TOP UST judoka Dither Tablan used to be bullied because he was heavy.
But little did he know then that his weight would turn out to be his biggest asset.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 kilograms, Tablan is the heaviest judoka in the country. He is the reigning champion in the +100kg division of UAAP judo
“I was bullied. I was not treated well, I was laughed at or I was called names. I was lonely and I kept asking myself why my body became this big but I did not know what to do because I was still a kid. I was well-fed and I grew. What will I do?” he said.
The 18-year-old tried to engage in numerous sports—basketball, table tennis, fencing, swimming, billiards and chess—in an attempt to lose weight but to no avail.
Come his third year in high school, Tablan was approached by a member of the Claret School of Quezon City’s judo club to try out for the varsity team.
“I was asked to try judo because my weight was perfect for it. I watched judo videos online, I researched about the sport and I told myself I can excel here because the players were huge,” Tablan said. “I felt home with judo. I told myself that this is where I truly belong.”
Ferdie Balingit, the former coach of the Claret judo team, talked to Tablan to join his team, noting that Tablan’s size would be an advantage.
“I was shocked when I saw him in our judo club, he was quick to learn the sport and he was flexible even though he was bigger than the others,” Balingit said.
Balingit entered Tablan to just his second tournament, the Bro. Ceci Cup in 2015, where the then 15-year-old Tablan managed to win bronze.
Despite what he calls a “disappointing” finish, Philippine team coach Roland Llamas took notice of Tablan’s talent and asked if he could coach the hefty judoka.
After graduating from high school, Tablan, decided to focus on being an Architecture student in the University instead of taking his judo career in a whole new level.
But with athletic scholarship offers from UST, La Salle and Ateneo, the Sports and Wellness Management student decided to pursue the judoka path with UST because of his familiarity with coach Llamas.
Male Judokas head coach Steve Esteban has nothing but praises for the only heavyweight to win a gold medal for UST in a decade.
“[Dither] is a once in a generation [player]. As an assistant coach for a long time and now a head coach, I have never coached a player this big. His passion for judo is commendable,” Esteban said. “Judo is where he gets his pride, and where he rose to fame [in school].”
Tablan admitted that he still feels anger for what his bullies did to him but he uses that rage to excel in everything he does, after all, he knows he has no way to go but up after being down.
“From being bullied back when I was a kid, I built myself. I am now part of the Philippine team and at the same time a varsity in UST. I am also included in IPEA’s dean’s list. For me, I am still going up and I have nothing to lose.” Tablan said.