Gabi ng Pagpupugay: A tale of Philippine sports

Jm Siasat

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Gabi ng Pagpupugay: A tale of Philippine sports
It was a night of celebration as Filipino sports legends from various disciplines were honored at Resorts World Manila

MANILA, Philippines – It was a sports event like no other. World class athletes gathered not to compete nor promote an upcoming contest, but to be honored for their past achievements. 

For Chino Trinidad, the brain behind “Pagupupugay” and a veteran sports journalist and Philippine sports advocate, the event is his way of thanking the country’s sports heroes. Trinidad had to dig through his own pocket to make the event happen but did so gladly as these athletes had served as his inspiration for so many years. 

In a country that is driven by basketball craze, “Gabi ng Pagpupugay” paid tribute to the country’s sporting greats from many all sports; from boxing, basketball, football, bowling, chess, billiards and track.

Asia’s first ever Chess GrandMaster, Eugene Torre, calls it “pursuit of excellence”. A drive not to just make people remember but also inspire and motivate young athletes.

“This is long overdue and we are very grateful to Chino Trinidad for initiating this undertaking,” said Torre. “This will encourage and inspire future athletes, this [sets] a good example.” 

Bowling legend Paeng Nepomuceno addresses the crowd at Resorts World Manila. Photo by Josh Albelda

It was a solemn and scenic setup at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre in Resorts World Manila where the event was held on Thursday, June 12. The presence of sports icons if not represented by their relatives, filled the atmosphere with pride, greatness, fun and at times, even sadness. 

When it was Anthony Villanueva’s turn to be honored, Trinidad wasn’t able to help it but shed his tears. 

“This is why we have Pagpupugay (tribute),” says Trinindad. “(What happened to Villanueva) I don’t want to ever happen again to any filipino athlete.”

Anthony Villanueva is a forgotten silver medalist from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics who passed away just a month ago. After his historic Olympic run, Villanueva had a short professional boxing career and was featured in a few movies. Tough times ultimately caught up to him, and lack of funds and illnesses made him entertain the idea of selling his Olympic medal.

Besides basketball, the Philippines has been intimately following boxing as of late. For Paeng Nepomuceno and Efren “Bata” Reyes who are both hailed as the greatest bowler and billiards players of all time, Pagpupugay was a venue to promote their sport and remind the Filipinos that we can, and we do excel in many other sports as well.

“This event will do bowling a lot of good because it’s not just me, the honorees include Bong Coo, Lita Dela Rosa and Arianne Cerdena,” said Nepomuceno. 

“This event is really good for the Philippines because it brings back memories of what the athletes has done in the past 100 years. It will inspire the Filipino people, especially the youth to get into sports. This is good for all sports because it is an education on what the athletes have done and it will inspire them to emulate us.”

Boxing contender Denver Cuello (L) and RING magazine junior flyweight champion Donnie Nietes pose for photos. Photo by Josh Albelda

The night ended with all the honorees and their relatives on stage while Voice of the Philippines grand winner, Mitoy Yonting sang his heart out to the tune of “Salamat”. Indeed, Salamat was simply the fitting song and word for all the people involved in the historic “Pagpupugay”.

List of honorees:

Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo, Ben Arda, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Eugene Torre, Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Anthony Villanueva, Paulino Alcantara, Ceferino Garcia, Efren “Bata” Reyes, Arianne Cerdena, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, Lita Dela Rosa, Miguel White, Caloy Loyzaga, Felicisimo Ampon, Simeon Toribio, Felix Barrientos and Teofilo Yldefonzo.

JM Siasat is a sports journalist based in Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jmsiasat.

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