General Admission

Reminiscing on my PAL win—and more

By Al S. Mendoza

 

THE recent victories of Ricky Vargas and Donnie Nietes call for a boisterous celebration.

In dethroning Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., Vargas ended 14 years of mostly misrule in the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Under Cojuangco, Philippine sports suffered terribly.

We could only win one or a couple of gold medals in virtually each of the past three quadrennial Asian Games.

In the quadrennial Olympics since Onyok Velasco’s 1996 boxing silver, we could only snare another silver medal through weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the 2016 Rio Olympiad.

And in the biennial SEA Games where we last won the overall title in 2005, we plummeted down alternately to fifth, sixth and even seventh overall from 2007 up to 2017.

Whether we like it or not, the nosedives were a reflection of Cojuangco’s pathetically anemic leadership as POC president from 2004 to 2016.

Cojuangco’s inconsequential reign was also marked by controversy, including the last presidential election in 2016 where he got Vargas disqualified on a technicality.

But a fighting Vargas went to court to question his ouster, earning a ruling declaring illegal Cojuangco’s victory.

The lady Pasig judge also ordered a re-election on Feb. 23, which Vargas, 66, had handily won, 24-15, over Cojuangco, 83.

Like virtually all winners, Vargas also immediately promised change.

We can only hope he’d keep his word.

Philippine sports has long been in deep shit.

But exclude boxing—professional boxing, that is.

With back-to-back world title wins by bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas and flyweight Donnie Nietes, it goes without saying that Filipino boxers have remained indisputably world-class.

The 10th-round knockout victory of Ancajas in Texas, followed by the 7th-round stoppage triumph of Nietes in California cemented once more our global stature in the beak-busting business.

Thus, with Ancajas and Nietes safely entrenched at the helm, Manny Pacquiao can retire at peace with himself as he’d be leaving the scene in good hands.

Now, may I please segue to golf, my favored game for the last 30 years or so?

God willing, I’ll be in Bacolod today to join the PAL Media Golf tournament March 5-6 upon the invite anew of Jaime J. Bautista, the soft-spoken and super-gentleman PAL president.

The tournament, a side event of the 71st PAL Interclub Golf, is extra special to me as I won it in a most dramatic fashion in 1997—also in Bacolod.

I was down 7 strokes with a round left in the three-day event when I made my mighty rally that saw me nip two-day leader Jake P. Ayson, my dear neighbor and bosom buddy whose wife, Atche Pat Manaois, is from Dagupan City.

I won with a one-under par total over the one-over par of my kumpadre Jake, who dumped all his huge seven-stroke margin over me into the water surrounding the island green on 17 of the fabled Victorias Golf Club.  What a monumental meltdown, indeed.

My heart still goes to Jake—21 years later.

For, with the win, did I not snatch the two PAL tickets to New York—business class?  OMG!

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