Ernie Gawilan worked as a housekeeper in Samal Island in Davao del Norte. He is a gold medalist in the Asian Para Games for the swimming event. In his first encounter with water, swimming coach Jude Corpuz took notice of his habit of visiting the ocean during his free time. Corpuz took notice of Gawilan’s habit, and decided to train him under the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) team. Since then, doors were opened to Gawilan to compete at the 2008 Philippine Olympic Festival.
The remarkable performance of Gawilan caught the attention of Arnel Aba, the first placer who invited him to join the national team. The result of this are the countless competitions and achievements that Gawilan has achieved during his tenure as a member of the national team.
About a decade has passed and in 2019, Gawilan bagged the silver medal for the 400m freestyle finals at the Singapore World Para Swimming World Series. He continues to bring pride to the Philippines and the paralympic community because he is qualified to once again represent the country at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Using his background as an inspiration, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) started a 10-day swim clinic that encourages aspiring swimmers, aged 6 to 14 years old, to dive into the pool and start their athletic journey. The program is under the “Start Your Impossible” initiative, one that seeks to help empower people and communities to spark change through the power of mobility.
Gawilan is TMP’s ambassador during the opening program. He was accompanied by Philippine Para-Athlete Swim Team coach, Tony Ong. Gawilan delivered a message to the aspirants, stating that they should pursue their dreams despite the challenges in life. He cited his own personal experience as an example, and even demonstrated some of his own techniques to the clinic’s students. After the program, a graduation ceremony lauded students who performed remarkably based on the evaluation of swimming coaches.
We started this program to help the children take the first step in pursuing their dreams. Just like how our Start Your Impossible Hero Ernie Gawilan started his athletic journey with humble beginnings, we hope that we have inspired the kids to continue and persevere after finishing our program.
The “Start Your Impossible” campaign was launched with the vision of mobility for all. The initiative highlights the paralympic athletes who are on the pursuit of excellence through hard work and determination without being limited by challenges.