Filipino student-athletes enjoy the liberty of competing in the World University Games also known as Universiade because of Atty. Maria Luz Arzaga-Mendoza.
Atty. Luz, whom I am comfortable of calling her, is my childhood friend.
We both went to Albert Elementary School and thereafter went to Far Eastern University in high school, and then she went to University of the Philippines.
Luz and I both made it to the Philippine National Swimming Team in the early 1970’s.
As roommates, we eat, train and go to school together for many years.
I have known her parents and siblings when I started swimming at the age of five. I would say for 57 years.
Luz was a former Philippine record holder in 100m and 50m backstroke.
We were part of the Philippine contingent to the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, Iran that won the bronze medal in 4x100m medley relay with Luz Laciste and Grace Justimbaste.
Now, let me explain why she is a blessing to our Filipino student-athletes.
Without her, whom I believe was sent by our God Almighty through the Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippine (FESSAP); we won’t be able to compete in the Universiade.
It all started when Graham Lim, the Secretary General of FESSAP contacted me that he needed a trustworthy lawyer. I told Graham that if there is a lawyer I can trust, she is my longtime friend. Hence, Graham and Atty. Luz met.
Let me tell you how Atty. Luz saved the whole delegation of FESSAP in the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia.
I remember reading an article saying that the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) is the new member in Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) and no longer FESSAP. But the power grab did not succeed; it is like a failed coup d’etat.
Thanks to Atty. Luz who showed up early in the morning in the FISU General Assembly in Kazan, Russia. She is all bent to defend FESSAP to FISU against the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) that was then eager to widen its territory and seize power bestowed by the FISU to a privately funded federation.
I myself witnessed when POC sent delegates Steve Hontiveros and Ricky Palou to the FISU 2013 Kazan Russia General Assembly.
However, during the FISU Congress, Atty. Luz raised her hand and insisted to express herself. She stood in the aisle way at the back and started to greet everyone in many languages among them Spanish, French and English.
I can recall how everyone turned their heads toward her.
Luz started talking bravely, courageously, without fear and full of confidence, while Hontiveros and Palou were speechless, in the presence of representatives from 150 countries.
I clearly recall some of what she said, “Mr. President, with due respect, you have violated the rules as well as abated and approved a route which will affect the integrity of your administration as well as tarnish the good image and integrity of FISU by lending your active participation and leadership to a travesty of justice.
Your decision to entertain the application of UAAP while FESSAP is the only recognized and bonafide member of FISU will not only open the ‘Pandora’s Box’ but will destroy time-honored rules and traditions.
Your insistence on following the recommendation of your Legal Committee that FESSAP should submit the certification from the Philippine Commission on Higher Education.
FESSAP not only was recognized by the President of the Philippines and the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, the number one and number three highest Officials of the Philippines. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is certainly a lesser Echelon Agency of the Government. The records will speak for itself, Mr. President.”
I can also recall after Luz’s speech, that FISU president Claude L. Gallien called for a recess and approached her.
The POC-UAAP delegates were unsuccessful to convince the FISU community to disown FESSAP.
A favorable decision for the POC could have left Filipino athletes doing nothing and unable to compete in the 2013 Universiade in Kazan for two weeks.
But the unrighteous failed because of human help sent by the Lord.
“Honor must not be compromised and righteously must be adapted with principle, devotion and responsively,” Graham C. Lim said.
Atty. Luz succeeded as FISU reiterated its recognition of FESSAP.
Arzaga-Mendoza is now a member of Legal Committee of FISU, which means greater blessings to FESSAP and Filipino student-athletes.
Congratulations to you, my friend!