Last Monday, September 11, marked the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ 100th year birth anniversary. His fellow IIocanos and those who believed in what he had accomplished in his lifetime as a congressman, senator and Chief Executive celebrated his centennial in the Ilocos region. Others commemorated his b-day by hearing mass along with his family in his tomb at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
He was the country’s longest-serving President, occupying the government’s highest position for 21 years, from 1965 to 1986, nine years of which under Martial Law.
In sports, he was the only Head of State who undertook changes by promulgating several measures aimed at upgrading the standard of the Filipino athletes representing the country in international competitions the Philippines was committed to take part in and geared towards building a strong, healthy and alert citizenry. As a graduate of law from the University of the Philippines and later lawmaker, Marcos has a full grasp of the constitutional mandate on the state’s primary responsibility to promote and develop sports for that purpose.
Two years after declaring Martial Law, Marcos dissolved the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, which for more than 50 years had been the country’s regulatory body for sports, and under Presidential Decree 604, created the Department of Youth and Sports Development designating himself as secretary in concurrent capacity. Established in 2011 was responsible for the country’s strong performance in the now-defunct Far Eastern Games and the early years of the Asian Games and the Olympic Games.
Alarmed by the Filipino athletes’ declining showing in the 1970 Asiad, where they could only bring home a gold medal, and in 1974 (zero gold) as well as in all the Olympic Games from 1948 to 1972 forced the disenfranchisement of the PAAF in favor of the DYSD.
On October 31, 1979, Marcos issued the Letter of Instructions No. 955 creating Project Gintong Alay. A brainchild of his nephew Michael Keon, Gintong Alay was initially intended to augment what DYSD program lacked for the development of track and field but was later expanded to include other sports under this project. Project Gintong Alay as a way to improving the development of Philippine sports and the athletes’ international competitiveness. A national training center was established in Baguio city where, all the chosen athletes honed their talent and skill under the supervision of both local and international coaches.
Thus, producing legends such as tracksters Lydia de Vega and Isidro del Prado; swimmers Eric Buhain and Akiko Thompson boxers, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, brother Roel Velasco and Elias Recaido; cyclists Norberto Oconenr, Joselito Santos and Domingo Villanueva; judoka John Baylon; weightlifter Jaime Sebastian, among others who lorded it over their counterparts in the SEA Games, Asian Games and in global level like the OIympics and world championships.
President Marcos continued supporting the holding of the Public Schools Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Private Schools Athletic Association annual meet, which he later on expanded to become the Palarong Pambansa that included out-of-school youths. He same with the privately-run National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the University Athletic Association of Philippines (UAAP) and even the Manila Industrial Commercial Association (MICAA).
He even use sports in his efforts to expand the country’s relations with other nations besides showcasing the Filipinos’ athletic prowess by supporting the athletes’ participation and hosting of international competitions in basketball, softball, baseball, football, etc. The national women’s softball team known as the Blu Girls ended up third in the World Championship in 1970, while their men‘s counterparts, the Blu Boys, were fourth in 1968. The Blu Girls bronze medal finish was actually fashioned out earlier by our baseball squad in 1966.
Still in improving international diplomacy, Marcos initiated the one-China policy in reliving diplomatic relation with that country using ‘basketball diplomacy’ in the process opened, too, relations with Moscow and other socialist countries. Marcos, likewise, gave government’s imprimatur to the hosting of the Men’s World Softball Championship. Held under the auspices of then Rizal Gov. Isidro Rodriguez, softball association head, the Blu Boy finished fourth, enough though for the country to earn the recognition as one of the best softball-playing nation in the world.
From 1972 to1979, the Philippines had actually played host to four more world-level competitions in what further reaffirmed the Filipinos’ capability to stage events of their magnitude. The biggest, of course, and the most talked about in the international sporting community until today, 42 years, after was the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier world championship title bout.
Dubbed as “Thrilla In Manila” or “Super Fight III” or “Fight of the Century,” the brutal 15-round showdown held October 1 at the Araneta Coliseum (re-Christened Philippine Coliseum for the purpose, the fight exposed the country, its people’s and its government no end.
Three years after the Thrilla, the country was again chosen as site of the 8th World Basketball Championship and the Anatoly Kasrpov-Viktor Korchnoi World Chess Championship held simultaneously in Manila and Baguio City, respectively. The world cage tourney, first to be held in the Far East, was so well-organized and was used s model for the next tournament in the future.
Venues of competition were the air-conditioned Araneta Coliseum, site of the Thrilla, and the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, two arenas that put premium on the comfort and convenience of the competing teams and general public, generations away from a decrepit, wire encased court where the first tournament was held 28 year ago, the old Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires in Argentina, an open court inside a football field in Santiago, Chile and the famous “frigidaire” court in an old building swept by biting snow-winds from the Pole in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1967.,i
The world chess tilt, won by Karpov, who successfully retained his title, was beamed to all mind game-playing country in the world, including the communist eastern bloc, assuring, too, an extensive exposure for the host.
Barely a year gone and he Philippines was again the place of the biggest gathering of the finest and brightest par busters on earth in the 1979 World Cup of Golf held in connection with the tournament’s silver anniversary and dedicated to the memory of Frederick Corcoran, the event’s tournament director from 1955 to 1977.
Acknowledged as the Olympic of golf, president Marcos himself awarded the imposing Fred Corcoran Trophy to individual winner Gary Player of South Africa in a glittering ceremony held at the posh Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
The Spanish tandem of Seve Balleteros and Antonio Garrido took the World Cup, edging fighting Filipino duo of veteran internationalist Ben Arda and rookie Rudy Labares.