Conquering Asia, seeing the World

BY Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan

HAPPY Diamond Anniversary, Davao City!

The past 75 years have truly been a colorful one in the field of sports. Many of us may not have been born in the early years since the old Davao Province split to its current set-up but the marks left by sports heroes of the past are here to stay.

The 3Bs of sports: basketball, boxing, billiards

The late Davao Oriental Governor Francisco “Paking” Rabat, whose decorated basketball career began at then Ateneo de Davao High School along with Loreto Carbonnel, formed part of the Philippine squad that salvaged a bronze medal in the 1954 World Championship for Men at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It remains the country’s best finish in world basketball.

Gov. Paking, who earned the monicker “Raja of the Rebound” during his prime, retired from basketball long before he entered politics but sports continued to run in his veins as he never stopped promoting sports in his province. He put up the Mati Centennial Sports Complex when they hosted the 3rd Mindanao Friendship Games in 2003.

Carbonnel, a native of Malita, Davao del Sur, made his Olympics debut in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics where the Filipino dribblers finished seventh over-all. He also donned the country’s colors for the national team that captured the gold medal in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Both Ateneo alumni were among those honored during the 2010 Davao Sports Hall of Fame for Basketball at Grand Men Seng Hotel.

“It is in humility that I received this prestigious award. I never expected to be a part of this momentous event considering that I had zero basketball experience when I studied at the Ateneo. I only had six months to know the basics before I played my first tournament,” then 77-year-old Carbonnel said in his acceptance speech.

In boxing, Diosdado “Prince” Gabi of Brgy. Lasang pursued a professional career after winning a gold in boxing for Davao City in the 1999 Arafura Games in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Gabi captured the WBC International flyweight title in 2003 via a technical decision over another Filipino Randy Mangubat.

In 2006, however, he lost to then undefeated IBO and IBF flyweight world champion Vic Darchinyan in an eighth-round technical knockout. The fight was held in Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.

Gabi was also sent home packing after bowing to then WBO NABO bantamweight champion Abner Mares in 2008 in just two rounds. Their bout was an undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez rematch.

He retired in the US and is currently working as a caregiver in Los Angeles, California.

Engelbert Moralde of Buhangin, for his part, carved a name for himself when he copped a bronze medal in the 19th Asian Youth Boxing Championship in Tehran, Iran in 2010. His was the lone medal won by the Philippines contingent. He clinched back-to-back golds in the 2007 and 2008 Palarong Pambansa before joining the national team.

Two homegrown cue artists also hogged sports headlines since they started campaigning for the country in the late 1990s.

Gandy Valle, who started playing billiards in Piapi, rose to become a gold winner in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand where he paired with Romeo “Snooky” Villanueva in 9-ball doubles. He was also a consistent gold medalist in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

In 2005, Yang-Yang emerged champion in the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour in Singapore. He also had stints in the biennial games until 2009 when he settled for silver in 8-ball singles.

But he missed the 2011 SEAG in Indonesia since he didn’t want to undergo eliminations for the selection of the national billiards and snooker team. He said there had been an earlier agreement that 2009 medalists earned automatic slots for the 2011 SEAG.

Yang-Yang went out of circulation in the international scene yet continued to compete in Superbalita 9-Ball in Cebu and in the Sun.Star Superbalita Davao’s Mindanao Open 9-Ball Challenge every year where he figured in championships and runner-up finishes.

He vowed to stage a comeback in professional billiards this year, saying: “I think it’s time to return. I really look forward to play in more tournaments.”

Lee Vann Corteza of Mintal is still on the hunt for a world title after he settled for a runner-up finish in the WPA World 10-Ball Championship in 2009.

The former multiple SEA Games champion also bagged the US Open 10-Ball Championship title in 2010, All-Japan Open Championship title in 2006 and the WPA Asian 9-Ball Tour crown in 2004. He swept a handful of championships in the US and in other parts of Asia.

3 IMs

Davao City had produced three international masters (IMs) in chess: Marlo Micayabas, Oliver Dimakiling and Edgar Reggie Olay, in that order.

Micayabas, who hails from Toril, topped the Asian Juniors Championships in 1982 held in Baguio City to earn him an IM title. He was then 19.

Two years later, he competed in the US Open and never returned home. He got his Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree at the City University of New York. He is a current lead computer programmer at the UBS, a Swiss Bank, considered as one of the world’s largest banks in New Jersey, USA.

Dimakiling of Sasa won his IM title after scoring six points as alternate player for the Philippines in the 37th World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy in 2006.

Dimakiling, the eldest of five chess-playing siblings, was also a silver medalist in the 23rd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. He spent a few years as a coach in Singapore but returned to his birth country and competed in a handful of tournaments. He was champion of the 2012 Kidapawan Open Chess Tournament.

Kidapawan City-born Olay, who graduated at San Pedro College, won back-to-back silver medals in Malaysia Open recently. A registered nurse, Olay had represented the city in several competitions in the past. Olay, who also has a residence in Brgy. Cabantian, was among the 129 athletes feted by Mayor Inday Sara Duterte during the Athletes’ Recognition Night last week at Ritz Hotel, Garden Oases.

Diving Olympians

Davao City doesn’t have a diving pool but it produced three diving Olympians the likes of Sheila Mae Perez, Zardo Domenios and Rexel Ryan Fabriga.

Sheila and Zardo were discovered in one of their diving escapades at a ship docked at Camp Panacan. Still very young, they thought that playing at Jerudong Park was more memorable than making their SEAG debut in Brunei Darussalam in 1998.

In 2000, both competed for flag and country in the Sydney Olympics. They were given heroes’ welcome in the city despite coming home without a medal.

Sheila started collecting SEAG medals in 2003 in Vietnam until 2011 in Indonesia. Her triple gold feat in the 2005 Philippines SEAG, however, was a milestone in her diving career.

She qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics but she missed it due to the national delegation’s funding problems.
Sheila, along with Rexel, saw action in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

They are eyeing to win slots for the London Olympics this year.

Whew! Davao City sure has a long list of achievers in various sports over the years. It would take more than a day’s publication to talk about them.
But the exploits of Rabat, Carbonnel, Gabi, Moralde, Valle, Corteza, Micayabas, Dimakiling, Olay, Perez, Domenios and Fabriga have been and always will be among the city’s finest treasures.

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