Time and again, sports has proven to be a great vehicle for any Juan to have a clean shot at fame and fortune. Be it in the 4B’s where Pinoys excel: Boxing, Basketball, Billiards and Bowling. Or to the adrenaline-pumping ice dances in a winter sport.
Drawing up an unquestionable greatest list whether in the spider-fighting department or in a tongue-twisting battle of rap, is bound to catch flak. As everybody has his own take on any subject. Getting objective, therefore, is a tall order. Of course, different sports have distinct challenges. Moreso today, as our Pambansang Kamao is facing another much-ballyhoed, globally-televised fight against his ring nemesis, Brandon Rios, a fighter who is one of the few who can brag to have defeated him – albeit in a controversial manner. It is, therefore with that an eye set on being as unbias as possible that I plow through, hoping the hammer hit the nail right in the head – and not my thumb.
With no further ado, fine ladies and brave gentlemen, I bring you the Top 10 greatest athlete who ever walked the halls of the Philippine archipelago:
#10. Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco
Onyok may not be active in boxing competition today but he has done his part putting the Philippines in the map. The country has had quite a drought in Olympic medals winning a silver in 1964 through the efforts of Anthony Villanueva. However, Onyok changed everything, winning another silver in 1996 in boxing.
#9. Gabriel “Flash” Elorde
This boxer is so famous his name has been forever remembered in the bread that we eat daily, Elorde. The most popular boxer of his time, this boxer from Cebu was dubbed the greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion. His greatness lies in the fact that defended his belt for four years, ultimately becoming the longest-reigning champion ever in his division. The record still stands even up to today.
#8. Eugene Torre
There maybe other notable big names today in Philippine chess but it was Eugene Torre who opened the door for every Juan as the first grandmaster in Asia at a tender age of 22. To date, he has played in the Chess Olympics a record 20 times.
#7. Carlos Loyzaga
There are popular players and there are those that bring home the trophies. Truly, a tough call but it was predominantly Carlos Loyzaga, at just 6 foot 3, that stirred the Philippines to an unparalleled Bronze Medal in the world FIFA Championship. It is his leadership that shone bright, compensating his lack in height with his grit and unequalled determination.
Added to this, Loyzaga placed the Philippines in the map, leading his team to an unprecedented 4 straight championships in the Asian Games from the 1950’s to the 1960’s era.
#6. Lydia de Vega
There is no stopping Lydia de Vega in the 80’s as the fastest runner Asia has to offer. She won gold in the Asiad for the 100-meter dash both in New Delhi in 1982 and in Seoul in 1986.
#5. Francisco “Django” Bustamante
Another billiard player that has won the hearts of millions of Filipino, Django became the world’s #1 billiard player in 1998 winning 34 local and international medals. His recent conquest is winning a 9-ball World Championship in Doha, Qatar.
#4. Nonito Donaire
Known as the “Filipino Flash”, Donaire has earned his keep grabbing the unprecedented four-division world champion, the closest to Pacquiao’s record. Dubbed as the next fighter to follow in the footsteps of the Pambansang Kamao, Donaire has amassed impressive wins building up a record that is tough to beat.
What could be his most durable trademark is his switch-hitting style, fighting southpaw or orthodox to suit his opponent best. An intelligent fighter, Donaire has floored many enemies on the canvass.
#3. Efren “Bata” Reyes
This is another legend. With a friendly smile, you’ll never know Efren “Bata” has done the impossible. Known as the “magician”, he has won 5 8-ball world championships among 100 international awards and 13 world titles that he has gathered.
He’s so good it has been noted that some of his toughest competitors reportedly ask for his autograph after the game.
#2. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
Currently, the greatest boxer the Philippines has seen, there is no boxer that has caught the imaginations of the Filipino other than Pacquiao. He holds the first and the only unprecedented 8-division belts as world champion.
Not only has he accumulated the most riches ever in the history of Philippine sports, he’s so famous his name is a household word worldwide. With a carefully-planned career, he may yet give his country another service – as a statesman, his prospects as a future senator of the Philippines are bright.
#1. Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno
If the top spot was not given to the Pacman it’s because another Filipino has achieved superhuman feats in another sport. Pacquiao maybe considered a work in progress as his brightest star may yet shine as compared to Paeng Nepomuceno. Who knows he may eventually get the top spot in our A-list. To date, record-wise Paeng’s still stands unchallenged. He has gained many firsts and opened many doors to Filipinos.
For starters, Paeng holds the record as the youngest man to win a World Cup title in Bowling, winning at just 19 years old. But that did not stop him from stretching it some more. Today, his record is unmatched as he is the only man ever to walk Earth to have won the World Title in 3 different decades – a feat close to impossible for a boxer. Of course, that would be totally understandable. Paeng won in 1976, 1980 and won again in 1992 and 1996 and is a six-time world champion to date. From age 19 to age roughly age 39.
Paeng has been listed in the Guiness Book and is the first bowler in the International Bowling Hall of Fame. Top that.
I have this compilation based on various articles but should you want to have more of a go-see please look here.
Ok folks, that’s about it. Hope that came out right. Should there be anything that you feel may have been left out, please tell us in the comments section. That would be most appreciated.
And once again, do join us in our spreading-the-good-news campaign. Share this bit of a story to your basketball buddies.
Let me end with a quote from the infamous ear-biting Mike Tyson who said“I’m a Muslim, but I think Jesus would have a drink with me. He would be cool. He would talk to me”. Of course, Mike is one of those boxing could-have-beens but it seems he was unable to shake the street-kid out of his mentality.