MANILA—Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz arrived here Thursday, fresh from clinching the Olympic silver medal in the ongoing 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Diaz, who ended the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 via Emirates flight EK 332 at about 5:50 p.m., after a 25-hour trip.
With her were fellow weightlifter Nestor Colonia, who was unsuccessful in his Rio bid, and coach Alfonsitio Aldanete.
She was welcomed with a bouquet of flowers by members and officials of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and Sen. Sonny Angara, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Sports.
Also present during her arrival at NAIA were fans and supporters bearing congratulatory tarpaulins.
“I am thankful for the warm welcome. My win proves that we can compete against other countries,” Diaz said in Filipino during a press conference at the NAIA Terminal 3.
“It’s a birthday gift for (my mother),” she added, noting that her mother’s birthday is on Aug. 7.
The 25-year-old athlete was in tears after seeing her parents Eduardo and Emelita. Her mother welcomed her with a kiss on the cheek.
Diaz, who is also a member of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), changed into her uniform minutes after her arrival. She traveled clad in a jacket bearing the word ‘Philippines’ and the colors of the Philippine flag.
She is set to receive a Php 5-million incentive under the National Athletes Coaches and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act, apart from a new house and lot.
Immediately after her press conference at NAIA, Diaz flew to Davao City via Cebu Pacific to meet President Rodrigo R. Duterte who has previously expressed his desire to be among the first to meet her.
The following day, Diaz and company will be flown to Zamboanga City in a private plane, courtesy of sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan.
Diaz first competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics but failed in her bid.
Aside from being a weightlifter, she is also military airwoman recently promoted from second to first class.