• Philippine basketball’s ‘Great Difference’


    Carlos Loyzaga
    contributed photo

    A two-time Olympian, King Caloy powered the Philippines to a ninth place finish in 1952 in Helsinki and seventh, the country’s third highest in Melbourne in 1956.

    The first time Loyzaga wore the country’s red, white and blue colors at a tender age 21, he led the Filipino cagers’ gold medal triumph in the inaugural staging of the Asian Games in 1951 in New Delhi, the same way he did in the subsequent title defending campaign in 1954 in Manila, 1958 in Tokyo and in 1962 in Jakarta.

    Before losing the Asian Crown Jewel, the Philippines, again starring the beanpole product of sandlot basketball in Teresa in Sampaloc District of Manila, shifted it supremacy in the Asian Basketball Confederation, a regional organization, which, like the Asian Games, Filipino sports leaders helped established.

    Like the Asiad, Caloy and teammates ruled the First ABC right in front of their countrymen in 1960, defended the title the next time around in Taipei in 1963 before relinquishing it in 1965 in Kuala Lumpur. Loyzaga. again, was responsible for the Philippines’ regaining the title in 1967, this time as head coach. He was the assistant coach when the country again won it in 1973 here in Manila.

    Caloy was 15 when he first learned the rudiments of basketball playing on the courts in Teresa-Valenzuela (Tervalac) where he was spotted by Gabby Fajardo, one of the leading coaches in the collegiate and commercial leagues, who saw the potentials of the lanky but skinny protégé.

    Fajardo, upon seeing his mestizo discovery, offered the teener a slot in his PRATRA junior squad in the then Manila Industrial-Commercial Athletic Association basketball tournament. Caloy quit schooling at the National University and accepted Fajardo’s offer. That was 1949, the year Loyzaga led PRATRA the MICAA junior diadem in his baptism of fire of sort as a minor leaguer.

    The following year, he was already seeing action with the PRATRA senior squad with then more of illustrious Lauro “The Fox” Mumar, Ignacio “Ning” Ramos and Caddy Tanquintic that Caloy started to spread his wings that soon enough, he caught the attention of no less than coach Fely Fajardo, brother of Gabby and mentor of the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA.

    That opened the gate for the former Tervalac boy to play in the country’s collegiate glamour league and at the same time a chance to continue his studies. He was already 20 and in second year high school. He was still in high school, in other words, when he started playing collegiate ball.

    From there, the rest is history as the old saying goes. From PRATRA, then PRISCO, then San Beda, Caloy extended his wings further until he landed a place in the lineup of the famous Yco Painters, the team he helped in winning 49 straight games in 1956, an awesome streak by any language in any league in any country.

    He was also at the forefront of the Painters’ seven straight title conquest of the National Open at the height their historic rivalry with the equally-famous Ysmael Steel quintet from 1954 to 1960.

    When the Philippines capped third place in the 1954 World Championship and Loyzaga earned his place in the Mythical Five, he was named “Athlete of the Year” by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.

    Upon his retirement due to recurring knee injury, “King” Caloy was honored by the MICAA during the appreciation day for his “outstanding services to Philippine basketball, in particular, and Philippine sports, in general.”

    In between conquering the different local and international basketball arenas either on the hardcourt as a player or on the bench as tactician, Caloy, then 27, married a University of Santo Tomas beauty Victoria Cuerva, 18. The union bore a brood of five — Cachito (Chito), Russo (Joey), Theresa, Princessa and Bing.


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