MANILA, Philippines – I don’t know about you, but all this talk about massacres, martial law, re-election and sports heroes gone awry has left me wanting for more substantial, feel good stories. Even the amazing feat of 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida received no less than one full day of our undivided attention before one ridiculous topic after another began to drown out what ought to have been the real front page news. Well, call me selfish but being empowered with access to news, I choose to look at and consequently feature the good kind – at least now, a time when we really need to hear some good news.
Last week, I received an invite from our friends at Castrol Philippines. They told me that they would like to introduce me to a Filipino who has made our country proud in his own little way. That was enough for me to hold everything and decide to find out for myself what this guy was all about. Marlou Acedera, a soft spoken Filipino mechanic, had apparently clinched the first-ever ASEAN Mechanic Contest 2009 plum held in Bangkok, Thailand, outperforming along the way contenders from Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
How it all started
In an effort to elevate the oft-overlooked Filipino mechanic as one of the country’s invaluable treasures, Castrol, held earlier this year the Castrol Power 1 Mechanic Contest, a country-level competition in search of the nation’s top mechanic. Once crowned, the winner would represent the Philippines in the ASEAN finals.
“Mechanics hold a key position in the lubricant market not only as one of Castrol’s core customers, but also as ambassadors of the brand as they service riders in their shops,” says Paul Salapantan, Country Marketing Manager for Castrol. “The Castrol Power1 Mechanic Contest has allowed us to gather the finest mechanics of the country, recognize their potential, and pave the way for Filipinos to excel in the international arena,” he adds.
Divided into four legs, the contest was designed to test the skills, troubleshooting expertise, and speed of the industry’s crème de la crème, with a battery of written exams on two-wheeled engineering, a practical test, and motorcycle diagnosis and fixing. Winners of each leg battled it out at the Philippine finals earlier this year. Marlou Acedera emerged as the local champion and thus earned the right to represent the Philippines at the ASEAN leg. Besides being named as Philippine’s finest mechanic, he also took home the P20,000 cash prize.
Taking home the big one
Going into the ASEAN competition, Acedera felt a little overwhelmed – which is not at all surprising considering that all three other countries represented had much larger motorcycle markets. The competition, therefore, had much more experience to boast of – and this fact wasn’t lost on Acedera. He went up against Tran Phuoc Tuyen of Vietnam, Nattapon Chamsang of Thailand and Arwin of Indonesia – all champions of their countries. Up for grabs of course were bragging rights as well as a seat at the Moto GP at Sepang, Malaysia where the winner would be part of the Castrol sponsored San Carlo Honda Gresini Moto GP team.
The competition involved two rounds. The first had the mechanics checking the electrical system of the motorcycle and assembling the engine. The more challenging round had them troubleshoot and fix a bike with multiple troubles, all within the a specific time frame (an almost unrealistic time frame, Acedera admitted to us).
Acedera’s skill, determination and composure proved up to the task as he beat out the other master mechanics soundly and was eventually declared the overall champion. He was given the chance to witness the Moto GP finals, meet top seed racer Toni Elias of the San Carlo Honda Gresini Team, and enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the pit garage of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team and watch their race engineers in action. Acederra says that being part of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team was an adrenaline-pumping and once in a lifetime experience.
“It has been an amazing experience. I was in the garage of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team with some of the world’s best racing mechanics. It felt great to feel the racing atmosphere. And when I was taken to the starting grid moments before the race started, I could see the tension in the riders’ eyes,” he exclaimed.
Acedera is of course grateful for being named Asia’s ultimate mechanic, a feat he didn’t expect to achieve. And his triumph has, indeed, uplifted the Pinoy mechanic as the kind who is resourceful, humble yet takes pride in his skill, and one who has instinctive talent. But as with any great achiever, he says that he’d like to represent the country next year as well.
“I would like to say thank you to the entire San Carlo Honda Gresini team for really making me feel like I was one of them. And of course I’m very grateful to Castrol for giving me this fantastic opportunity. They made my dream come true,” he said. “But already I am looking forward to proving myself a worthy champion when the competition is staged again next year.”
We say that’s some well-earned personal confidence right there. And in all honesty, we say it’s the kind of confidence we don’t mind seeing. As we said at the start of this article, this time, we’re actually thirsty for this kind of news. Thank God for little blessings. We doff our hats to you Marlou Acedera…congratulations! –Dong Magsajo (The Philippine Star)