San Miguel’s role in discovering and developing Filipino sports heroes

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From the time the first batch of parbusters teed off in 1913 to signal the birth of the Philippine Open, San Miguel Corp. and its flagship product Beer, under the leadership of the Soriano family – headed by its patriarch Don Andres Sr., his son Andres Jr. and grandson Andres III, has been, up to this day, in each and every edition of Asia’s oldest golf tournament.

More than 70 men have so far won the Open since its inception. The late Filipino Larry Montes came out as the winningest with 12 titles under his sleeves, Celestino Tugot, another Filipino swingman, had six, including a streak of four from 1955.

Luis “Golem” Silverio was the first post-war amateur to win the Open when he beat Tugot in 1966 with a big put on the last hole for a 69 against Tugot’s 72. Among the Filipino winners, only “Bantam” Ben Arda in 1970 and Frankie Minoza in 1990 went on to top the Asian Order of Merit.

Cycling great Antonio Arzala is hoisted by supporters after winning the 1956 First Tour of Luzon. PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

All the Open victors rose to become heroes and legends of Philippine sports.


Don Andres Sr., who was also then chairman of the board of the now-defunct Philippines Herald, likewise, partnered with Manila Times publisher Chino Roces, cycling Association president Gerry Lacuesta and the Tour of Luzon Association to organize what was to become an annual summer spectacle Tour of Luzon.

Inspired by the enormous success of the Manila-to-Vigan bicycle marathon, a marketing vehicle to promote Philippine grown tobacco initiated by then President Elpidio Quirino in 1955, the Tour stood out in the pages of Philippine sports history in the 50s as the “Era of the Bicycle.”

It was the period when poor newspaper carriers, messengers, mail delivery boys and pandesal vendors who had pistons of Porsche for a pair of legs and a mahogany for a body rose from obscurity to become the toast of the local sporting world.

Names like Antonio Arzala, Jose Sumalde, Cornelio Padilla Jr., Jesus Garcia Jr., to mention a few, all multiple winners of the Tour suddenly became household words and acknowledged, too, as sports heroes and legends on the strength of their exploits in the grueling summer spectacle on wheels.

For its involvement in basketball since way back in the 30s when the sport was first introduced in the country, SMC also played a big role in the shoot-and-dribble game’s emerging as the nation’s favorite pastime like baseball in the U.S.

SMC was also there as an original member of the country’s first commercial league – the Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association – precursor of the now professional Philippine Basketball Association when it was founded in the 50s.

Besides being an original member, too, of the country’s and Asia’s pioneering play-for-pay aggrupation, SMC, now under the tutelage of the Cojuangcos – brothers Eduardo “Danding” and Enrique “Henry,” formed Philippine Amateur Basketball League, ensuring the status budding non-pros besides becoming the source of talents to future money players.

Ambassador Danding, was, likewise, instrumental, as basketball project director, in the Philippines’ winning back the Asian Youth championship in 1982 and the Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA-Asia) crown in 1986, which the country both lost due to the re-admission of China to the ABC fold. (To be continued)

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