Zamboanga once ruled PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 13:38

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

“A human being is not, in any proper sense, a human being till he is educated.” - Horace Mann. A well-rounded student should like both intellectual things and athletics.

Thus, last October 7, Alsons Power, in collaboration with the Philippine Weightlifting Association and Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, unfolded a scholarship program for aspiring weightlifters in Zamboanga city. Initially, five scholars who are indulged in weightlifting, have been hand-picked by Miss Diaz, the PWA and Councilor Bong Atilano, Vice President of the PWA.

Dubbed as “The Program”, this initiative was launched by Alsons Power in recognition and acknowledgement of Miss Diaz’s dedication and commitment to “bring glory to our country through her expressed desire to select and train aspiring competitive weightlifters...” The Program was also conceived in consideration of these aspiring weightlifters’ commitment to “undergo rigorous training to become potential world-class champions who will bring honor to the Philippines and serve as inspiration to our countrymen, and taking into account the paramount need for athletes to be sufficiently educated.”

There’s another sports discipline that we have excelled in — boxing. Let’s set aside for a moment these two sports that have produced great athletes..

In the late 60s, I’ve came to know at least four athletes, all sprinters, who trained hard to qualify for the International competitions with a chance to advance to the olympics. Ruben Moreno, Tocal Mukalam, Ramon Hernandez and Carmen Torres. I watched them train daily at the then Zamboanga Grandstand to increase their speed and stamina.

I’ve not heard from them since then. They were the torch-bearers, the paragon of discipline and physical strength. Mordeno and Mukalam made it to the Singapore games. Hernandez skipped running to pursue a degree at Arellano University. Torres retired after settling down and after realizing that she couldn’t beat Mona Sulaiman to the tape.

If you care to know, Vicente “Teng” Mercado, the former barangay captain of San Jose-Cawa-Cawa, was a member of the Philippine running team. He was a miler and competed in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs in the interscholastics.. Just like Mordeno, Mukalam, Hernandez and Torres, he carried the Mindanao colors.

“Teng” went to school at the then Zamboanga School of Arts and Trades. At the time,  ZSAT and ZAEC, now UZ, were the dominant schools in athletics. ZSAT developed runners, while ZAEC produced boxers and body-builders.

In those days, MPQCC (Manila-Pasay-Quezon-Caloocan combined) and Southern Tagalog were the dominant regions in nationwide games. MPQCC ruled in the ball games, while ST snatched most of the medals in track and field.

Now back to the present. The Alsons scholars should show commitment in completing their studies by having no failing grade in any subject at any time, job unexcused absences within the school year and no disciplinary against them during the school year.

The Program is a continuous process. More scholars will be accepted into the program in succeeding years.

Here’s the thing: if the private sector can come together and sponsor at least one athlete for every sporting event, Zamboanga would be able to produce outstanding athletes of champion caliber. In the late 50s and early 60s, prominent individuals had boxing stables for hopeful prizefighters. A Jesuit priest supported and trained a security guard, Little Frisco, a junior lightweight boxer. He ended his career after a KO loss to American Bob Persley at the Ateneo gym.

There was a time when we produced the best little-leaguers in the world.  But nobody wants to talk about it. In the battle for prominence in baseball in Mindanao, Zamboanga always went ahead of Davao.

With Alsons Power leading the way and rekindling the hope of turning out future champions in weightlifting. Others may follow with other sports disciplines and bring back the glory that was once Zamboanga’s.