The world’s number 3 pole vault athlete and Filipino Olympian Ernest John “EJ” Obiena was given a hero’s welcome at his second home, the University of Santo Tomas, on September 29, 2022.
Obiena, a fourth year Electronics Engineering student under the UST Faculty of Engineering who is currently on leave to concentrate on his training abroad, has played track and field for UST in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and UniGames.
After signing the University guestbook at UST’s historic Arch of the Centuries, Obiena paid a courtesy call upon the UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D.
A testimonial luncheon, hosted by the University for Obiena, at the Dr. Robert Sy Grand Ballroom of the Bl. Buenaventura García Paredes O.P. Building, included the conferment of the Pope John Paul II Award for his Outstanding Achievement in Sports.
UST Vice Rector Rev. Fr. Isaías D. Tiongco, O.P., JCD, expressed his support for Obiena and commended his mindset, saying that, “Your self-discipline and confidence, determination, and rigorous training are bearing much fruit, and more will come, I am sure, to the delight, honor, and gratitude of not only your fellow Thomasians, but likewise your countrymen.”
Presenting the award was Fr. Tiongco, accompanied by UST Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Louie R. Coronel, O.P. EHL, and assisted by members of the Central Committee on Student Awards, namely, College of Nursing Regent Rev. Fr. Julius Paul Factora, O.P., Office for Student Affairs Director Asst. Prof. Ma. Cecilia A. Tio Cuison, College of Tourism and Hospitality Management Dean Assoc. Prof. Gezzez Giezi G. Granado, DCL, and University Registrar Mr. Cesar Velasco, Jr.
Obiena humbly thanked the University for welcoming him home.
“I’ve always been part of the University, even when I was away,” said Obiena.
He also expressed gratitude to his mentors in the Faculty of Engineering, saying “I would not have been here today without your guidance.”
“I will keep my feet on the ground and I will keep soaring high for the University, for the country, and hopefully make the world a little bit better in my own way,” vowed Obiena.
Also included in the program were the blessing of Obiena by UST Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo T. Tiong, O.P., and a press conference with the world-class athlete.
Later that afternoon, Obiena also met with his fellow Thomasian student-athletes at the UST Institute of Physical Education and Athletics.
In 2022, the 6’2” Thomasian pole vaulter has had an impressive streak, having won 17 medals, with 12 of them gold.
After representing the Philippines in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the twenty-six-year-old Obiena is now the only Filipino to obtain a medal in the World Athletics Championships, having won the bronze in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where he set the Asian record and his new personal best with a 5.94-meter performance in July 2022.
More recently, he defeated the current world #1 and Olympic titleholder Armand Duplantis by leaping 5.91 meters at the Brussels Diamond League in Belgium earlier in September.