ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Her trainers encouraged her to wear running shoes to protect her feet.
However, the 11-year-old Rhea Bullos still preferred to walk barefoot.
"It's as if something is holding my feet back," she told the detective in Hiligaynon.
The athlete from the city of Balasan won five gold medals at various athletics events at the 2019 Iloilo School Sports Council (ISSC) meeting that ended on Friday.
In the Elementary Girls category of this event, she was declared the most visited athlete.
Bullos, who is 4 feet and 11 inches tall, attracted attention because he was walking without shoes. Her feet were only protected by a "putos" (envelope or wrapping).
The "putos" is an improvised foot protection that her trainers developed for runners who prefer to run barefoot.
Each foot is wrapped with elastic bandage strips over a strip of sanitary napkin under the sole as a pillow.
Bullos trainer Predirick Valenzuela published a photo of her wearing improvised shoes with the legendary Nike Swoosh pencil on December 9th.
The photo went viral with 638 shares, 341 comments and 1,400 responses, and more than 5,000 comments and 23,300 shares on the Facebook page of a local newspaper that posted the story.
"Rhea says she prefers to run barefoot because she runs faster," said 26-year-old Valenzuela, who herself is a silver medalist in the 4 × 100 meter relay of the 2016 Palarong Pambansa.
Athletes from the Congressional District Sports Association (CDSA) -5 have practiced wearing running shoes with plaster adhesive and a napkin since 2010.
According to Valenzuela, who also wore the same "shoes" as a sprinter, the leucoplast gypsum adhesive "sticks" well even if it is wet and "worn out" several times.
In the photo of Bullos, offers and donations for shoes were made for her and her teammates, including Nike herself.
At SM City, she had the choice between three pairs of shoes and chose the cheapest. The same goes for choosing a bag, says Leone Tiosayco, another Bullos coach.
"We trained hard and only had two days to get used to the rubber track because we are used to walking on dirt roads," said Bullos.
"A lot of potential"
Bullos, the second of three siblings, took part in sprint competitions in physical education. Her class advisor then encouraged her to take part in the CDSA competition in 2018.
However, she could not top this event.
This year she is part of a 10-member girls' sports team at the elementary school, which represents Iloilo's 5th congress district.
"She is still young and trainable and has a lot of potential," said Benedicto Prasas, one of her trainers, in an interview.
Almost everyone in the CDSA-5 basic athletics team (12 boys and 12 girls) uses improvised running shoes because he only had to get along with two pairs of barbed shoes, which was given to them by Iloilo's department.
The department preferred prioritizing their health and wellbeing by providing vitamins and two free meals daily throughout the training month prior to the ISSC.
But a Facebook post was all that was needed to generate goodwill and charity.
Devyn Denton, a US nurse, gathered her friends and colleagues to provide running shoes and socks for the entire CDSA-5, as well as for her eight trainers and six trainers.
Others called Valenzuela and offered cash or benefits in kind
Bullos will get more attention when she attends the Western Visayas Athletic Association Meet next year.
"I want to reach higher matches like the Southeast Asian Games and the Palarong Pambansa," she said, adding that she was inspired by her family.
Bullos & # 39; father, Jerry, is a construction worker and her mother Concepcion, a housewife.
Tiosayco said the coaches would encourage barefoot runners to wear shoes during the competition, especially if the shoes are good.
"I'll try to get used to it," said Bullos.
Don't miss the latest news and information.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and others over 70 titles. Share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download it at 4:00 a.m. and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.