Marco A. Torres: Olympic torch bearer

marco-antonio-torres.jpgMARCO ANTONIO M. TORRES: KEEPING THE OLYMPIC FLAME ALIVE

By Henrylito D. Tacio

“I want to thank every Filipino who helped make this happen. I especially want to thank the Lord for using me as instrument to unite all Filipinos towards an Olympian cause. We, as one nation, made it.”

Those words come from the mouth of Marco Antonio Torres, the only Filipino to carry the revered Olympic flame in the Beijing Games come August 2008. “I would actually have been content watching the Olympic Games and experiencing the city’s excitement,” said Marco, who has been working in Beijing since June 2006. “Carrying the Olympic torch was really more than I could ever ask for.”

Indeed, it’s a great honor not only for Marco but for all Filipinos as well. “During the flame’s journey from Olympia in Greece to the host city, the torchbearers play the role of conveyors of the Olympic ideals,” the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee explained. “In passing the Olympic flame, they will spread the Olympic spirit, transmit a message of friendship and peace, and arouse the public’s passion for the Olympics.”

What most Dabawenyos don’t know is that Marco’s mother — Marilyn Generoso Misa — was born in Davao and spent her childhood in Mati, Davao Oriental. (His father, Antonio Reyes Torres, is from Ilocos Norte.) “I have been to Davao several times, too, for work.”

A natural-born athlete, Marco believes in sports and the need for a healthy mind and body. In fact, the 38-year-old sports aficionado excels in volleyball (he was the captain of his college team), badminton (has won several amateur tournaments), tennis, and bowling. He has also done sports anchoring work as he has lots of knowledge about sports.

How Marco became one of the eight runners “to carry the Olympic torch for 200 meters on Chinese soil” is an interesting story in itself. Since he was already in Beijing, he tried to join the contest organized by Chinese computer maker and Olympic sponsor Lenovo Group and the government newspaper ‘China Daily.’

“I joined the competition two weeks late. I was just glad family members, friends, acquaintances and even those whom I didn’t know campaigned for me,” Marco recalled.

As a result, Marco became the second candidate to receive the most number of votes. The China Daily website said Marco garnered 13,342 votes when the online voting concluded on October 14. (Ahead of him was Jenny Bowen of the United States with 14,188 votes). “Before the formal announcement, the Chinese newspaper e-mailed me asking lots of information. I was thinking that I was already close to winning because of that. I didn’t believe it though until I saw my name in the newspapers in China. Finally, it was in black and white.”

For his feat, Marco would become the first Filipino torchbearer in Olympic histiry after 4 decades. “The first and only time a Filipino may have held the torch was during the Tokyo Olympics some 44 years ago,” he revealed.

Actually, Marco never dreamed of becoming part of the forthcoming multi-national sporting event. He was born in Manila, spent his childhood in Quezon City. He graduated with an architecture degree from La Salle Greenhills and took his Masters in Business Administration in Ateneo Graduate School of Business. For quite sometimes, he worked in Makati. Then came a certain point in his life, where he wanted to experience life outside the Philippines. “Something I had to do at least once in my life,” he admitted.

Marco went to Singapore – “at my own expense” – to apply for a job for which he was overqualified. “After several interviews where I thought I did well, but I didn’t quite make it.” He was totally disappointed. But a friend based in Shanghai recommended him for a job in China. He applied and was accepted by M Moser Associates, a top international firm that specializes in the creation of interior offices and work-support facilities.

Recently, Marco has recently been promoted to lead the company’s marketing team “after just a year and a half due to my said to be outstanding performance in the company,” he said. “To give you an idea, I will now be sharing the same title, Senior Marketing Manager, with a guy in the Shanghai office who has been with the company for 10 years. I never thought something like this was possible in such short a time.”

A Christian, Marco believes that God has intervened in what he is now becoming. “Looking back, now I know why the Lord didn’t give me that job in Singapore,” he believed. “Had I been accepted, I would not have gone to Beijing and never would have been the first Pinoy Olympic torchbearer in over four decades. Imagine many of us weren’t even alive then. The Lord truly works in strange and mysterious ways.”

About Beijing, the host of 2008 Summer Olympics, Marco has this to say: “While many cities took decades and centuries to build (Rome was definitely not built in a day), modern Beijing is being created within a year. From a flat landscape of the most beautiful imperial temples and palaces, you see fantastic creative buildings rising.”

Marco seems unstoppable when it comes to talking about Beijing. “Beijing must have the record for most landmarks, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and now you have the Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium), the water cube (Aquatic Stadium), the Giant Egg (Grand Opera House) and the Z (CCTV Tower),” he enumerated. “All these iconic structures symbolize Beijing. Such strong identifiable symbols that you know it cannot be mistaken for any other place when you see them.”

Marco cannot get enough of Beijing. His profile page at the China Daily website has this tagline: “I leave Beijing for a weekend, a new bar opens. I’m gone for a week, a new mall opens. I’m gone a few months, and a new subway line has been constructed.”

Whether the Filipino contingent will get Olympic medals come August 2008, no one knows. But one thing is sure: the Philippines will already be part of history – thanks to torchbearer Marco Antonio M. Torres.

It’s a dream come true for him. “Never be afraid to take the first step towards it,” he urged. “Nothing beats going for a dream, giving it all you’ve got and achieving it. That’s what the Olympic spirit is all about.”

Like most Filipinos working abroad, you cannot take away his being a Filipino. “The Philippines is and will always be my home,” he said. “I prefer rice to noodles and my chopstick skills are very bad. I’m as Pinoy as penoy and yes, I do miss balut and penoy. — ###

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