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Baguio’ centennial athletes
by Jogin Tamayo

As the city marks its centenary on Sept. 1, it is worth noting the Americans’ contributions to the City of Baguio after carving their way through the rocky slopes of Kennon Road.

Not only did the Americans establish Baguio as the country’s summer capital and a place of rest and recreation for US soldiers, they also rediscovered the raw talents of local athletes.

It was then that America’s favorite pastime—baseball—found its way to the hearts of the athletes not only in Baguio but as far as Mountain Province and Ifugao.

Back then, the Igorot athletes were regarded as the best athletes in the country that it was almost a mortal sin for them to lose on the baseball diamond.

The most remarkable
Immortality on the diamond was best displayed by Eugene Pucay, tagged as the Phantom of the Diamond.

Ben Dimas, Juan Carantes – the second best baseman in the country, Dibson Diwas, Antonio Dimas, Gilbert Sungduan, Braulio Caoili, Chakchakan Colis and several others who were all part of the best baseball team in Northern Luzon more than 50 years ago are also worth remembering.

Even during the time of global hostilities to the post-war era, Cordillera athletes’ skills were evident.

High hurdler Federico Mandapat Sr., who would later become Baguio police chief, could only thank his track and field medals won in the Far East for earning him admiration from his Japanese captors, enough for them to let him go. His sons also became prominent track athletes and car racing champions.

Among the few outstanding tracksters were Melecio Besara who ruled the 10,000-meter event from 1951 to 1953, and Willy Faustino who shone in the 1,500-m Interscholastic  Meets from 1948 to 1951.

James Brett was a track star and a martial arts expert at the same time, while Jaime Pimentel, Pedro Mendoza, Lope Tuazon, Alex Cabusora, William Muller, and Fernando Abubo would all become best coaches after ruling the tracks  in their respective events.

Those who followed
The younger ones would later extend their domination in running with Mario Mendoza holding the national record in the Milo 42k marathon for several years.
Brothers David and Manuel Carmelo, Alberto Caoili, Ed Laureano, Danilo Alimbuyao, and Igorot sensation Hector Begeo would all become part of the famous Gintong Alay program in the late ’70s.

Also making their mark are athletic stars Herald Pagaduan, Midel Duque, and college national record braker thrower Eleazar Sunang.
Combatives also became a favorite pastime here and produced legendary judo players Ben Caguioa, Jun Bawingan, Jorge Borja Sr., and Jerry Dino; as well as karatekas Col. Manny del Leon and Julian Chees. Dino and Begeo became Olympians.

However, the athlete that brought the city and Igorotlandia at the pinnacle of sports was Rey Tam, former Orient-Pacific flyweight boxing champion. He also had equally talented boxing brothers—George and Johnny.

Mario Claridad was Baguio’s first Special Olympian in bowling while Virgilio Delim was was its best cyclist in the ’60s.

Former city councilor Nick Domalsin and Sammy Ayochok started the craze in bodybuilding that brought them to international fame.

Powerful women
Women power was also evident with lady boxers Alice Kate Aparri, Jouvilet Chielm, and Ronijen Sofla excelling in national amateur boxing; Jujeath Nagaowa in pro boxing; with Helen Dawa and Estie Gay Liwanen shining in the world of judo.

Rebecca Watanabe became a world tenpin bowling champion together with Erlinda Lavandia, another Gintong Alay pride. There were also paralympics weightlifters Adeline Domapong and Augustina Balintoc.

There were old reliable athletic stars Cristabel Martes, acknowledged marathon queen; Eden Banta, Flordeliza Cachero, Flordeliz Doños, Hannah Erika Sia, Katherine Kaye Santos, Loralie Amahit, and hurdler Maria Melissa Naputo.

The present generation
Wushu, a Chinese martial art, became a source of pride as Marquez Sangiao, Kevin Belingon, Eduard Folayang, Roy Docyogen, Benjie Rivera, Daniel Parantac, and Mariane Mariano would all become international medalists under the wings of Tony Candelaria.

Sangiao and Folayang would later extend Cordillera’s reign in combatives in the world of mixed martial arts.

In Thai boxing, Jerson Estoro won in two US muay thai world championships.

At the turn of the 20th century, the young turks would take over in athletics with pretty high schooler Marla Felice Ellaga breaking two national records in high jump in the Palarong Pambansa and Philippine Olympic Festival.

The region shone on all fronts here and abroad in taekwondo that it virtually became the city’s gold mine. It is now almost impossible to write all their names here.

On the national front
In basketball, three Baguio cagers barged into the elite Philippine Basketball Association with Jun Marzan joining Shell, Tony dela Cerna joining Purefoods, and Douglas Kramer recently suiting up for Barangay Ginebra.

The most unforgettable national stint would be the University of Baguio Cardinals winning the 1984 University Athletic Association of the Philippines championships against Southwestern University with coach Caloy Manzanillo handling Danny Soria, Jojo Estebar, Tony dela Cerna, Mike Pearson, Fernando Antonio, Gideon Mamalio, Rudy Lagera, Butch Rio, Francis Noguera, and the late Nestor Cartas. UB ousted the Far Eastern University to barge in the finals.

Soria later led his young UB Red Robins to the championship trophy in 1986 over the FEU Tamaraws

Baguio also made its presence in archery with Rowena Lyn Minong, Christine Victor, Leean Brette Hongitan, and Joshua Mangomoc hauling gold medals in the Philippine Olympic Festival while UB high school junior Haridas Pascua became the city’s youngest national master who played in several world chess championships.

The late university founders Dr. Fernando Bautista Sr. of Baguio Tech (now UB) and Atty. Benjamin Salvosa of Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras) also became prominent sports boosters and godfathers to athletes who excelled even after the war.

There are still hundreds of unknown athletes out there and several hundreds yet waiting to be discovered.

Other news
:: Kabugao towards its centennial year
:: Living to be a hundred: A look at two centenarians
:: SVD marks centennial year in Abra
:: ‘We are all Brentonians’ An educational legacy from the Episcopalians
:: SLU centennial: Wishfully looking forward, reverently looking back
:: Mayoyao's thanksgiving festival: Beyond a hundred years
:: Strawberry farms: Juicy future in doubt
:: A collation of other centenarians in Baguio
:: From ‘warriors’ to educators and missionaries
:: English after a century or so

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