By Patrick Van Wersch
for MindaNews .
They know I will not always be there to guide them and it would be my failure if I don’t teach them well. Students are a reflection of their sensei. I would love to see them become sensei themselves and start their own karate dojo.”
Jessica Hojas Esparrago feels strongly about molding her student so they can pass on the principles of karate. “I consider them the result of my creation. They are my product. That’s why I always treat my students as my children. I never discourage them and I’m never harsh. I create an atmosphere in which they feel safe to tell me what they are thinking about and if they are having problems.”
In 2015, Xavier University hosted the first-ever Mindanao Peace Games (MPG), a Mindanao-wide movement of schools and universities from all six regions that strives to create a better sports culture that is carried by transformative community leaders. A year later, in General Santos City, Esparrago and her student-athletes participated in MPG for the first time—and it was a memorable experience.
“For my athletes to see other women from schools from all over Mindanao competing in different sports sensitizes them to what unites us all as the peoples of Mindanao. That year, and during the MPGs that followed, they made a lot of friends from other schools. They learned how to better speak in public and approach people. They are already looking forward to next year’s MPG,” Esparrago said.
She learns a lot from being a part of the Mindanao Peace Games herself as well. “Through different MPG events and gatherings, such as coaches’ forums and the Discovery Leadership Program, I gained confidence and leadership skills. Those help me to organize tournaments and forums myself. In the world of karate in the Philippines, especially in the nationals, I’m basically the only woman coaching. I am proud and I want to empower women in coaching. MPG, and the platforms in sports it has created, showcase to young women that they too can do that.” (To be continued)