The country lost a sports giant when Lydia de Vega perished on a quiet Wednesday evening.
She was 57.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was among the first to send his condolences, saying that de Vega fought a good fight despite losing her four-year battle with breast cancer.
“I join the entire nation in mourning the untimely demise of former Asian Sprint Queen Lydia de Vega after a four-year battle with breast cancer. My sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones,” said the Chief Executive, whose father’s Project: Gintong Alay program was instrumental in launching de Vega’s athletic career.
“Lydia has run her last race. She has finished her contest. She has fought a good fight. Let us pray for her peace.”
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association chairman emeritus also joined President Marcos in extending his condolences, saying that more than being a legend, de Vega is also a role model, something whom the present crop of national athletes should look up to.
“I join the country, especially the athletics community in mourning the death of Lydia “Diay” de Vega. We stormed heaven with our prayers. The Lord had other great plans for Diay,” said Juico, who served as the Philippine Sports Commission chairman during the tail-end of de Vega’s athletic career.
“Had Diay stayed a bit longer in this life, she would have continued to have been a role model and an inspiration as authentic Filipino athlete who genuinely loved sports for the good it could do and not for what she could get out of it. She knew that a force for good like sports should bring out the best in people.”
Another official in sports commissioner Olivia “Bong” Coo said de Vega’s passing is tough for her, especially since they competed together in countless international events.
“I grieve as an athlete and friend. Lydia is my contemporary. Her passing is such a big loss to Philippine sports,” said Coo, a member of the International Bowling Hall of Fame.
“I am sure her legacy and achievements will continue to inspire for generations to come, as she was also an inspiration to me. Let us all pray for her as she runs her final journey to her heavenly reward. We will miss you Diay.”
De Vega’s former teammate in Elma Muros-Posadas also echoed Coo’s sentiment, saying that the accomplishment of the “Sprint Queen” should never be forgotten.
“Even if she’s gone, what she did will forever be in the history books. You can’t erase that fact. She will always be remembered as the darling of the press,” said Muros-Posadas, who took the reins from De Vega after she hung up her sneakers in 1993.
Another former PSC chairman in Eric Buhain recalled how hard De Vega worked during her time.
Buhain, a former swimming champion who is now a Batangas lawmaker, said he knows De Vega since 1984 so learning her condition last month was truly heartbreaking.
In fact, he even joined the fundraising campaign just to help her family cover her rising medical expenses.
“I am very sad about what happened. I have known Diay since 1984 Gintong Alay days. She’s a hard worker day in and day out,” Buhain said.
“We learned of her condition last 21 July from Stephanie. I immediately sent assistance for their hospital expenses. She is a wonderful person and full of life every time you talk to her.”
“That is the memory that I will treasure and forever remember about my friend, Diay.”