61st Courier Anniversary Issue
Beautiful Baguio: Relax, enjoy, and have fun
Being a minority across time
Exotic and mystical Abra
Home of the Isnag Tribe
Benguet has it all
Ifugao, home to bountiful heritage
The Pride of Kalinga
The land called Mountain Province
Benguet farmers'
woes over vegetable prices
Festivals for peace and progress
in Mountain Province
Kalinga: A roadmap to progress
A Napulawan experience
Displaced binga folks:
Pesky footnote in Napoco's legacy?
A peek into Cordillera’s last nature frontier
A taste of Abra
Atty. Federico Muñoz Mandapat Sr.:
A story of a war and sports hero
61st Anniversary Cartoon
Atty. Federico Muñoz Mandapat Sr.: A story of a war and sports hero
by: Jogin Tamayo

Medals won by athletes today are almost a dime a dozen but for one athletics champion, his medal won for him his freedom during World War II and eventually, his future wife.

This is an extraordinary story of a former Baguio City Police chief, international track and field champion, and lawyer who rose from the challenges of sports, war, and romance.

Federico Muñoz Mandapat took interest in track and field after watching from the sidelines of the San Carlos Rural High School. He was barely 16 years old, frail and small, when his athletic prowess was discovered after he defeated taller opponents.

Mandapat was immediately taken as a member of the school team,
winning the 1,500-meter run (almost four rounds around the oval) at the Pangasinan Provincial Athletic Meet. At five feet and four inches, his interest was, however, focused in the lung-busting 400-meter low hurdles where one has to leap over 10 three-foot high hurdles.
In 1939, Mandapat finished second place in the low hurdles in the National Open in Iloilo in a controversial photo-finish where many believed he had won. It was enough, however, for him to be offered an athletic scholarship in Manila studying at the University of the Philippines where he took up physical education.

He then became the national champion in his favorite 400-meter low hurdles, winning a coveted slot in the   Philippine team to the Far  Eastern Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. While Mandapat only placed sixth, his record of 54 seconds (the sixth fastest in the world then) established a Philippine record which stood for 32 years.

Mandapat’s destiny for greatness took a sudden, sad twist of fate. He was set to join the Philippine team to the World Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina when war broke out in 1940.

A new game
This was a new game that Mandapat refused to run away from. He enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in the Far East and was assigned to the 21st Field Artillery Battalion. He was one of those who gallantly defended and were later on captured as prisoners of war on April 9, 1942 in Bataan by the Japanese Imperial Army invaders.

He witnessed the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers during the infamous ‘Death March’ where they were made to walk from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga then transported by train to Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac.

Mandapat witnessed the daily burials of fellow Filipino and American POWs who died of sickness, hunger, or from plain torture by the Japanese.

While incarcerated at the concentration camp, his father Faustino had sought his whereabouts and it was then that he asked his father to bring him the commemorative medal he received during the Far Eastern Olympics in Tokyo. That medal became his pass to freedom.

To win the trust of the Japanese, Mandapat proudly presented his medal to the garrison commander. The Japanese officer was adamant at first and in order to prove that the medal was truly his, he lined up several chairs for Mandapat to hurdle. The latter breezed through the test. He also told stories of places he had seen in Tokyo and the officers believed him.

Mandapat later became a trustee and was allowed to go in and out of the garrison to buy food or medicines for his fellow POWs. Having won their trust, he was then asked by the garrison commander to find a guarantor who will make sure he will not join the guerilla movement once he was released. His father and relatives found one in mayor Severino Javier of the Municipality of Pura, Tarlac who guaranteed for his release and custody on the condition that Mandapat report to his office periodically.

Prized catch
Mandapat did not only   report periodically. He reported every day at the house of mayor Javier. Mandapat had fallen in love with the mayor’s daughter, Aurelia, whom he would later have as his wife.

After the war, the couple settled in Baguio City where Mandapat joined the Baguio City Police Department with the rank of police lieutenant. He took up law at the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras) and passed the Bar in 1954 together with co-police offi-cers Atty. Pedro Claravall, father of RTC Judge Edilberto Claravall, and former Mountain Province governor Alfredo Lamen.

Mandapat opted to remain with the police force and retired in 1976. He was acknowledged as an Outstanding Citizen and Athlete of Baguio.
On April 14, 2003, at the age of 86, he succumbed to pancreatic cancer.
“Even after the war, we the children were taught the rudiments of athletics,” says Atty. Federico ‘Bong’ Mandapat Jr., former city councilor and now regional director of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Bong, together with siblings Julius and the late Romeo, were strictly trained and coached by their father. Romy became a champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash in the Northern Luzon Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) and the National PRISAA meets. Julius or Butch also dominated the 100- and 200- meter events in the NorLu and National PRISAA meets and excelled in car racing as a national champion in car rally driving from 1994 to 1996.

Bong also became a National PRISAA champion and National Open champion in the 400-meter low hurdles with a time of 56.7 seconds — only 2.7 seconds shy off his father’s national record.

The elder Mandapat also coached Bong and his siblings including Al Rivero in the 4 x 400 meter relay.

In 1968, Bong became a member of the Philippine team to the Track and Field championship in Taipei, Taiwan and was chosen as Most Outstanding Athlete in 1968. He would also excel in golf, being an individual medalist twice in the championship fights of the Fil-Am golf tournament and other tournaments.

The elder Mandapat is survived by his wife Aurelia who, despite being already 86 years old, is still very strong and healthy. They have 10 children. Aside from the three athletic siblings are Freddie who has retired from Marcopper Mining; Lorna is a CPA who runs the family grocery business; Mario, Federico Rey, Justino, and Aurelia II are all in California, USA; while Valentino is an engineer and is currently a senior building official in Daly City, USA.

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