Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mother of Philippine Sports

Tita Cory remembered as mother of Philippine sports
By Eddie G. Alinea
MANILA, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Today marks the 80th birth anniversary of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, or "Tita Cory" to the admiring nation, who happens to be the most-loved Chief Executive among Filipino athletes and sports leaders being acknowledged as the "Mother of Philippine Sports."

In 1990, President Cory signed Republic Act 6847, otherwise known as the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Law, and presided over what is now known as the "Manila Miracle of '91," or the successful Philippines campaign in the 16th Southeast Asian Games which she officially opened at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

Indeed, besides restoring democracy, athletes and sportsmen owe it to her that the respect the Filipinos once enjoyed in the international sporting scene, has been relived both in terms of the performance of the Filipino campaigners as well as in organizing and hosting the event.

Like the creation of the PSC, the "Manila Miracle of '91," came as President Cory's greatest legacy in the field of sports.

For a little over six months after she signed the landmark RA 6847 into law on July 24, 1990, the gritty Filipino athletes stood tall against their finest rivals representing the powerhouse contingents in the region, from being considered as favorite whipping boys only two years before.

For in that memorable year, known also as the "Golden Year," the Filipino athletes, led by swimmer Eric Buhain and sprinter Lydia de Vega-Mercado, came up with one of their stirring performances that left the Philippines only a gold medal shy from toppling perennial overall champion Indonesia.

The local campaigners ended up harvesting a total 91 gold medals, to the then defending overall champions Indonesians' 92.

Although years after that historic moment, unofficial reports had it that the SEA federation stripped one Indonesian weightlifter of the gold medal she won that could have made the 1991 hosts as co-champion.

The local contingent's feat was a big jump from the 26-gold haul their predecessors brought home in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur where the Philippines dropped to a dismal fifth overall.

That "Manila Miracle of 91" finish came sweeter for it, once again, showed the Filipinos' capability to rise from one adversity to another to win and to honor a commitment.

And Tita Cory, the plain and simple housewife to take the helm of government following the peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, was at the forefront of all these.

It was a display of national courage from no less than the President, who insisted on the hosting the event despite an economic downtrend brought about by several natural and man-made calamities that struck the whole nation the past two years before the scheduled conclave among the best of the 10-nation federation.

A killer quake hit most part of Luzon on July 1990 and Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June of 1991 before flash floods in Leyte killed thousands two months before the Games were to commence.

It looked like the Games were doomed. Things appeared bleak, indeed. Pushing through with it was a big uncertainty as the Manila SEA Games Organizing Committee (MANSOC) was operating like headless chicken flapping around.

The drained and so-called "President's Men" called for the cancellation of the Games and channel its funds for relief and rehabilitation but the President stood pat and declared the Games must go on.

Infrastructure requirements, unfinished two weeks before the Games' inaugurals, were completed. Equipment came on the eve of competitions.

As in the first time the country hosted the biennial competition among the region's finest athletes in 1981, the Filipinos met the deadline in scrambling fashion, dressed up the premier City of Manila, and flashed the world renowned smile and hospitality to meet their guests.

And to complete the "miracle," the Filipino athletes who hardly enjoyed their home ground advantage due to late completion of venues and lack of equipment, responded to the call. Egged on by their countrymen, they put on their strongest show ever since joining the SEA Games rank in 1977.

Yes, the Filipino was everywhere, striking gold medals on all fronts, winning in their favored events and beating their rivals in sports they were not supposed to be strong contenders.

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