A social media sensation during the early rounds of the SEA Games, Aljon Salonga has the makings of a star athlete and more. “I’m very grateful about people’s reception on social media,” he says. “At least, water polo in the Philippines got media mileage.”

Aljon, together with his teammates, swam their way to championships, earning a silver podium finish at the Men’s Water Polo competition. It was a long journey before he made it to the podium, battling waves of challenges along the way. “I started playing water polo in 2011. I got into the National Team in 2012. I’ve been doing it now for eight years,” says the 27-year-old swimmer. “What ignited my interest in water polo is that it is a combination of my two favorite sports—basketball and swimming,”

Aljon trained hard to prepare for the SEA Games by joining three competitions and a training camp in Japan. “The worst part of what we do is the homesickness,” he says. “We’re out of the country most of the time. We’re almost like OFWs. Of course, you miss your loved ones, your family and friends.”

Swim shorts and shirt both from H&M

For the summer season, this part-time swimming coach looks forward to spending more time with his loved ones. “We don’t need to go abroad or some other place,” Aljon says. “My next competition is in November, for the Asian Championship. I have time to spare, and I’m planning to spend it with my family and friends. Time is what we’re deprived of during competitions.”

For almost a decade of dedication, Aljon is now reaping the rewards of his hard work. He is gaining recognitions and other benefits from his sport, which he uses to represents the country. “That’s what happens when you love what you are doing,” he says. “You get nervous at first, but when you are passionate, there is nothing you can’t accomplish.”

His advice to aspiring athletes is to start with themselves. “You should have the right attitude and never give-up,” Aljon says. “The greatest lesson water polo taught me is resilience. There will be many times that you’ll feel down, when the game is not going as you planned, when you find similar situations beyond the water. You need to pick up yourself and come back stronger.”

 

Writer: John Legaspi
Photographer: Rxandy Capinpin
Art director: Angelo Manalo
Stylist: Poy Villamonte
Grooming: Team MVP
Videographer: Ayens Rivera and JanLo Inocentes
Shot on location: Manila Hotel, Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila
Contact number: (02) 8527 0011
Special thanks to Kim Tan