Bowling world champion Oliver Ongtawco dies
Bowling world champion Oliver Ongtawco dies
Oliver Ongtawco, who made history on home soil back in 1979, passes away at the age of 78

MANILA, Philippines – Oliver “Ollie” Ongtawco, the bowler who surprisingly won the 1979 FIQ (Federation Internationale des Quilleurs) World Tenpin Bowling Championship in Quezon City, passed away Monday morning, June 8, after a heart attack. He was 78.

His wife Elsie told Rappler that Ollie’s remains will be at Loyola Sucat for viewing before cremation on Wednesday, June 10. 

“He got sick a few years ago and it came to a point that someone had to accompany him when he went out,” Elsie said.

In a text message to Rappler, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said his longtime teammate in the national bowling squad in the 1970s and 1980s suffered from different illnesses, but his death still felt unexpected.

“My family and I are very sad and affected by his passing. He was a family friend and my teammate for many years,” said Sotto. “He was one of our bowling greats. We will pray for him.” 

A tough competitor in the local circuit for years, Ongtawco showed greatness one November evening nearly 41 years ago at the Celebrity Sports Plaza.

Ongtawco hung on in the last two games to repulse Rogelio Felice of Venezuela.

Ongtawco led by 95 pins after 4 games, but in the fifth and penultimate game, Felice rolled 234 to the Filipino’s 179. In the sixth and last game, Ongtawco held a 40-pin lead but Felice put on the pressure with strikes. Ongtawco repulsed Felice in the last 3 frames as he rolled a 218 total to the Venezuelan’s 245.

Though Felice outrolled Ongtawco in the last two games, the Filipino still won by 13 pins with 1,278 to the Venezuelan’s 1,265.

It was the Philippines’ second gold medal for the day which came a few hours after Lita dela Rosa won the women’s singles.

“We had two winners in one day,” recalled four-time world champ Bong Coo, secretary-general of the Philippine Bowling Federation Inc in a phone interview with Rappler.

It was rare to see a tournament not won by Paeng Nepomuceno, but such was the depth of Philippine bowling that anyone could step up.

Ongtawco continued to be a formidable and popular competitor but he did not come close to repeating his Quezon City triumph, which remained a strong memory to keg lovers. –