Philippine Sports Greats
Paeng Nepomuceno, Cacoy Canete, Flash Elorde, Kitty Canete, etc.
There are 80 million Filipinos today, but in terms of what they have achieved, no one could put his name ahead of Rafael Nepomuceno. Paeng was born on January 30, 1957. His parents are Angel Nepomuceno who taught him how to play bowling and Teresita Villareal, a former Miss Philippines. Paeng is married to Saira Puyat who gave him three children. Honing his skills under the tutelage of his father, Paeng learned the value of discipline early. That discipline, he admitted, brought him to where he is now. And where is he now?
Although he is still an active player, Paeng has already accomplished what other players could only dream of. He is a four-time World Cup bowling champion and adjudged as the greatest international bowler in history. He has a collection of awards that no other man on Earth has the distinction of owning. In recognition of his achievements, the International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch personally awarded Paeng with the prestigious IOC President's Trophy, the first for any bowler.
The 6-foot-2 Paeng was enshrined in the International Bowling Hall of Fame. In fact, he has a seven-foot photograph posted at the bowling museum entrance in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1994, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Paeng as having won the most number of World Cups that have been achieved in three decades. The Philippine Senate pronounced Paeng as the "Greatest Filipino Athlete of All Time". He was the first athlete to be bestowed both the Legion of Honor medal which is the highest award for a Filipino and the Presidential Medal of Merit. He was also the first athlete to be enshrined in the Philippine Sports Writers (PSA) Hall of Fame. The PSA likewise named him as the "Athlete of the Century.
As a player, he won 112 tournament titles, among which are four World Cup championships. At 19, he won his first World Cup in Tehran, Iran on November 19, 1976. He won his second World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia on November 1, 1980 and became the first bowler to win the title twice. He won his third World Cup in Le Mans, France on November 8, 1992. This earned him the distinction of having won the World Cup championship in three different decades. This being not enough, Paeng clinched his fourth World Cup in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 23, 1996. Paeng also won two equally prestigious international titles. On August 8, 1984, he bagged the championship in the International Tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. He won another international title, the World Tenpin Masters held in London, England on March 7, 1999.
This humble and soft-spoken gentleman has lived to break records. Today, his records remain unbroken and will perhaps stand forever. Truly, Paeng is a champion. And we are proud to say that Paeng is a Filipino.
Gabriel "Flash" Elorde
This boxer from Cebu ruled his weight category for almost a decade. In his career, Elorde fought 107 bouts, winning 79, including 8 by knockout. He became world champion in the junior lightweight division when he knocked out American boxer Harold Gomes on March 16, 1960 and has held the title for seven years. In 1974, the World Boxing Council honored him as "the greatest world junior light-weight boxing champion in WBC history."
Villa, named the greatest flyweight of the century by a group of boxing historians and scholars recently, became the first world champion from Asia when he knocked out Englishman Jimmy Wilde at New York's Polo Grounds in June 1923.
Lydia de Vega
Trackster Lydia de Vega, a native of Bulacan province, was once considered the fastest woman in Asia. As Asia's sprint queen, she was the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the 100-meter dash in the Asian Games in 1986, when she beat a field led by her archrival, India's P.T. Usha, in Seoul. She is now a municipal councilor of Meycauayan, Bulacan.
Efren "Bata" Reyes
Billiard aficionados describe Efren, the Magician as the greatest cue artist who has played the game. His brilliance at the pool table had its peak at the 1999 World 9-Ball Championship in Wales.
Using his magic cue stick, Efren also won a string of titles in tournaments in England, the United States and the Philippines. In 1999, he received the Athlete of the Year award following his victories in Wales and in the 20th Southeast Asian Games in Brunei.
He was the big difference in Philippine basketball. A two-time Olympian, Loyzaga was enshrined in the first National Basketball Hall of Fame. He was responsible for steering the fabled Philippine team to third place honors in the World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on November 5, 1954. He was named to the Mythical Selection for his sterling performance. The Philippines beat Uruguay, 67-63 to win the third place. The title was won by the United States against Brazil.
Tennis ace Felicisimo Ampon led the Philippine team in numerous Davis Cup campaigns in the 1950s. Known as Mighty Mite, he won the singles title in the Pan-American championship in Mexico City in 1950. Because of this, he was declared the first PSA Athlete of the Year in the same year.
At the age of 22, Eugene Torre became Asia's first chess grandmaster. In his career, Torre has represented the Philippines in many World Chess Olympiads and was the captain of the RP team, which finished seventh in Thessaloniki, Greece in the late 80s.
Olivia "Bong" Coo
Bong Coo was enshrined in the World Bowling Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the most awarded female Filipino athlete in history, having won 107 national and international titles including two World titles and one World Cup. She set three world records in consecutive FIQ World Championships in 1979 and 1983 and one world record in the World Cup in 1979.
Dorothy Delasin, a daughter of a Filipino couple living in Daly City, could be well described as the "Tiger Woods" of women's golf. Delasin won the LPGA Giant Eagle Classic for two consecutive years, first in 2000 when she was only 19 and then in 2001, becoming the youngest LPGA winner in 25 years. She was also the Rookie of the Year in 2000. Under the tutorship of her father-caddie, Sonny, she also placed decently in other derbies.
In 1999, the California Golf Writers Association named Delasin as the Amateur Golfer of the Year for her string of victories. As an amateur, she captured the US Women's Amateur Championship and California Women's Championship. Delasin, also a former US girls champion and Junior World girls 15-17 years titlist, was born in Lubbock, Texas and now lives in Daly City, otherwise known as the "Adobo City" because of its huge Filipino population.
Another Filipino golfer making her mark in US golf is Jennifer Rosales who won the US NCAA Individual Championship in 1999.
He is one of the best golfers in Southeast Asia and a top money earner in the Asian Circuit, particularly in the lucrative Japanese PGA Tour. In 1999, he had the chance to play at the prestigious U.S. PGA Tour.
Jethro Dionisio, 32, has won six world championships in pistol shooting. He won his first national title in 1989 at the age of 17. He won his first international title in California the following year. He joined the sport at 14, although it was not advisable for people below 18 to own, much more fire guns.
Haydee Coloso Espino
A Filipina swimmer, named Haydee Coloso Espino won for the Philippines a total of 10 medals in three Asiad (Asian Games) meets. Espino clinched three gold, five silver and two bronze medals in the 1954 Asiad in Manila, 1958 Asiad in Tokyo and 1962 Asiad in Jakarta.
World Martial Arts Master
Eskrima Grandmaster Ciriaco "Cacoy" Canete, president of the Doce Pares Eskrima, Eskrido, Pangamot Federation and Cebu City Sports Commissioner on eskrima.
World Boxing Champions
Among the many Filipinos who have clinched an international boxing championship title at least once in their career are Pancho Villa (flyweight, 1923), Dencio Cabanella, Speedy Dado (bantamweight, 1932), Ceferino Garcia (middleweight, 1939), Small Montana, Little Dado, Dado Marino; Gabriel "Flash" Elorde (1960-1967, junior lightweight), Roberto Cruz (1964), Rene Barrientos (lightweight), Pedro Adigue (junior lightweight, 1968), Bernabe Villacampo (flyweight, 1969), Erbito Salavarria (flyweight, 1970), Ben Villaflor (1972), Rolando Navarette (super featherweight, 1981), Dodie "Boy" Penalosa (1990s); Luisito Espinosa (1999), Gerry Penalosa (super flyweight, 2001), Malcolm Tunacao (flyweight, 2001), Joma Gamboa (mini flyweight, 2001), Tiger Ari (super featherweight, 2001), and Manny Pacquiao (super bantam weight, 2002).
World Billiards Champions
Aside from Efren Bata Reyes, other Filipino cue artists who have won the top prize in international billiard matches include Francisco Django Bustamante, Jose "Amang" Parica, Antonio Lining, Rodolfo Luat, Dodong Andam, and Warren Kiamco.
Philippine Olympic Medals
The Philippines began participating in the Olympic Games in 1928, and since then has produced two silver and six bronze medals. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, tenpin player Arianne Cerdena won the gold, but bowling was considered only as a demonstration sport at that time. Cerdena's gold was not included in the medal tally.
The country's first silver medal was won at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, courtesy of Anthony Villanueva, a featherweight boxer. Villanueva lost a controversial decision to Russian Stanislav Stephaskin in their battle for the gold medal. The second silver medal was won at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco displayed his superb fighting skills against his taller opponents. His loss to Bulgarian Daniel Bojilov in the light-flyweight finals was also deemed controversial.
The Philippines won its first Olympic medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Teofilo Yldefonso, a 200-meter breaststroke swimmer, won the bronze in that event to put the country in the medal tally. Yldefonso is the only Filipino who has won two Olympic medals. Yldefonso got his second bronze at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Simeon Toribio, a high jumper, gave the Philippines its only Olympic medal in track and field. He narrowly missed the bronze at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. He finally won it at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
Jose "Cely" Villanueva got the country's first boxing medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Cely, Anthony's father gave sterling performance to win the bronze in the bantamweight category.
In 1988, Leopoldo Serantes, a light-flyweight boxer, clinched bronze at the Seoul Olympics. This was followed by another bronze, courtesy of Roel Velasco, older brother of Mansueto. Roel showed his skills in the light-flyweight division of boxing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Winter Athletes in the Philippines
Jamaica did it when it sent a four-man bobsled team in the Winter Olympics. The Philippines did it too. A tropical country that has never been covered by snow, the Philippines has produced athletes who can dance on ice. And they are not just ordinary dancers, but champion ice figure-skaters.
Christian Gabriel Cruz, Susana Quibol, Angela Panganiban and the rest of the Philippine figure-skating team placed fourth in the 1999 World Recreational Team Championships held in San Jose, California.
The Filipinos amassed 60 gold, 35 silver and 22 bronze medals to emerge fourth overall.
It was a big feat for the Filipinos, considering that there were a total of 107 teams which participated in the event. Most of these teams came from cool countries like United States and Canada. In 1998, the Philippine team placed fifth overall in the same prestigious competition held in St. Louis, Missouri.
Runner Up in World Softball
The Philippine representatives to the Little League World Softball Championship 2000 (Kalamazoo, Michigan - August 14-18) may have not won the crown but drew the admiration and support of the American audience just the same. The Philippine team, composed of 14 girls aged between 14 and 16 years old from San Miguel, Bulacan could have won the crown, if not only for one thing - the champion team from Santa Cruz Valley, Arizona had five boys in its lineup.
The Little League Softball began in 1974 for girls only. Later settlements of court cases forced Little League to eliminate gender-specific rules. But generally, boys play baseball and girls play softball.
The Philippine team reached the finals after beating other teams from around the globe. It even defeated the Santa Cruz team once, 3-2, prior to the championship. It eventually lost its first game in the finals, 4-3, to the Santa Cruz team, which claimed that they have fielded five boys because there were not enough girl participants. The Philippine team decided to forfeit its next game in the final series in protest of rules employed in the traditionally all-girls world series. This was not the first time a Philippine team became a part of the Little League controversy.
In 1992, the all-boys team from Zamboanga City was stripped of their Little League World Baseball crown because of age disparity.