Archer in dire straits

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 8, 2015 - 10:00am

The man who led La Salle to NCAA senior men’s basketball championships in 1971 and 1974 is fighting the biggest battle of his life. Lim Eng Beng, 63, was diagnosed with Stage 3 liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, in early 2013 and has since undergone four cycles of chemotherapy and TACE or trans-arterial chemo-embolization. The treatment was initially successful and Beng was declared asymptomatic, bringing relief to his family and multitude of friends, fans and supporters.

It wasn’t easy for Beng to finance his treatment. He needed help. After playing for La Salle, Beng had an illustrious 12-year PBA career that ended in 1986. With what he earned as a star cager playing for Concepcion, U-Tex, San Miguel, Crispa, Shell and Manila Beer, Beng established a trucking business with a fleet of 10 big wheelers. But when his brother died, the business slipped away from his hands. The business was taken over by his brother’s widow, leaving him with nothing. Although the business was a partnership between him and his brother and he put up the capital for it, Beng quietly walked away. He chose not to dispute the takeover. 

From 1995 to 2002, Beng was virtually jobless. Somehow, he managed to make both ends meet, relying on friends for whatever they could provide. Beng is no stranger to difficult conditions. His parents were migrants from China and as one of eight children, he was raised in humble surroundings in Moriones, Tondo. Basketball was his ticket out of poverty. 

Several years ago, Beng was hired as a supervisor with Rain Or Shine but resigned to focus on his cancer treatment. He also had to stop coaching the varsity of his high school alma mater Chiang Kai Shek. A consolation was his three children Bryan, 33, Erin, 28 and Ervin, 26, all La Salle graduates, are now gainfully employed. And his wife of 36 years, Eleanor, remains faithfully by his side.

* * *

Throughout his life, Beng has never imposed on anyone. When his children asked if they could watch a La Salle game in the UAAP, Beng never checked if he had an allocation for tickets because he didn’t want to appear presumptuous. When he was invited to attend a La Salle function at the Manila Polo Club, he took a bus from home and got off at the corner of EDSA and McKinley to walk all the way to the Forbes Park hub. A friend saw him walking and gave him a lift. That’s how Beng has always been – unobtrusive, self-effacing. He never likes to draw attention to himself. 

To this day, Beng and his family live in a rented apartment on Quezon Avenue. What he owns is what he has earned or what was given to him on an unsolicited basis. Even during his heyday, Beng was a picture of humility. In 1974, he scored 55 points for La Salle in a game against Letran and went on to power the Archers to the championship. He was the hero of heroes on campus but never let the adulation go to his head. Among his 1974 title teammates were Virgil Villavicencio and Billy Johnston. His 1971 championship teammates included Miguel Bilbao, Alex Malixi and the late Julee Lim and Doy Escober.

When Beng was found to be suffering from cancer, La Salle alumni rushed to his aid. Over P4 Million was raised with Ambassador Danding Cojuangco contributing P1 Million. La Salle alumnus Raffy Villavicencio organized a fund-raising event for Beng and another alumnus Luigi Tabuena arranged an appointment with liver specialist Dr. Tan Kai Chah of the Asian Center of Liver Diseases and Transplantation in Singapore. Dr. Tan and associate Dr. Lee Kang Hoe continue to monitor the progress of treatment through Beng’s quarterly visits. From an initial prognosis that he had only three years to live, Beng was later declared clear of cancer.

* * *

But last June, an MRI showed a moderate-sized, wedge-shaped abnormality in the posterior right hepatic lobe consistent with portal vein thrombosis. The mass effectively blocked blood flow to the liver. Dr. Ramon Santos Ocampo of the Makati Medical Center advised to arrest the condition with immediate SIRT (selective internal radiation therapy) before worsening. The drug used for SIRT, radioisotope: Y-90 Microspheres, is imported from Australia and costs nearly P1.05 Million for each application.

Beng is scheduled for an SIRT at the end of the month. His savings are almost gone. What was raised three years ago has been spent for treatment, medicine and consultations. Once again, his friends are coming together to raise funds for Beng. The target is P2 Million. As of last Sept. 28, the collection has reached P1.3 Million. The plan is to turn over what will have been raised to Beng on Oct. 23.

La Salle alumnus Hero Yu is spearheading the drive. So far, several friends have answered the call, including Charles Tiu, Perry Uy, Jasper Tan, Valentino Sy, Philip Lu, Edgar Chua, Edwin Umali, George Chua, Pep Jalandoni and Ernest Cuyegkeng. 

“We hope you find it in your heart to help our King Archer fight his greatest battle,” said Yu. “No amount is too small. He will personally acknowledge your contribution. You may deposit your donations to Lim Eng Beng, RCBC branch in Sta. Mesa, savings account No. 9014982928. You may also issue a check in favor of Lim Eng Beng and we will arrange a messenger pick-up. I may be contacted through or Tel. 0917-5211955. You may also contact Perry Uy at Tel. 0918-9900525.” Now more than ever, let’s pay back Beng for the wonderful memories he gave to college basketball and PBA fans. Let’s all rally behind one of the country’s greatest athletes in his time of grave need.


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