By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE rich history of Philippine sports as represented by the many great Filipino athletes who brought pride and honor to the country throughout the years is the focus of a newly launched book.

50 Greatest Filipino Athletes of All-Time, the latest edition of the Philippines Yearbook, marks the first time that the publication has come out with an entire book solely dedicated to sports in the country.

Veteran sports journalists Quinito Henson and Bill Velasco, and photographer Joel Garcia, were part of the team tasked with the unenviable task of going through a rich list of names of Filipino sports heroes to come up with a narrow list of 50 athletes.

But they said they are comfortable with the list they have come up with in the book, something the publisher, Vernon Go, and his mother, Grace Glory Go, the yearbook’s chairman and CEO, agreed to and fully supports.

They also expressed pride in being able to produce a tome that takes cue from the standards set by the Philippines Yearbook, called early on as the Fookien Times Yearbook, which started publishing in 1936.

“It was really a big challenge for us to put up a list of the 50 greatest athletes. We had to go through so many names. This is not a definitive list because there are still many superheroes of Philippine sports not included in the book but we are comfortable with this list of 50. I think it’s super justifiable,” said Mr. Henson in an interview on the sidelines of the book’s launch on Jan. 21 at the Sheraton Manila Hotel Ballroom.

The veteran sportswriter went on to say that in selecting the athletes they considered not only their achievements in the field of competition but also the intangibles — that they are role models and an inspiration to the youth.

It is hoped that through the book more people, especially the younger generation, will get to know the exploits of the athletes included and learn from their stories.

“I think this book is amazing. I think every library in the Philippines should have this book. We want to tell the kids the story of these people. Hopefully this book will educate them,” Mr. Henson said.

Included in the 50 greatest list are athletes from 23 sports disciplines, namely, June Mar Fajardo, Robert Jaworski, Caloy Loyzaga, Alvin Patrimonio, Ramon Fernandez, Ambrosio Padilla, Tony Genato and Allan Caidic for basketball; Manny Pacquiao, Donnie Nietes, Nonito Donaire Jr., Gerry Peñalosa, Flash Elorde and Onyok Velasco for boxing; Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Lita dela Rosa, C. J. Suarez, Biboy Rivera and Krizziah Tabora for bowling; Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante and Rubilen Amit for billiards; Gertrudes Lozada, Haydee Coloso Espino and Akiko Thomson for swimming; Lydia de Vega, Elma Muros and Mona Sulaiman for athletics.

Also part of the list are Paulino Alcantara and Phil Younghusband for football; Cheryl Nakanishi and Roman Cortuna for bodybuilding; Roland Dantes and Ciriaco Canete for arnis; Ben Arda and Jennifer Rosales for golf, Felix Barrientos and Treat Huey for tennis; Bea Lucero-Lhuillier for gymnastics/taekwondo; Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski for equestrian; Eduard Folayang for mixed martial arts; Meggie Ochoa for jiu-jitsu; Adeline Dumapong for powerlifting; Josephine Medina for table tennis, Eugene Torre for chess; Jethro Dionisio for shooting; Pocholo Ramirez for motoring; Boy Codiñera for baseball and Hidilyn Diaz for weightlifting.

For Misses Amit and Ochoa, to be included in the list is a huge honor for them.

“I’m very honored to be chosen for this. When I was informed that I was part of this project of the 50 greatest, I was surprised because it’s All-Time we are talking here. I’m just thankful just to be mentioned with the other greats here. It’s really humbling,” said Ms. Amit in a separate interview.

“To be honest, I don’t think I deserve to be on the list considering who are included. I don’t think I have reached that level yet but it is still an honor to be chosen,” Ms. Ochoa, for her part, said.

Both athletes underscored that the honor given them is also an affirmation of the sport they are in, making it all the more special.

50 Greatest Filipino Athletes of All-Time is available at select National Book Store and Fully Booked branches. It can also be ordered at philippinesyearbook@gmail.com.