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Southpaw

In Campo’s mountaintop camp

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BAGUIO CITY—“Did Campo let you sleep?” Des Bautista teased by text at mid-morning. “He stayed there with his wife and youngest son when school was out.”

“He playfully pulled what’s left of my hair like he did when it was longer than his,” I texted back.” “Other than that, he let me catch a few winks.”

Des is a son of Fernando “Tatang” Bautista, the trailblazing educator who founded University of Baguio. Campo, of course is the late Florencio Campomanes, an erudite UP professor and the country’s first national chess master before becoming president of the Fide, the World Chess Federation from 1982 to 1995.

The duo built a Rock of Gibraltar-like friendship. Campo died on May 3, 2010, not in any of the far-away places he lighted up with his celebrity as Fide head, but aboard an ambulance from Iggy’s, a homey inn and restaurant owned by Des on Baguio’s  pine-clad South Drive.

Campo called Iggy’s home until he lost a protracted battle with cancer. With a friendly staff and sisig and kilawen tangingue to die for, Iggy’s consists of six rooms and four apartments in two terra cotta buildings.

Room 1 at Iggy’s where my wife and I stayed is the one in Des’ yarn. The room was made readily available for Campo whose official Baguio residence was apartment B. That’s where he healed from a debilitating car mishap in Turkey in 2007, and spent his last days as Fide honorary president for life.

“Can I walk through Apartment B, the guy’s shrine?” I had asked Des over beer at the ritzy Manor Hotel. “You don’t have to, all of Iggy’s is his shrine,” he replied.

In fact, a hall past Iggy’s kitchen houses the chess aristocrat’s memorabilia—from framed pictures of him with presidents, Arab sheiks and African royalty, to his original campaign brochures when he ran and won the Fide presidency in 1982, the only Filipino to achieve that position.

Along with the rat pack of sportswriters years ago, I came to know Campo and hung out occasionally with him and Rudy Tan Cardoso, his PH teammate in two chess Olympiads. With an almost shoulder-length hair, Campo was spellbinding when he talked and spirited in poker games with then fellow young scribes like Ding Marcelo, Jun Engracia and Al Mendoza.

I left the sports beat before his Fide run, but I saw the man again when he was president sometime in the mid-1980s, when I dropped by his talk before the Santa Monica (California) Chess Club.

Campo ran the Fide with a firm hand, his term punctuated by the expansion of member countries from 100 to 150, and the unprecedented rise of chess’ popularity globally.

Controversy, including the termination of the 1984-1985 world championship between Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov without a final result after 48 games, hounded him a bit.

“But Campo was unflappable,” reminded Des, who as Baguio alderman helped his bosom buddy pull off the 1978 world championship between Karpov and Victor Korchnoi in this mountaintop city. The classic match was his baptism of fire and ticket to a tight circle of Campo advisers.

His bond with Campo was affirmed by the bereaved family after the deceased’s cremation.

“The six children decided to divide the  ashes into seven to include me as a recipient,” Des said. “Campo’s ashes here are at the ossuary at the back of the Baguio Cathedral, along with Nanoy (Potenciano) Ilusorio’s.”

The wealthy Ilusorio, president of the Baguio County Club from 1972-1999, rewarded Campo with membership at the exclusive enclave.


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