‘From lifesaver to flagbearer’

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PH surfer Roger Casugay (in white shirt) proudly rides the waves shortly after rescuing his Indon rival Arip Nurhidayat who almost drowned in gigantic waves during the SEAG surfing competitions in La Union.  He lost the gold in there but his act of heroism didn’t go unnoticed.  (Photo courtesy by PNA)

SUBIC, Philippines — It pays to be a man for others, a good Samaritan even in the middle of terse competitions like the Southeast Asian Games.

Roger Casugay, virtually unknown to the sporting world outside the surfing community, became a man of the hour of the 30th Southeast Asian Games when he threw his chances for the gold to save his Indonesian rival from imminent danger and tragedy during the surfing competitions.

Casugay helped rival Indon Arip Nurhidayat back to shore after the latter broke his ankle leash and was swept by giant waves at Monaliza Point in San Juan, La Union Friday last week.

And with it, Casugay lost his bid for the gold medal.

He, however, hit paydirt when he won the gold medal in the longboard open event against fellow Filipino Rogelio Esquivel on Sunday.

But his selfless act of helping others seemed more popular than his gold-medal show.

“These Games are not only about medals. It is about character, resilience, love for one another and shoring up the faith of the person next to you, something that Casugay has exemplified,’’ said Philippine Sports Commission chair William‘‘Butch’’ ‘Ramirez.

And fittingly, Ramirez said Monday Casugay would be the country’s flag-bearer in the closing ceremonies at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. Casugay will also get a cash windfall or financial bonanza and is expected to pay a courtesy call to President Duterte after the SEA Games.

“The SEA Games awakened the Bayanihan spirit and volunteerism among us. The very spirit shown by the heroism of Roger who gave up his chance for a golden finish to save an opponent at risk of losing his life to the very waves they play in,’’ said Ramirez. “Truly a class act, a solid show of the Filipino spirit.’’

Even the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo praised the Filipino surfer.

But while everybody’s lauding him as a hero, the La Union native, forever low-key, stressed that he isn’t a hero.

“I’m no hero. He’s (Nurhidayat) a good swimmer, I just calmed him down,’’ said Casugay. (LO/IAMIGO/CNS)

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