McTavish is no Blatche
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2015 - 12:00am

Boxing referee and philanthropist Bruce McTavish sometimes wishes he’s a 6-10 basketball player who looks like either Andray Blatche or Marcus Douthit. Unfortunately, he’s not and that’s why it’s taking nearly forever for him to be naturalized as a Filipino citizen.

McTavish, 74, has been a Philippine resident since Feb. 12, 1967 – exactly, 48 years ago to the day. He’s been married 37 years to Filipina Carmen Tayag who comes from a well-known family in Pampanga. His wife’s father Renato was a brilliant lawyer and his brother-in-law is Claude Tayag, the internationally-acclaimed chef.

Believe it or not, McTavish has been desperately trying to gain Filipino citizenship for years – quite a departure from the norm as hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipinos can’t wait to become citizens of other countries. But he just can’t seem to get Congress to approve it.

In 2010, Rep. Carmelo Lazatin filed House Bill No. 1445 endorsing McTavish’s application for citizenship by naturalization through legislation. The bill was referred to the Committee on Justice which later approved it with amendments. Somehow, McTavish never got to be naturalized and a new Congress was elected.

Last year, Rep. Yeng Guiao filed House Bill No. 2343 re-endorsing McTavish’s re-application. McTavish’s application was submitted to the Committee on Justice on the same day that Blatche’s case was taken up. Since McTavish’s first application, Douthit and Blatche have been naturalized. McTavish remains a foreigner in the country that has been his home for close to 50 years.

“I don’t mean to put down Douthit or Blatche,” said McTavish. “I’m a big fan of basketball and I’m a fan of both Douthit and Blatche. But do I have to be a 6-10 basketball player to be naturalized?” McTavish, by the way, was an amateur boxer and basketball player in New Zealand, where he was born. He compiled an amateur record of 31-2 before hanging up his gloves to earn an economics degree from Auckland University. Douthit and Blatche were naturalized within months of their application.

McTavish said Guiao phoned last week to explain what’s taking the naturalization process so long. “Yeng’s a dear friend from way back,” said McTavish. “I knew his late father Bren. I know Yeng is doing his best and he’s been very helpful. I think Pampanga is fortunate that we have a Congressman like Yeng. He told me the reason why my application hasn’t been acted on is because of a backlog. Apparently, there were others who applied before me and their papers are still being processed.”

McTavish said while he still carries a New Zealand passport, people around the world recognize him as a Filipino. When he lectures on the rules of boxing in world conventions, McTavish is introduced as a Filipino. When he is nominated to work a fight involving a Filipino, he is not considered as coming from a “neutral” country because he is known as a Filipino. As far as McTavish is concerned, his heart is pure Filipino. The only thing missing is his Filipino passport.     

At the 105th Rotary International Convention in Sydney last year, McTavish was introduced before an audience of over 18,000 as a Rotarian from the Philippines, not from New Zealand.  “I was so proud to represent the Philippines in the convention,” he said. “My Rotary Club of Mabalacat was recognized during the convention for launching the world’s first Polio Plus project in 1983, our campaign to fight polio. Today, polio has been eradicated in 99.6 percent of the world and it all began with our Polio Plus project.”

As I mentioned in a previous column, McTavish has lived the best years of his life in the country with absolutely no regrets. He has embraced the Philippines like a native-born Filipino and that’s why he’s yearning for naturalization. McTavish has given much honor to the country not only as a boxing referee with over 150 world title fights in his resume but also as an advocate of social causes. He’s also in the history books as the first non-Filipino director of the Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the first non-Filipino president of the St. James Cursillo and the first non-Filipino president of the Rotary Clubs of Mabalacat and Clark Centennial. McTavish is particularly proud of his projects for streetkids, providing scholarships for their education and opportunities to play competitive sports. He has been involved in promoting rugby league and Pony baseball competitions for children as his way of using sports to keep kids out of drugs, trouble and mischief.

More than his boxing credentials, McTavish is well-loved in Angeles City for his philanthropy and social projects to look after streetchildren, the underprivileged and orphans. McTavish and his wife Carmen are blessed with two children, Jean and Michelle, and three grandchildren. His son-in-law is triathlete Michael Angelo Mandap.

Still active in boxing circles, McTavish was the referee in Jason Pagara’s second round knockout win over Mexico’s Cesar Chavez in Davao City last Saturday. “I thought Chavez was overrated,” said McTavish. “I checked his record before the fight and saw that his seven losses were all by knockout. Jason is strong and has a lot of potential but I think he needs two or three more tune-up fights before going up against the big boys. Jason is a better boxer than Brandon Rios but he’s not ready for Rios at the moment. In time, he can beat Rios but needs a little more seasoning.”

McTavish said he’s in favor of the plan to bring Pagara to the US for sparring and exposure. “That will do a lot of good for him,” he went on. “The fight against Chavez was not competitive. Chavez didn’t do a thing. But the fans loved it. Pagara put on a good show. It’s what the fans came out for.”

ANDRAY BLATCHE ANGELES CITY CHAVEZ DOUTHIT AND BLATCHE FILIPINO HOUSE BILL NO MCTAVISH NEW ZEALAND POLIO PLUS YENG
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