As the Year 2019 dropped the curtain a fortnight ago, so did the decade of the 2010s, a stretch that proved to be a solid one for Philippine sports with a number of feats and achievements notched as well as landmark events that enhanced the local sporting scene for the now and the future.
And the good thing about it all was that it was not only confined to certain sports as positive developments were spread out to more disciplines.
This space would like to look back a little as we start the 2020s and below is a continuation started last week of what it thinks were the standout moments in the decade that was.
In the 2010s Filipino Olympians created noise, particularly figure skater Michael Christian Martinez and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.
Martinez made history in 2014 when he became the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to compete in men’s figure skating in the Winter Games held that year in Sochi, Russia.
The Filipino figure skater did well enough in the competition to advance to the free program which serves as the medal round of the competition.
He was able to repeat such feat four years later in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a last-minute replacement but exited earlier than his previous participation.
Still his feat was nothing short of impressive considering the Philippines is a tropical country just as it was a testament to the Filipinos’ determination to overcome obstacles, whatever they may be.
In 2016, Diaz, for her part, made it third time a charm after finishing in the podium at the Rio Summer Games.
The Zamboanga native won silver in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting division.
It was a breakthrough performance after falling short in the two previous Olympics (2008 and 2012) while also becoming the first female athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic medal and ending a two-decade medal drought for the country in the Games.
Just as the previous decade came to a close, the Philippines assured itself of at least two athletes competing in the Olympic Games later this year in Tokyo, Japan, with pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and gymnast Caloy Yulo having already qualified, with more expected to join them as qualifiers in different sports play out early this year.
The 2010s had the Ateneo Blue Eagles and San Beda Red Lions dominating the collegiate hoops scene.
The Eagles took from their strong finish in the 2000s to dominate in the 2010s, winning six of 10 UAAP titles.
They won three straight from 2010 to 2012, in addition to those they won in 2008 and 2009 for a five-peat under coach Norman Black. Ateneo finished the last decade on a high, winning three straight champions (2017 to 2019) under the steering of coach Tab Baldwin.
Also winning UAAP titles during the stretch were De La Salle University (2013 and 2016), National University (2014) and Far Eastern University (2015).
Over at the NCAA, San Beda was still king of the hoops, racking up eight titles in 10 years, including a five-peat from 2010 to 2014.
The Lions lost to the Letran Knights in 2015 only to resume their dominance the next three years. They failed to finish the decade with a fourth straight title, losing again to Letran, but still San Beda’s imprint on the league in the 2010s was undeniable.
In the Philippine Basketball Association, the 2010s was marked by the era of the “Kraken” — San Miguel Beermen big man June Mar Fajardo.
Drafted in 2012 by San Miguel, all Fajardo has done since then is win, and win some more.
He has been an eight-time PBA champion, five-time league most valuable player, three-time finals MVP and seven-time PBA All-Star, among others.
In the 2020s, he is still expected to dominate further as he remains on top of his game.
James Yap (then of Derby Ace), Jimmy Alapag (TNT), Mark Caguioa (Barangay Ginebra) and Arwind Santos (San Miguel) also had their moments early in the decade.
San Mig Coffee (now Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok) fashioned out the league’s fifth grand slam in the 2013–14 season under coach Tim Cone while Alaska, Rain or Shine, TNT, Magnolia and Barangay Ginebra won titles during the 10-year stretch as well.
Volleyball and esports are two sports that were made prominent in the last decade.
The sport of volleyball experienced a resurgence of sorts with women’s volleyball leading the way.
From the back rows in the past, volleyball was sent to the front as broadcasters, sponsors and fans started showing more appreciation to it.
The UAAP wars were must-sees with all teams having their following going beyond their respective communities.
The De La Salle Lady Spikers and Ateneo Lady Eagles amplified their rivalry on the volleyball court, with the teams claiming all the nine titles in the decade — six for La Salle and three for Ateneo — with the 10th to be disputed beginning next month.
Local leagues Premier Volleyball League and Philippine Super Liga (women’s) and Spikers Turf (men’s) also did their part in promoting the sport and giving opportunities to players long after college.
Internationally the Philippines is still finding its place under the sun but gains are being made, enough to continuously be bullish.
The esports scene in the country, meanwhile, also gained big traction with the Philippines chosen to host some of the top tournaments in the world just as the community for the sport here continuous to grow.
The country also now has an esports league of its own — The Nationals — where top talents in the land pit their skills and hone their craft all year long.
And then there was the landmark finish of Team Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games where it won the overall title after 14 years.
The country finished with 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals, miles away from second-running Vietnam (98-85-105), and undeniably the best finish for the country in the biennial regional sporting meet.
It was a fitting ending to what was an eventful decade for Philippine sports. All the best in the 2020s.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.