Basketball

Rene Saguisag on Caloy Loyzaga: ‘The Big Difference’ simply the best ever

Chito Loyzaga is one refutation of the Greek saying that great fathers seldom have great sons. Chito has resigned his membership in the Philippine Sports Commission to be with his ailing father in Australia.

I can still remember when Carlos Loyzaga was called Pomfret after a Canadian athletic great. I can recall when he led the Philippine team to a No. 3 finish in word basketball in Brazil in 1953.

I was in Rizal High then and rooted for Ateneo, whose rival was San Beda. La Salle was not even in the radar screen at the time, with all due respect. It was San Beda versus Ateneo which drew mammoth crowds to the oven-like Rizal Memorial Stadium, for the big enchilada, the Zamora Trophy, which San Beda got and retired after three years as champion, thanks to Pomfret.

When I got to San Beda in 1955, I might have been torn between Ateneo’s Moro Lorenzo, et. al. and San Beda’s Caloy, et. al. But that little love for San Beda, slowly grew and grew, until it became a passion that whipped the blood. It still does — umpa, umpa — if fan came from fanatic, I can only agree. Time was when the NCAA was king, but later wracked by violence in the 60′s, it was suspended. And revived.

Elitist Ateneo and La Salle were unaffordable to me in 1955. San Beda, our family could afford beginning with the fare from Pasig, 15 centavos to Legarda-Azcarraga (now Recto) but beyond that, another unaffordable five centavos. A Compassionate Providence led me to Mendiola, where I continue to teach what I understand from the Bible, that poverty is respectable, refined at Harvard where some are miseducated to gain the whole world. Yes, I can say I had the advantage of poverty, as the Good Book says, on lilies of the field, and rich men and camels. (Baon ko, piso, 30 sentimos pamasahe, 10, Coke, 10, hopiang Hapon, or 30, hamburger, if I felt like splurging.)

Yes, Caloy is the father of Chito, the only Loyzaga I really got sort of close to. School ties and interest in baseball which Chito is doing his utmost to promote led to our bonding.

Caloy, if my memory is true, once had an injury in a softball game, which sidelined him decades ago. Or so I read or heard somewhere. My late wife, Dulce, met Chito in her work in Mondragon and was impressed by his breeding. Buen educado.

Born in Mindoro, Caloy first attracted notice in Manila as a comer in Tervalac (from Teresa-Valenzuela) which we would pass through daily going to San Beda from Pasig and back, passing Santa Mesa, by bus (Halili or Mandbusco). There was the well-known Tervalac basketball court where Caloy was an icon, a distinction that spread throughout the country and Asia and beyond.

He stood at 6-foot-3 at a time when some centers would not even be six-footers. He was not the only 6-foot-3 guy then but he stood out because of his high BQ — basketball quotient. He used his gift, his talent, to the utmost, as the Bible mandates.

Ting Cuna was a teammate of Caloy, but gifted as he was as a star in his own right, Ting could only speak glowingly of a mega-star he had the privilege to play with. Marunong makisama.

Caloy was said to resent being called Kalbo in San Beda in the 50′s but Pinoys are nothing if not world-class hecklers.

Isa-dalawa-tatlo, ang tatay-mong-kalbo” was a popular taunt or kantyaw at the time. My wife, Dulce, was concerned that the drive to sell Nike would be difficult because Pinoys might not take to Michael Jordan, “isang negrong kalbo.” (Among her staffers then was one Noynoy Aquino, who he advised to take up some sport, and he turned to shooting, and produced Kabarilans.)

But MJ took the world by storm and some periods I would see our three sons with heads like billiard balls. A handicap became a status symbol and even today, some players I call Kalburos. Some studes of mine are.

The Loyzagas will forever shine and be with us, somewhere in our grateful hearts.

Caloy is simply the best basketball player our country has ever seen. Truly big time, the Big Difference, in basketball. Chito promotes baseball, where our chances of producing an Ichiro Suzuki is higher than producing a Jeremy Lin. Caloy was invited by the Flamingos, if my memory is true, but he came home, to give more honors to his native land. And he has never really been away, in our appreciative heart or hearts.

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