Alexander Grenz, chief operating officer, Allianz PNB Life, tackled the obstacles at the Allianz Conquer Challenge with Jacob King, one of the Aeta youth from Barangay Villa Maria in Porac, Pampanga. Twenty one Aeta youth raced alongside Allianz PNB Life employees in the pairs category of the 25-obstacle 10km race in Clark Global City.   

Allianz is doing something that has never been done before. The global insurer is celebrating the strength of indigenous people, particularly the Aetas of Porac, Pampanga, by introducing them to the rising sport of obstacle course racing (OCR).

Last December 9, Sunday, the third leg of the Allianz Conquer Challenge was held in Clark Global City in Pampanga, where 20 Aetas, between 16 to 21 years old, raced together with 20 Allianz employees in the pairs category.  The Aeta participants are students of Villa Maria Integrated School, an adopted public school of Allianz PNB Life, atop the mountains in Porac, Pampanga.

“We recognize the strength of the Aetas. So, aside from educating them with the basics of personal finance through our financial literacy program, we would like to impart to them the value of committing to achieve goals that they have to set. We want to give them a fair chance of having employment opportunities in the future,” explained Gae Martinez, chief marketing officer, Allianz PNB Life.

Sunday’s race was a 10km-race composed of 25 obstacles, which was the same trail tackled by professional racers who competed for a slot in the upcoming South East Asian (SEA) Games. Just last month, OCR was announced a new addition to the SEA Games to be held in Clark, Pampanga. 

Some of the obstacles during the race were hurdles, taho carry, tirador, spider web, monkey bars, wall of tire, slip wall, commando climb, among others. Those who incurred penalties for not being able to perform an obstacle had to carry a 30-pound sand bag.

“OCR is an up and coming sport. It is gaining popularity in the Philippines. Allianz as a company uses sports to connect with communities. The Aetas from Villa Maria is one of the communities that Allianz here in the Philippines has chosen to support.  This is, in line with our advocacy to promote social inclusion, one of the pillars of our company’s Corporate Citizenship Strategy,” Martinez further said.

One of the Aeta participants, Reyna Baclay, was thankful to be given the opportunity and to discover the sport that she said is closely similar to the activities they do in everyday life. “They carry sand bags here. In the mountains, we carry 50 kilos of camote or ube that we bring to the lowlands. If we sell, our families will have money to spend. By joining the race, I can tell people, I have a dream, too. I want to work in IT (information technology). I hope I can continue after I graduate,” said Baclay, who at age 18 is still a grade nine student.

Another Aeta youth, Miracle Lansang, 20, grade 12, is dreaming of someday working for the air force. “I want to work for the air force. But they say I will not qualify because of my height. I have not lost my hope that it can still come true,” he said.

Renz dela Cruz, 21, was a graduate of the same school. However, he had to stop and work giving a ride on his motorcycle, because his parents cannot afford to send him to college. “I dream of becoming a civil engineer. My family needs me now. I have brothers and sisters, who are studying,” he said.

With the project “Sanlahi” of Allianz in the Philippines, there is hope for these Aeta youth.

“Allianz is here to provide the courage to move forward, the courage to overcome life’s obstacles, for them to have better life,” Martinez said, ”As our tag line goes – we dare you to, because we’re with you.”