MANILA, January 9, 2004  (STAR) The best and brightest in local sports in the year just passed take center stage today when the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) honors them in its annual Awards Night.

On top of the distinguished list of honorees are boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and bowling sensation Christian Jan (CJ) Suarez, named as co-winners of the Athlete of the Year award by the country’s oldest media organization for achieving great feats in 2003.

The two and the rest of the awardees will be personally congratulated by the First Couple, President Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, the country’s top two sports supporters who are expected to grace the two-hour affair at the Manila Pavilion grand ballroom.

This marks the first time Suarez was named Athlete of the Year by the sportswriting fraternity while Pacquiao won it for the second straight year after being bestowed of the award in 2002 along with equestrianne Mike Cojuangco-Jaworski.

Amateur cage standout Alex Compton and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) courtside anchor Lala Roque will host the show, which NBN-4 airs on a slightly delayed basis and has for sponsors Red Bull and Agfa Colors, with support coming from Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), San Miguel Corp. and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

PSA president Bert Cuevas of the Manila Standard will be introducing the guest of honor, with first vice-president Jimmy Cantor of Malaya opening the 9 p.m. program with his welcome remarks. Dinner is to be served at 7 p.m.

From Tegucigalpa in Honduras to San Antonio in Texas, Suarez and Pacquaio had the Philippine pride soaring.

The 25-year-old Pacquiao won all three of his fights last year, including an impressive third round technical knockout of previously unbeaten Emmanuel Lucero in Los Angeles, California to retain his International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-bantamweight crown.

But the native of General Santos City saved his best for last when he demolished in 11 brutal rounds the man considered one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound — Marco Antonio Barrera — before a hostile Alamodome crowd in a much hyped-up, non-title fight.

Suarez, a 24-year-old IT specialist, swept Dutchman Marcel van den Bosch in the final to become the first Filipino to win the World Cup after four-time champion Paeng Nepomuceno.

To share the limelight with the two are the women’s bowling team of Liza del Rosario, Liza Clutario and Cecille Yap who will be the recipient of the PSA President’s Award for winning the gold medal in the trios event of the FIQ championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Bacolod girls softball team, meanwhile, will be accorded the Antonio M. Siddayao award, named after the man regarded as the dean of local sportswriters, for copping the Junior League World Series in Washington.

On the other hand, major awards will be given to golfer Dorothy Delasin, cagers Asi Taulava (pro), James Yap (amateur), boxer Harry Tanamor (amateur), Mark Paragua (chess), Arnel Quirimit (pro cycling), Patty Dilema (jockey of the year) and Wind Blown (horse of the year).

To be given citations are the 48 gold medalists in the last 22nd Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, the two gold medal winners in the Vietnam Paralympic Games -- Adelene Dumapong and Josephine Medina, individual and group entities, while to be elevated to the Hall of Fame are two of local golf’s living legends — Ben Arda and Celestino Tugot.

Posthumous awards will be awarded to Peter Alegre, Percela Molina, Robert Cheng, Rene Fortaleza, Manolet Araneta, Pedro Adigue and Ramon Lim.

The Complete List Of Awardees Athletes of the Year — Manny Pacquiao and CJ Suarez

PSA President’s Award — Liza del Rosario, Liza Clutario and Cecilia Yap

Antonio M. Siddayao Award — Bacolod girls softball team

Hall of Fame — Ben Arda and Celestino Tugot

Major awardees — James Yap, amateur basketball, Asi Taulava, pro basketball, Dorothy Delasin, women’s golf; Wind Blown, horse of the year; Mark Paragua, chess; Arnel Quirimit, pro cycling; Patty Dilema, horse racing; Harry Tanamor, amateur boxing;

Citations — Steve Hontiveros, Air 21-FedEx, First Gentleman Foundation, Jojo Canare, Ronald Dableo, Philippine Track and Field Association, Philippine Bowling Congress, Jayvee Agojo, Philippine Racing Commission, Samsung, Glenn Aguilar, Far Eastern U men’s basketball team, Kenneth San Andres, Dottie Ardina, Allenby Jiro Ramos, Miguel Tabuena, Ali Atienza, Lhuillier and Rene Catalan.

Special citations — all 48 SEA Games gold medalists and two gold medal winners in the Vietnam ParaGames

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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