Support from Fil-Am community
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2019 - 12:00am

STOCKTON – The outpouring of support from the Fil-Am community in this California port city was a huge source of inspiration for IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas who didn’t let his countrymen down in halting Japanese No. 1 contender Ryuichi Funai in a mandatory defense at the Stockton Arena here last Saturday night.

It was Ancajas’ seventh title defense and fourth straight in the US after previous stops in Corpus Christi, Fresno and Oakland. A crowd of 10,100 was announced in setting an attendance record in boxing at the 12,000-seat Arena. There were two world title fights in the Top Rank card. The last time a world championship bout to be held here was in 1981 when Cornelius Boza Edwards defeated Rafael (Bazooka) Limon for the WBC superfeatherweight crown. Five months after Boza-Edwards’ win, the Ugandan was dethroned by Filipino Rolando Navarrete via a fifth round knockout in Via Reggio, Italy. A year later, Navarrete lost the crown to Limon in Las Vegas.

One of Ancajas’ avid supporters is local resident Toti Quijano, an accountant. He found time in his busy office schedule to attend to Ancajas and his traveling party. Toti migrated to the US in 1983, went back to Manila then returned to settle in Stockton for good with wife Beth de Asis and three children. His wife was a Binibining Pilipinas semifinalist in 1986 when the winner was Alice Dixson. She was a PAL flight attendant for over 10 years and now works in the admissions office at the University of the Pacific whose varsity basketball coach is NBA veteran Damon Stoudamire. The University of the Pacific is where former PBA import Dell Demps and NBA veterans John Gianelli and Nigeria-born Michael Olowakandi played.  Demps, 49, also played in the NBA and was recently the New Orleans Pelicans general manager.

Toti’s brother Ricky took care of picking up visitors flying in from Manila to San Francisco and driving them 90 miles all the way to Stockton. Toti also brought visitors to the San Francisco airport from Stockton after the fight was over. Toti introduced the Ancajas team to Fil-Ams in the arena and the community gave the group a warm welcome. The Fil-Ams bought tickets to the event and brought food to the house where Ancajas and eight others stayed. The five-bedroom house is owned by former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva. Among those who stayed in the house were matchmaker Sean Gibbons’ son Sean who took care of the team’s logistics, trainer Joven Jimenez and his brother-assistant Vergel, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, Fil-Australian cutman Todd Makelim, Department of Defense consultant Mike Salvador, DJ/ring announcer Mark Lontayao and San Miguel Corp. representative George Alcantara. Toti, who patiently took the visitors out shopping, arranged for Fr. Ron Manango, a Catholic parish priest in nearby Modesto, to celebrate Holy Mass at the house.

The day after Ancajas’ victory, over 20 Fil-Ams from the city brought food to the house for lunch. Ancajas indulged in fried chicken, shrimp with walnuts, pansit, turon, guinataang halo-halo, beef and many more dishes. Ancajas hadn’t felt this love from a Fil-Am community before and thanked the Stockton residents for their support.

Another active supporter was Tina de Zuniga who owns the popular Filipino buffet restaurant Red Orchids in downtown Stockton. Tina opened the 160-seat restaurant in 1995 then sold it 10 years later to move back to Manila. She returned to Stockton and reopened the restaurant about six years ago. The Red Orchids offers a buffet meal of less than $10 and for lunch the day we went over, the dishes included lechon kawali, lumpiang sariwa na hubad, sinigang na isda, chicharon, adobo and okoy plus several kinds of salad and desserts. Tina runs the restaurant with her daughter Anna and occasionally, former ABS-CBN Foundation International president Robbie Fabian, who has relocated from San Francisco to Stockton, helps out. Robbie, who studied in Boston, hasn’t been back to the Philippines in 40 years and is now retired.

In the backroom of the Red Orchids is a gallery of prints by Tina’s husband Tony de Zuniga who passed away in 2012 at 79. De Zuniga was a renowned comics artist and illustrator who went to the US in 1962 to study graphic design after earning a degree in commercial art at UST. De Zuniga became a regular contributor at DC Comics and in 1977, moved to the US. For 18 years, he was the star illustrator at Marvel and DC Comics. De Zuniga also worked for 10 years with the US and Japanese divisions of Sega.

De Zuniga did illustrations for graphic novels featuring Superman, Spiderman, Captain Marvel, The Incredible Hulk, Jonah Hex, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, The Swamp Thing, Arak, Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage, Doctor Strange, Dracula, Godzilla, The Punisher, Robocop, Tarzan and X-Men.

De Zuniga influenced DC publisher Carmine Infantino to visit Manila in 1971 to scout Filipino artists and it opened the doors for Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino, Nestor Redondo and Gerry Talaoc, among others, to do work with US comic book and graphic novel houses.

Stockton was where Filipino migrants descended in droves to fill the demand for agricultural workers in the 1930s. By the end of World War II, the Filipino population in Stockton grew to 15,000. Today, the community is down to about 5,000 of a total population of 300,000 but the signs of the Filipino influence are evident in buildings such as the Filipino Plaza and the Filipino Center. The once bustling Little Manila district in the 1930s is considered an endangered historic place by the US National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Oldtimers remember Filipino fighters who performed in Stockton. Flash Elorde fought thrice in the city in 1956, 1958 and 1959. Flyweight Dommy Ursua was a regular from 1956 to 1960, racking up 12 wins, including 10 KOs and four losses. Fel Clemente, Rudy Barro and Rod Sequenan were other Filipino boxers who gave pride to the Fil-Am community. Now, it’s Ancajas’ turn to honor the Filipinos in Stockton.

BOXING JERWIN ANCAJAS RYUICHI FUNAI
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