MANILA, Philippines - It was a Red Lion-letter day for basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga who was feted in a Eucharistic celebration and launch of a book on his life at the Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat in San Beda College, Mendiola, last Wednesday.
Unable to speak because of a stroke he suffered nearly two years ago, Loyzaga showed up in a wheelchair and used a walker to accept a plaque of citation and medallion from rector president Fr. Aloysius Maranan who concelebrated Holy Mass with abbot emeritus Fr. Tarcisio Narciso, prior administrator Fr. Rafaelito Alaras and Fr. Paul De Vera in his honor.
Loyzaga, 82, recently arrived from Australia where he lived with wife Vicky close to his son Joey and daughters Princess and Teresa since 1987. He is now on the road to recovery under daughter Bing’s care. Son Chito arranged for Loyzaga’s return to Manila and was the prime mover in publishing the book “The Big Difference.”
Loyzaga was repeatedly moved to tears as one by one, speakers extolled his virtues in a program leading to the book launch. He was recognized as an inspiring role model whose love for the game was only eclipsed by his love for country when playing with the national team. San Beda Law Alumni Association chairman Atty. Avelino Cruz noted that in 1954, Loyzaga was named one of the world’s 10 most outstanding players and former Yco teammate Paing Hechanova described him as the greatest Filipino cager ever. San Beda Alumni Association president Joselito Hautea, publisher Atty. Dominador Buhain and member of the school’s Board of Trustees Jose Araullo paid tribute to Loyzaga for bringing honor to the Red and White.
The Abbey Church drew a big crowd of well-wishers including Freddie Webb, Boni Carbonell, three-time Olympic basketball player Ramoncito Campos, Juan Cutillas and wife Tessie, Sen. Rene Saguisag, Fr. Basil Apostol, Sonny Gil, Ato Badolato, Pinggoy Manosa, Mike Advani, Vicenting Cuna, former teammate Tony Genato’s children Cuquita and Danding, Vijun Genato, Ira Maniquis, Jude Roque, Recah Trinidad, Chino Trinidad, Nino Sinco, Tessa Jazmines and book editors Lito Cinco and Albert Almendralejo. San Beda players Kyle Pascual, Jun Bonsubre, Ryusei Koga, Van Abatayo, Richie Villaruz, Rome de la Rosa, Jeric Estrada, Roldan Sara and Francis Abarcar also attended. Loyzaga came with wife Vicky, children Chito, Bing and Teresa and grandchildren Gabby, Alyssa and Joseph.
Loyzaga’s son Chito spoke on his behalf and thanked San Beda for the tribute. He said his father lived by the principles of loyalty, fairness and integrity. During the program, it was mentioned that Loyzaga put the Philippines on the world basketball map when he led the national team to third place at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 1954. No Asian team has surpassed or even equaled the bronze medal finish, not even China in Yao Ming’s heyday. It was also mentioned that in 1955, Loyzaga and his Yco teammates barnstormed Spain and compiled a 17-1 record, losing only to Barcelona, under coach Leo Prieto. Sports historian Fernando Font, writing in “El Libro De Oro Del Basket,” referred to Loyzaga as “famoso” and “longuilineo” (long-limbed) in a caption of the Yco team picture which appeared in the 394-page book. Loyzaga’s teammates in the Spanish tour included Campos, Hechanova, Eddie Lim, Tito Eduque, Pablo Cuna, Pepe Esteva, Genato, Pocholo Martinez, Martin Urra and Kurt Seeberger.
Loyzaga, who underwent a quadruple bypass heart operation in 2003, stood tall and proud when he received his plaque and medallion even as his once well-sculpted body has been reduced to a fragile figure because of illness. A roar of applause greeted Loyzaga in the formal launch of his 195-page book whose writers included Jazmines, Beth Celis, Ignacio Dee, Cinco, Henry Liao, Sen. Saguisag (in the foreword) and Joaquin Henson.