MANILA, December 26, 2003  (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - ’Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house, everyone is stirring. There is joy in the air. The Lord is born. The spirit of Christmas is upon us.

Today, we pay tribute to our readers who are why we are what we are. They are our gift from God. And we wish to thank them for their patronage, support and feedback.

Listen to some of them:

Edmond Lacson of Sta. Clara Subdivision, San Vicente Street, Bacolod City–You may not believe it but during the late ’20s, the ’30s and the few years after the war, football was the game in the Philippines. It was more popular than basketball which was just beginning to take hold of the public’s attention.

During those years, La Salle was unbeatable. No team, either local or foreign, was ever able to beat La Salle for years and years. The only team that beat La Salle, as far as I can remember, was the Islington Corinthians, a pro football team from England. The score, if I remember right, was 2-0 in favor of the Corinthians.

The great names in Philippine football, and I’m quite sure to miss some of the great ones before my time, were Virgilio Lobregat, Emilio Ugarte and his brother whose first name I forget (My note: Was it Sebastian?), Emilio Heredia, Quinito Ortigas and his older brother Miguel or Long (I was a kid then, a boarder at La Salle, when I saw Long dribble through three players with the greatest of ease–he was a smooth ballhandler, buenisimo para el pitorreo, as they used to say), Dee See Wee and many others. If you want more information on Philippine football, I refer you to Mr. Leo Prieto, a classmate of my late brother Ronald. There were other non-La Salle great names and I’m sure Mr. Prieto will be able to tell you about them. Arsenio Lacson, the Mayor, was also an excellent player at halfback.

Marcos Roces of The Peak Building, Leviste Street, Makati–I read your column regarding the death of Manolet Araneta. I knew him intimately since he entered La Salle in 1948 and he was always a gracious and lovable person. I would like to tell you about a game in 1948 for the national championship between La Salle and UST. I was present at that game sitting next to Lino Castillejo Sr. and La Salle won in overtime.

In that game, Eddie Decena and Jun Inigo did not play because of injuries. Our coach Chito Calvo used only six players–Tito Eduque, Manolet, Eddie Sharuff, Jess Pimentel, Jose Mari Mendieta and Chito Pintado who had come from the juniors (and) was fantastic in that game. The other players on that team were Alberto Decena, Lino Castillejo Jr., Hugo Von Arend, Gabby Roses, Tony Beltran Jr., Alfred Ysrael, Horacio Noble and Grampy Ramirez.

For UST, I only remember Pepe Esteva, Edward Dee and Pocholo Martinez. That game will always be one I will never forget. I hope this will give you a little more idea of what a determined and gritty team can do.

Tony Reyes of Brea, California–Regarding your column about (Talk ‘N’ Text coaching consultant) Maz Trakh, I just want to know if he is the same Maz Trakh who coached the Brea Olinda high school girls basketball team that won many championships in Orange County, California.

I live in Brea and I am an avid fan of the sports program of Brea Olinda high school, particularly basketball. I have a son who played for the varsity in the mid-1980s. If he is the same Trakh (My note: He is), I’ve seen him coach and he’s good. Many of his players went on to play for UCLA, USC and other colleges and universities playing in the NCAA. Thank you and I want to let you know that I am a regular reader of your column.

Jim Apelar, Philippine Overseas Olympic Development Committee, a program of Fil-Am Sports USA, Inc.–Regarding Philippine sports, it is on track to a brighter future. My only apprehension or probably confusion is that last year, POC president Celso Dayrit gave a mandate to Fil-Am Sports USA to help find outstanding Fil-Am athletes who can help the Philippines in international competition. Similar to PSC’s mandate to Phil-Am Chamber of Commerce. We are moving forward and we will accept the challenge of both sports bodies and move on because we love our roots, the Philippines.

We have lined up top caliber athletes and coaches in our recent launching in Bellflower, California. We have a competitive pool of athletes who showed up and we also have developmental athletes in their young teens who are excelling in their respective high schools and middle schools. One of them is good enough to break the Asian Games record–all of the competitive athletes are in NCAA Division I schools. In the developmental pool, we tried competing in the Batang Pinoy last year in Palawan and came out successful. Krizia Apelar got a silver in 200-meter sprints. The very first time she ran a race. I hope this is the start of something big that will provide a breakthrough for Philippine sports.

Jose Paris of Paris Global Sports, Puerto Rico–The grandfather of Cesar (Mandy) Bocachica (25-year-old forward of Florida International) is from Manila. The grandfather is Ambrosio Salvador. Bocachica is 6-6, 240 pounds and one of the best rebounders in the Puerto Rican league. He lives in Puerto Rico. I do not know if he is half-Filipino but his lineage begins in the Philippines. He asked me a couple of months ago if he could play in Manila as a local. From what I gather from his heavy accent, one of his grandparents is of Filipino descent.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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