Whenever sports fans gather and the conversation turns, as it should, to discussion on the “best Filipino baseball or softball player,” expect someone to mention name you never heard.
Of course, many will recall how Teodulo “Lefty” Viray pitched the Philippine team to the First Asian Baseball Federation championship in 1954. Or Filomeno “Boy” Codinera Jr. belted out seven doubles in three games during the Men’s World Softball Championship in 1968 to inscribe his name and the country’s to the Guinness Book of World Record.
Or Julita “Darigold” Tayo being named the world’s “best left-handed pitcher” because of her exploit during the Women’s World Softball tilt in 1970 in Osaka, Japan.
Many household names like Johnny Briones, Arturo Pagsisihan, Julio Tingzon, Baby Manzanares, to mention a few of the baseball fame and Hernando “Kulafu” Posadas, Felino Francisco, Ricardo Regis, Arlene Fabian, etc. in softball will most-likely cropped up, too.
But one really has to put Orlando Binarao’s name in the list. Yes, Orlando Binarao, who like his guru, Boy Codinera, played baseball (pitcher and outfielder) and softball (centerfielder and right fielder) with excellence since age 10.
A product of Zamboanga City’s strong baseball/softball program, Lando was s permanent fixture in his home province’s inter-schools, provincial and regional competitions from where he graduated to the Palarong Pambansa, discovered by Codinera, who brought him to Adamson University and remained one of the Falcons’ mainstays in many UAAP and national title conquests from 1989 to 1994.
It was during those period when earned his place as member of both the Philippine baseball and softball teams to countless Asian Games, Asian tourneys, and Southeast Asian Games. The last time he carried the national colors was in 2015 SEA Games in Singapore here the Philippine Blu Boys captured the crown in as many times softball is played in the biennial conclave.
Having no really big league domestic tournaments nowadays in both his favorite sports, one can’t see any voluminous record of his accomplishments. He isn’t there because there isn’t one. Binarao’s legend, as in the case of many of our sports heroes, was, so to speak, mouth-to-mouth only.
In the field, some eager young player would chase down a ground single and come up throwing wildly behind the runner, who naturally, who would result in error then help himself to extra bases if not, in some instances, directly crossing the plate.
Lando never threw to the wrong base in his career. Well, of course guys wouldn’t be running if they knew Binarao was out there. He played both baseball and softball games at least a couple of levels higher than most of his peers.
One thing Codinera liked about is pupil was his attitude. His work ethics, both as player and as a coach. “Madaling tumanggap ng insrucions kaya madaling matuto, “ he told this writer when he left Adamson’s coaching at the hands of Binarao in 2005. “That’s why when I handed him the job, I knew he’ll make good at it.”
He was not mistaken. Right in his first year in the Falcons’ bench, Binarao continued Adamson’s winning tradition left by his maestro, emerging victorious not only once but thrice in-a-row from 2007 to 2010.
Lando, a three-time UAAP MVP, wasn’t shy admitting everything he attained as player and as a coach he owed to Codinera. “Utang ko lahat ng narating ko kay coach Boy. Yung three-straight title win namin, designed nya yun. Pati yung rebuilding name from 2010 patterned sa plano nya.”
Lando started playing baseball when he was in Grade 4 in Zamboanga City where brothers Manuel, Joel and Ernesto blossomed as baseballers well as nine-time SEA Games judo champion and 2016 Olympic silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz, among other prominent Filipino greats came from.
His father Epifanio was farmer. Mother Consorcia, plain housewife. An athletic scholar at Adamson where he could only reached third year in AB in Economics, marrying girlfriend Girlie instead. The union produced three siblings – three girls and a boy.
Lando’s family lives a simple life in Maypajo in Caloocan City where he bought a house and lot out of his modest earnings as a player and coach.