NBA
Camat on a mission
- Joaquin M. Henson () - February 21, 2000 - 12:00am

Christopher Camat finally landed here Friday morning on a Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco to pursue his dream of fighting in the Sydney Olympics.

It won't be an easy chase for Camat. To make it to Sydney, he's got to beat other Philippine team hopefuls in the junior middleweight division -- like 1994 Asian Games gold medalist Reynaldo Galido--and earn a ticket to the third and last Asian qualifying tournament in Bangkok on April 1-7. Then, he's got to finish at least second in Bangkok to advance to the Olympics.

Camat, 20, is optimistic he'll get the job done. He's a man on a mission.

"I've got high expectations," said Camat who was born in San Manuel, Pangasinan, and migrated to the US when he was 10. "I've got a mission to accomplish. Making it to the Olympics is one step I'm taking to give recognition to Filipinos and Filipino-Americans."

Camat arrived with Filipino lawyer Amancio (Jojo) Liangco of the San Francisco firm Ferman & Liangco. The Filipino-American community in northern California pooled their resources to pay for Camat's trip home, said Liangco.

Camat almost didn't make the trip. His father Eduardo left for California alone in 1979 then petitioned for wife Mercedes and their three children -- two daughters and a son, Christopher-who joined him 10 years later. But in 1991, Camat's father was deported when US immigration authorities found out he misrepresented his petition.

Somehow, Camat managed to remain in the US while his father started a new family in Manila. But authorities eventually filed a deportation case against Camat, his mother, and two sisters.

Camat, meanwhile, became a source of inspiration for Filipino-Americans in northern California. He finished only up to Grade 4 at Mangcasuy High School in Binalonan, Pangasinan, before migrating and as a boy in the US, worked in a farm, delivered newspapers on a bicycle, and did odds jobs in a flea market. His mother, a nursing assistant, worked 16 hours a day, six days a week to put food on the table.

At Morro Bay High School in San Luis Obispo, Camat blossomed as a four-letter athlete in boxing, basketball, football and track. But it was in boxing where he excelled.

Police Athletic League ring trainer Pat Murphy took Camat under his wing when he was 14 and groomed him into a two-fisted boxer-puncher. Soon, Camat began bringing home trophies. In 1996, he ranked No. 2 in the US amateur standings in the middleweight class. Camat won the Blue and Gold National Invitationals in Los Angeles and dominated the California regional championships. His record is 20-3, with seven knockouts.

After graduating from Morro Bay, Camat was offered a boxing scholarship at Northern Michigan University but because of his pending deportation, he couldn't enroll.

"It wasn't Chris' fault that his papers weren't in order," explained Liangco. "He was a victim of circumstances. He couldn't go to college and couldn't be employed. A San Francisco newspaper reported on his plight and the Filipino-American community rallied in his support."

Congressman Tom Lantos of San Mateo, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofren of San Jose lobbyed for Camat's naturalization.

A SAN FRANCISCO ASIAN GAMES AT MORRO BAY HIGH SCHOOL BLUE AND GOLD NATIONAL INVITATIONALS CAMAT CHRISTOPHER CAMAT CONGRESSMAN TOM LANTOS OF SAN MATEO CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI OF SAN LIANGCO SAN
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