Gone but not forgotten
By Jesus. A. Garcia Jr.
ALL Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1 and 2) this year came and gone. And as tradition and our religious practice taught us, , we visited again the graves of our departed loved ones, especially our parents though they were never far from our thoughts. Without them, we would never had this chance to experience and see the beauty of God’s creation. We thank them.
Avid cycling fans like media colleague Jun Velasco, cycling friends Joe Deresas, Boy Dion, Armando Bautista, among others, had asked me, being a cyclist and a former national champ, who were my cycling contemporaries, who’d left this world after retiring. It was a long list of names and story and so I prefer to answer their queries through this weekly paper knowing they also always read The PUNCH.
So allow me to recall their names, they who already joined our Creator who in one way or another, left us legacies that honored their respective provinces during their heydays as top athletes in the two-wheeled event.
There was the legendary Antonio Arzala of Sta. Rosa, Laguna who won the four-day first Philippine multi-stage bicycle race called “Manila to Vigan Bikathon,” in 1955. He duplicated his feat in 1956, the birth of the fabled Tour of Luzon (ToL) that was run in seven days. After two years, he was beaten by our Rufino Gabot of Manaoag in 1957 and Mamerto Eden of Mapandan in 1958, but he regained his supremacy and won again in 1959 and acclaimed as the first three-time Tour champion. Last I heard about him that he died due to old age.
Second champ to succumb was Eden in 1985 due to lung cancer. The third was 1960 Tour king Rodrigo Abaquita of Cebu who died due to old age also, like Arzala. His provincemate and teammate 1961 Tour winner Jose Moring, Jr. passed away due to kidney failure. 1964-1965 Tour ruler Jose Sumalde of Bicol died due to unknown disease, according to my former teammate Teofilo Aquino, born in Binmaley but based in Manila.
Yes, some cyclists after retiring from their chosen cycling career suffered heart disease, either from stroke or a heart attack. Some of the victims of this killer disease were: Back-to-back (1966-1967) Tour titlist Cornelio Padilla, Jr., of Quezon City; three-time Tour conqueror the icon Manuel Reynante of Muntinlupa City; 1974 Tour winner Teodorico Rimarim of Basista, Pangasinan and 1978 Tour titleholder Rumin Salamante of Bicol.
Cyclists are prone to road accidents either in training or in riding motorcycle. The motorcycle fatalities were: Back-to-back (1981-1982) Tour champ Jacinto Sicam of San Manuel, Pangasinan; 1982 Tour first runner-up Fermin Zabala of Bautista, Pangasinan, and 1984 champion Romeo Bonzo of Sual, Pangasinan. 1990 Tour victor Manuel Buenaventura of Metro Manila was sideswiped by a white car riding his bike at nighttime.
My source told me that 1987 Tour winner Reynaldo Dequito of Metro Manila was stabbed to death due to altercation not far from his home. And the latest ex-champ who succumbed this year was the 1985 Tour king Pepito Calip of Binalonan, Pangasinan. He was killed because of a grudge or due to land dispute.
They are gone, but their deeds will never be forgotten. And their families I’m sure paid respect and offered prayers for them last undas. Amen.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” LUKE 8: 25
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