Filipino figure skater Michael Christian Martinez arrived in Manila yesterday, February 23, at around 4:30 P.M., straight from his stint at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, he and his entourage proceeded to the SM Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City, where he was welcomed by a throng of fans, waiting for his motorcade to pass by.
At around 6:30 P.M. he ended up at the SM Mall of Asia skating rink, where more fans and members of the media have settled to witness the awarding ceremony and followed by a press conference.
LIFETIME PRIVILEGE. As many may know by now, Michael began his journey to professional figure skating by playing at the skating rink of SM Southmall.
He was only eight years old when he first gained interest in the sport, after seeing a number of kids playing in the rink while he shopped with his mother at the mall.
It was there that Michael first discovered his talent and passion for figure skating, and in 2005, he began to train professionally at the SM Megamall and SM Mall of Asia branches.
SM Lifestyle Entertainment Inc. president Ed Tejereros said in a speech: "Being a champion is not easy. He suffered injuries, like torn ligaments and fractured ankle; but despite his young age, he never gave up.
"He continued to dream, which paid off in consistently winning gold medals in Asian skating challenges.
"The turning point was when he qualified for the Sochi Olympics in Germany, and the rest was history.
"Rest assured that SM Skating and the SM Group of Companies will continue to support you.
"May you continue to inspire people to dream and realize their dreams with hardwork and dedication."
With that, the company awarded Michael with a Lifetime Privilege at all SM skating rinks.
Along with that, he was also given a gift of $10,000 (US Dollars), plus gift certificates and cash cards from other businesses owned by the company.
HONORARY CITIZEN OF PASAY. Having spent some of his training years at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, Mayor Antonino Calixto says that Michael has brought pride and honor to his place.
So, to return the honor, he awarded the young athlete with a certification as an honorary citizen of the city.
GRATEFUL FOR SUPPORT. Throughout the afternoon's activities, Michael seemed more elated than tired from his 13-hour flight.
He was obviously very happy to see his fans that he missed some of the question during the press conference. At times, he got preoccupied signing autographs and waving hello to his supporters.
In his prepared speech, the 17-year-old wonder thanked all the people who supported him through his Sochi journey.
In particular, he thanked the SM group for their unwavering support. He also credited the Philippine Skating Union, the Philippine Olympic Committe, and the Philippine Sports Commission for the help they extended.
He also thanked his family for being there for him, especially during the times that he had to recuperate from his injuries prior to Sochi.
Michael said: "What I have done in Sochi is the same effort that you can bet that our other athletes have done in the Summer Olympics. Nothing different.
"I may be the first Filipino in the Winter Olympics, but I'm not the first to represent the country in the world stage.
"I'm extremely happy with the Hero's Welcome, but let's not stop at calling all our athletes heroes.
"I therefore share this honor and glory to all the Filipino athletes. Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino! Mabuhay ang mga atleta!"
MESSAGE FOR MALACAÑANG. Meanwhile, during the press conference, Michael's mother, Ma. Teresa Martinez, refused to give a comment on the alleged neglect of the government to provide assistance for her son's trip to Sochi.
When asked by a reporter to clarify whether or not she did mortgage their house in Parañaque to shoulder the expenses, Mrs. Martinez signaled to emcee Patricia Hizon that she'd rather not answer the question.
Patricia, on the other hand, made an adlib and said: "Thank you for that question. Of course, we all know that the mom of Michael Christian Martinez has always gone all-out for her son.
"Lahat naman tayong mga ina gagawin ang lahat para sa mga anak natin, tama?"
But in an ambush interview after the conference proper, Mrs. Martinez gave this response when asked if she has any message for the people in Malacañang, who reportedly did not receive a letter from Mrs. Martinez asking for financial support: "Okay lang. Ang importante lang naman alam ng lahat na sumulat ako. Iyon lang iyon."
MICHAEL CHRISTIAN MARTINEZ SHOWS. On February 27, Michael will fly out again to the US to continue his training and prepare for the upcoming Junior World Championships to be held in Bulgaria on March 13 to 15.
Before he leaves the country, Michael will perform and meet his fans on February 24, 4:00 PM, at the SM Southmall; and on February 25, 12:00 PM, at the SM Mall of Asia, and 4:00 PM at SM Megamall.