Water polo player Aljon Salonga has a simple life and a simple goal—to give the country its first gold in the sport

By Ea Francisco | Photos by Patrick Segovia | Grooming by Hannah Patriarca | Hair by Koi Castillo

The Philippines has yet to win a gold in water polo in the SEA Games, but Aljon Salonga  and the current team are determined to change that.

Before Salonga become part of the national water polo team, he was a swimmer who competed both in the NCAA when he was a high school student at the University of Perpetual Help and in the UAAP when he was in the University of Santo Tomas.

His team captain in UST, who was also a member of the water polo national team, encouraged their swim team to try out the sport. What made him push through with the sport?

Siguro kasi ‘yung dad ko may dream din siya sa akin dati na sana isa man lang saming magkakapatid ay makatungtong sa SEA Games,” he says. “Sakin, magandang opportunity din siya na makalaro ka sa ganoong kalaking competition.” He tried out and got accepted into the national team, and he ended up competing in various countries abroad and has been in two SEA Games now.

Water polo is one of the toughest sports around, so it follows that it comes with equally brutal training. Salonga’s background in swimming is definitely an advantage becausa “maraming lunuran, kailangan mo talaga lumangoy”.

This is how their weekly training usually goes. “Monday, puro swimming. Tuesday and Thursday, half sila. First session is wate rpolo training drills, swimming and passing, pero ‘yong other half gym session, strength and conditioning. Para lumaki naman kami at para sa speed. Wednesday, counter attacks, parang fast break sa basketball, ang pina-practice namin. May kasamang langoy, bola, at team work. Tapos Saturday, game day apply mo lahat ng natutunan mo throughout the week.”

Given how they train, Salonga finds no problem in maintaining his body for his modeling gigs. “Wala ‘kong workout, pure water polo lang,” he says. “Sa water polo kasi, sabi nila, mabu-burn mo lang ang kinain mo. Totoo naman, kaya dapat kain lang ng kain.

As for how our water polo national team ranks now among Southeast Asian countries, it’s currently around fourth or fifth. There was a time when the Philippines ranked second, but a revamped lineup changed that. The good thing is this new batch of players are set to bring us back to that ranking, with new plans and higher budget from the government.

Not to say that the government isn’t sufficiently providing for the sport but now, they’re working on taking it to the next level. “Ngayon, nagpaplano sila ng bigger plans like ipadala kami sa Europe, sa mga training camps. Dati, wala namang ganoon e ngayon nagbibigay sila ng mga plano. Actually, meron na kaming napuntahan na training camp sa  Barcelona. Nag-training kami 30 days tapos five days sa Portugal,” he says.

It’s a step-by-step process that they’re working on but if you ask him, he’s perfectly content with getting a medal in the next SEA Games set to be held here. “Okay na sakin. Pwede na ko mag-retire at mag-focus sa family and other career.