Bare Eye

King Caloy calling

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First of two parts

ON WEDNESDAY, Carlos Loyzaga, the greatest, brightest Filipino basketball star ever, returned to San Beda College, his alma mater, in Mendiola, a short walk to Malacañang.

The occasion was the launch of the book “Carlos M. Loyzaga, the Big Difference.” With its solid significance, the affair could easily be likened to the unveiling and dedication of a monument to the man. Or, to some extent, it could be a commemorative coronation, a reconfirmation of his reign and stature.

There indeed was King Caloy, now a monument of a man sitting on a wooden throne, giving blessing with pontifical grace like the Pope, which he had also started to resemble.

Nothing wrong, too, in trying to again restore his crown, although there, in a strict sense, was no sensible need for the ritual.

Carlos Loyzaga, King Caloy to all those who worship in the Temple of Philippine basketball, has neither abdicated nor abandoned the kingship.

Not his fault. It just so happened that, through all the years when the sport enjoyed the tremendous popularity fostered through the heroic stints of Loyzaga, et al, abroad— capped by the bronze-medal finish in the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro—nobody among the long line of millionaire superstars has proved worthy of the eminence.

* * *

Needless to say, King Caloy has quietly batted for reforms, even during his exile in Australia where he had opted to work with dignity, away from the dirty and greasy backdoors at the Bureau of Customs, where he had served briefly, in a consolation stint from a supposedly grateful government.

In the few times he came home, he voiced to this reporter his desire for re-evaluation of values, mainly among the new stars, the so-called pros, without detailing how aghast he had been at the inexplicable deterioration of the sport hereabouts.

“We never played for the name at the back of our jerseys but for what’s here,” Loyzaga loved to emphasize while pointing to the national flag on his shirt pocket.

On top of this, he often singled out the lack of strong proper basics and wondered what those at the helm of the national basketball agency were honestly up to.

He never singled out the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, but continued to call on those in authority and others with enough means to play it responsibly for the sport.

* * *

King Caloy is home for good.

Said his eldest son Chito, a former national team standout and rightful heir:

“If there is a way to summarize the life of my father it would be the three values which are dealt with in this book on his life and times: Loyalty, Fairness and Integrity. In June 2011, my father suffered a massive stroke. Our family was saddened by this incident but, nevertheless, we were comforted by the fact that he was still engaged in sports when the unexpected illness occurred. Today, a year and nine months on the road to recovery, we still face the shared challenge of mastering his power of speech.”

(To be continued)

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