RETIRED Col. Julian Mota Malonso, educator, former president of the Philippine Olympic Committee and sports critique, is ailing.
The thought that he is in ill health was farthest from my mind because he never fails to amaze people with his physical and intellectual energy. The last time we touched base was a couple of years back or so when he asked me to write the foreword for his book, “My Memoirs,” which recalls many unforgettable episodes in his life, particularly in the field of sports.
Born in Binondo, Manila, on Oct. 18, 1923, Malonso earned the respect of many for being a “walking encyclopedia” and an out-and-out Olympic purist who is very vocal against government intervention in amateur sports. Malonso is also my longtime idol and trusted mentor.
For the most part of his life, Malonso was a Spanish professor and PE director at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He also served as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1960 and headed the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines for many years, the first in 1963 and the last in 1973.
Malonso was elected in 1972 as first vice president of the defunct Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, forerunner of the Philippine Olympic Committee, achieving his crowning glory by becoming the POC president in 1980. He was enshrined in the Letran Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
During his college days, Malonso played as center for the University of Santo Tomas and Letran College basketball teams. He was a member of the UST Glowing Goldies (now UST Tigers) that won the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines championship in 1946. At 5-foot-10, Malonso was considered then the country’s second tallest player, next to his teammate, 6-footer Francisco Vestil.
When Malonso was pitted against the fabled Carlos Loyzaga, a 6-foot-3 behemoth, he knew his basketball days were over and called it quits.
Malonso married his longtime sweetheart, the former Honorata “Auring” Aves Tan, also a retired educator at Letran.
According to members of the Letran Alumni Association who have visited him, the once-active Malonso has lost some of his vigor and vim, as well as his appetite. He can’t remember the names of people around him now.
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My coffee mates at SM Marilao’s Country Style, including many-time Marilao municipal secretary Monching Villamar, businessman Pabio de Leon and professor-lawyer Rollie Garcia, have been egging me to write more articles about the outstanding athletes of the Far Eastern University during the good old days.
“Bitin (Not enough),” Garcia said.
After sorting out my old FEU records, I was able to list down at least some of the school’s great athletes of the past and present.
In basketball, FEU contributed several players to the Olympics, Asian Games and ABC (Asian Basketball Confederation). They were: Andy de la Cruz, Edgardo “Ding” Fulgencio and Manolet Araneta (1948 London Olympics), Meliton Santos and Jose Gochangco (1952 Helsinki), Gerry Cruz (1960 Rome) and Arturo Valenzona, Engracio “Boy” Arazas and Manny Jocson (1964 pre-Olympics in Yokohama, Japan).
Bayani Amador, who became a councilor in Biñan, Laguna, represented FEU in the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Philippines won a record-setting third place.
Other green-and-gold-shirted Tamaraw stars were former Philippine Basketball Association MVP Johnny Abarrientos, who carried the RP colors in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games and Herminio “Togay” Astorga, who played key roles in both the NCAA and UAAP tournaments in the 1950s.
Arwind Santos is also making waves in the PBA as a mainstay of San Miguel Beer. (To be continued)
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