FROM Iloilo and the slum areas of Metro Manila, former national player and now table tennis leader Ting Ledesma has emerged from poverty to become one of the country’s successful sports leaders.
Ledesma, who now heads the Table Tennis Association of the Philippines (TATAPhil) as president, started playing table tennis when he was six. After a few years, the sport became Ledesma’s bread and butter.
“I played ping-pong and some times I got a little money after defeating my opponents in a friendly game [in Iloilo],” Ledesma recalled. “From there, my interest and dedication in ping-pong grew stronger and I gained a lot of friends also.”
The young Filipino-Chinese businessman told The Manila Times that he and his elder sister and brother and mother had decided to try their luck in Manila a few years after he graduated college.
“We lived in Manila and then met some Chinese business partners that led us to buy and sell business, fruit business and now the LPG (liquified petroleum gas) business,” he said. “Despite our struggle, we never stopped trying until we succeeded.”
Ledesma’s career in ping-pong rose when he became a national player in 1997, but he left the sport a few years later to focus on his business and two growing kids—Walden and Stephanie—during that time. Fortunately, their fruit business continued to grow until now.
In early 2000 due to the rise of the LPG business in the country, the family of Ledesma decided to forgo their fruit business for petroleum. During that time, Ledesma invested in LPG cooking tanks and a single truck for delivery.
Ledesma then bought their own LPG plant with trucks and with more employees in Quezon City and successfully sustained the company with Ledesma’s elder sister May supervising all business concerns.
After the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games, Ledesma made a bid to return to the Philippine team by training hard in the YMCA and Amoranto gymnasium in Quezon City. He also competed and won different table tennis open tournaments nationwide.
“I always play table tennis every day. It is my life. I held tournaments too at my own expense,” said Ledesma. “After seeing the growth of our business, I decided to return to the national team by competing in the national open in 2010. I’m very happy to return.”
In 2009, Ledesma organized the first Metropolitan Table Tennis Association (METTA) Cup that drew hundreds of different age-group and senior players nationwide every summer.
“It was only for passion and dedication to table tennis that’s why I organized the METTA Cup. For three straight years, it was very successful,” said Ledesma, who also held various table tennis clinics nationwide in his free time. “I also donated rubber racquets to different clubs.”
Considered as one of the stakeholders in ping-pong, Ledesma has been elected as one of the members of board of trustees in TATAPhil under Senator Antonio Trillanes in 2010.
Although that election was not recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), Ledesma kept his commitment to help the sport. After the resignation of former TATAPhil president Col. Cesar Hawthorne Binag in 2011, Ledesma regained his seat as a board trustee.
“I never expect myself to become president or even a board of trustee. It just happened maybe it’s God’s will,” said Ledesma, who successfully did house cleaning in TATAPhil after being elected in 2012 to replace interim president Arnel Berroya.
Berroya became president after ousting John Rex Tiu in February 2012.
Ledesma, 40, who is supported by the POC, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), had immediately paid the association’s past financial obligations to the ITTF worth $3,687.
“I really wanted to give this association a brand new start for the sake of all ping-pong players and to our national team,” said Ledesma, who now has two sons and three daughters. “It is now my duty to promote the sport and share it with the youth.”
Backed by the Fil-Chinese community, Ledesma’s yearly project is composed of rubber and racquet wood donations and free table tennis clinics throughout Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Although the PSC is committed to support TATAPhil, Ledesma admitted it is not enough.
“Being a sports leader is not easy, you need to be financially stable at all times,” he said. “I’m very happy our family business keeps growing strong. For my part, it is just giving it back to table tennis, the Olympic sport that gave me hope during desperate times.”
Ledesma’s priority is to improve table tennis grassroots and junior program since most of national players are not getting any younger.
“TATAPhil should invest seriously to the youth because they are the future,” said Ledesma. “Although China is considered the world super power in ping pong, our country has the potential to rise from the bottom.”
So far, the country is considered to be the No. 3 up from No. 4 in the Southeast Asian region in table tennis.
“There is a huge opportunity that awaits us in ping pong. If other sports made it to the top, table tennis can also make it,” he said. “We must be patient and dedicated though.”