Ernie Gawilan

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Gawilan at the Para Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia

To read this article in Filipino, see Ernie Gawilan.

Ernie Agat Gawilan (born 5 May 1991) is a Filipino swimmer who was the first gold medalist for the Philippines in the Asian Para Games. He competed at the 2016 Summer Paralympics and at the 2020 Summer Paralympics.


Early life and education

Gawilan was born in Paquibato, Davao with underdeveloped extremities, which resulted to him lacking both legs and an underdeveloped left limb after surviving an attempted abortion and poor prenatal healthcare.

He was orphaned at an early age and his grandfather took custody of him. Businessman Vicente Ferrazzini convinced Gawilan’s grandfather to send him to Davao City in a training center for the handicapped.

In the city, he stayed with other handicapped youth under the custody of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic. Gawilan studied at the Holy Cross of Sasa in Davao.

In 2000, Gawilan was brought to Samal Island where he worked as a housekeeper of another training center operated by nuns. It was where Gawilan took up swimming.


Competitive Career

Gawilan was scouted by swimming coach Mark Jude Corpuz. The latter took him as part of a persons with disability (PWD) swimming team. They trained at the Forest Hills Resort.

His first swimming competition was at the 2008 Philippine Olympic Festival in Cagayan de Oro, where he finished second. The winner of the said competition convinced him to go to Manila and become a member of the national team.

He bagged three gold and two silvers in the Asiad and ruled the ASEAN para swimming scene after being a seven-time gold medalist. He also participated in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

His journey to the 2016 Paralympic Games was adapted into a five-minute film called Gawilan. Released in 2017, it was directed and produced by US-based Filipino filmmaker Kelsy Lua. The film was a runner-up in the Best Film category at the 2019 Istorya ng Pag-asa (Stories of Hope) film festival in the Philippines.

He was the most bemedaled Filipino para athlete in the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the event, he won three gold medals and two silver medals. He is the first Filipino athlete from any sport to win a gold medal at the Asian Para Games.

In 2019, he was named Male Athlete of the Year by the Davao City Sports Council Incorporated and the So Kim Cheng Sports Foundation Incorporated.

In the 2021 World Para Swimming World Series in Berlin, Germany, he bagged the bronze medal in the 400m freestyle and secured a direct qualification to the Tokyo Games.

Gawilan is the Filipino representative for Para swimming’s Men's 200m Individual Medley SM7, Men’s 400m freestyle S7, and Men’s 100m backstroke S7. He ended his Paralympics stint and landed 10th place overall.




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