinos proudly welcomed their fellow countrymen.

“We’re very proud. Well done, Filipinos. This is good for our nation. Filipinos excel wherever they may be,” enthused Jay Duenas, a local nurse who came out with his family to witness the event.

“We’re very excited. This is the first time for us to experience the Olympics and the torch relay right here in our area. It’s a once in a lifetime event. We’re happy that the Pinoy torch bearers made it to the UK because this is our adopted country and we’re very proud.”

The runners also received a warm welcome from the local British community who lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of local and international heroes bearing the Olympic torch.

“I’m really happy. People here are welcoming on the whole. Sometimes people think English people can be a bit cold, but most of us are welcoming,” said Mike Hancock, a local British resident involved in the day’s festivities.

Kay Richmond from The Rock shopping and leisure center, part of the relay route in Bury, also added: "A huge welcome to all of them. We're glad to share this with the world. It's a huge historic event".

The 70-day Olympic Torch Relay in the UK started at Land’s End in Cornwall in May, slowly making its way towards Stratford in East London in time for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics on July 27.

Apart from Mallo and Reyes, three other inspirational Filipinos will carry the torch as it continues its tour of Olympic host nation, namely: British-Filipino entrepreneur and youth leader Stephen Cheung, UK-based caregiver Apol Enteria, and US-based cancer survivor Rodolfo Carlos.