Graziel Mae G. Ramat
Region I

She’s a runner. A runner who needs no other company, because she knows she can lift herself up when she stumbles along the way. A runner who has a mindset. A runner who has set her journey to a certain destination with the right directions…

But little did she know that curiosity will let her wonder what the other roads look like and lead her to a turn that will change her whole life and the way she planned it. A turn to a journey she never thought she would actually enjoy. A turn that will make her take her time and transform her into a fighter. A turn that will make her become more independent and stronger.

Curiosity led Gemma to where she is right now. Although she never expected it, she also did not regret a thing she had done in her journey. She was a track and field athlete before she became a wrestler, and it is very unusual for a woman to choose this path. But Gemma chose to be different.

Back in her childhood days, she spent a good amount of her time under the heat of the sun playing Filipino games—mga laro ng lahi—which mostly include patintero, luksong-baka, and the likes, not minding the fatigue and sweat after.

Although she was physically active then, her curiosity about sports only hit Gemma when she entered the sixth grade. Looking up to track and field stars like Lydia de Vega, she started her legacy as a track and field runner and a thrower. She continued the same sports when she entered Rizal High School. Her name made a buzz in various universities and colleges.

She was offered a scholarship by Rizal Technological College in exchange of being one of their athletes. Believing that opportunity comes once in a lifetime, she did not hesitate to accept the offer. She also thought that through this scholarship, she could somewhat lift a gram on her mother’s shoulders who was working hard as a market vendor and her father who was an electrician, all for their seven children, with Gemma as the eldest.

Dividing her time as a student-athlete was easy because she knows her priority—studying. Before entering college, she knew that being an athlete is not an excuse to let her studies slip, and when it happens, she also knew the possibility that she may not be able to support herself and her family in the future.

One year before she graduated, she met her co-athletes from Bukidnon who played baseball and went to Rizal in search of a new sport. At the end of the day in their quarters, Gemma has always wondered why all of them were dead tired and sweaty whenever they return. She then found out that they are already engaging in combative sports like judo and wrestling.

Like the curious cat that she is, she became intensely intrigued by the knowledge they fed her: women and wrestling—very unfitting, like wearing a right shoe on the left foot. Curiosity further pushed her to try joining the Philippine Amateur Wrestling for Women, and she later became a member of the first batch of the established wrestling for women in 1990. Her parents did not know, but they are surely proud of what she has achieved and have supported her throughout her journey.

The team went through a roller coaster ride, but Gemma stayed. During her runs, she wondered if wrestling will bring her closer to the national team, so that she will have the opportunity to raise the flag of the Philippines—her biggest dream.

Takbo lang ako nang takbo, talon nang talon, hagis nang hagis, pero hindi pala ‘yun ang aking forte. And when I was 19 or 20 years old, iba pala ‘yung shift ng direction ko. Sa wrestling pala ang destination ko,” Gemma shared.

She then chose the path that will make her grow and change her life for the better.

Matalo man o manalo, ako pa rin ay Filipina wrestler,” she added. In the span of her five-year training, Gemma and one of her co-athletes were the only members who remained in the team. Gemma was then given the chance to compete outside the country for the very first time.

She first competed in the 5th Feminine International Wrestling Championship held in Switzerland wherein she garnered a silver medal. She also brought home two bronze medals in the Asian Wrestling Championship which was held in China and Taiwan.

Her wrestling career was not consistent. She was stagnant for eight to nine years. She was criticized because of her age. People said she was already too old to fight at her 30s, but this did not stop her from pursuing her newfound sport. She did not regret the turn she made.

Her dreams did not fail her. She proved that she may be old, but she is GOLD. In November 30, 2005, Gemma garnered gold by defeating Indonesia’s pride Ika Adinda during the 23rd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Manila, Philippines.

Many competitions followed and Gemma—through trust in God, hard work, determination, and patience—always wrestled on top of it and made a significant difference.

  • An encounter with the sports icon in wrestling, Gemma Silverion during the sports icon engagement program held at St. John Paul II College, April 27. Photo by: Aijeleth Shahar B. Contaoi

People who don’t know her would think she is a tough and hard to approach person given her athletic career, and for those lucky ones who had the opportunity to meet her in person like me, she is actually nice and approachable despite her rock-like physique.

In 2014, she made another turn which made her look back to her old days. As a graduate of Bachelor of Science Education Major in Physical Education, Health, and Music, she chose to teach at the Jose Fabella Memorial High School, where children who need more attention are schooled. Just another proof how pusong mamon she is inside.

Takot siguro kaya ayaw nila lumapit.”

A laughter was shared between us when asked about why she is still single. Though unmarried, Gemma is content with the life she already has. She is successful and blessed beyond words. Through these blessings, she was able to support her nieces and nephews to school, and this is enough to make her heart warm and fulfilled and be secured that when she grows old, she will never be alone.

Despite changing professions, she is still a wrestler by heart and now, as a part of the Department of Education, she knows that this is another opportunity to share her knowledge about wrestling and make yet another difference. She believes that when the youth are trained and learned to love wrestling, it is not impossible for us to be globally competitive in the field.

As we trek our trail towards our dreams, we will always stumble upon struggles and hardships, and stopovers and new turns. These are actually tests to prove how brave and strong we are to take risks and new destinations. There is no shortcut to success, and sometimes, taking new trails does not mean you are looking for a shortcut. Sometimes, taking new trails means new opportunities—it is just a matter of determination and bravery.

Gemma Silverio proved to be that one.

From a runner to a wrestler, and from a wrestler to a teacher, Gemma is a real hero. A sports hero.

G and S.

Gemma Silverio.

G, not only for Gemma, but also for Gold. S, not only for Silverio but Silver, too.

G and S–Golden Silverio.