It wasn't surprising to see boxers and basketball players garner praise this year. But Filipino athletes across the sporting spectrum stepped up in various ways making the country and their respective local supporters proud.
From Jerwin to Jaja, from bowling to lawn bowls, here are the biggest winners in Philippine sports in the past 12 months.
File/Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News
Three title defenses in three continents with the same results (in January, July and November) — convincing and at times brutal victories. None of his opponents lasted more than 7 rounds, and he has received praise from experts everywhere for his fundamental, clinically effective method of fighting.
As icing on the cake, he secured a February 2 bout in the United States, his first there and a dream come true for the Panabo city native looking to follow in the footsteps of his “boss” and boyhood idol, Manny Pacquiao.
File/Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports
The National University Lady Bulldogs star was a force in international and domestic play. She was a vital piece in almost every game for the Philippines in the Asian championship and the Southeast Asian Games. Even though Santiago wasn’t named UAAP MVP, the fringe positional awards she took home as well as overall numbers bared she had a strong case for the honor. In October, she led NU to the Collegiate Conference championship of the Premier Volleyball League on top of winning the tournament MVP.
Santiago also featured in one of the stories that trended heavy on social media this year when a video of the 6-foot-5 player dunking a volleyball was posted online in April. In October, she announced she was declining an offer to play in Thailand, saying she wanted to finish her studies and “honor my commitments” with the Lady Bulldogs, a decision her fans applauded.
Unsung sports communities
Nobody would’ve figured that the country had a national ice-hockey team, much more a championship-caliber one. Also, did anybody know what lawn bowls (it’s literally bowling on a lawn) or pencak silat (it’s an indigenous Southeast Asian martial art) were prior to the Southeast Asian Games in August?
Basketball and boxing will always be closest to Filipinos’ hearts, but there are more athletes out there who are good at what they do; it’s just nobody notices them because they don’t shoot hoops or spike balls or aspire to be Manny Pacquiao. A competition such as the biennial SEA Games offer those under-the-radar sportspeople a much-deserved time in the spotlight.
File/Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News
If bowling and billiards (check out next slide) were each looking for that one person to give those sports back their mainstream appeal, they may have found such individuals in 2017.
First was Tabora, who won the World Cup in November, a victory that broke a 14-year drought for the Philippines in that competition and more importantly had sports media splashing bowling prominently on their pages (and websites) like in the old days.
Given her success earlier in the year (a bronze in the Southeast Asian Games and a silver in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, both in team events), Tabora’s win shouldn’t come as a surprise but it was an accomplishment that has the local bowling community — including all-timers Paeng Nepomuceno and Bong Coo — gushing anyway. In their minds, it’s a breakthrough result as they try to revive interest in a sport that boasts a long, glorious history.
File/Courtesy of SEA Games media pool
He was already having a decent year, having won titles in the World Games in Poland in July and the Southeast Asian Games in August. Then in December, he ascended the throne of world 9-ball. Now, he finds his name being mentioned in the same breath as the legends — Bata, Django, Ronnie Alcano and Alex Pagulayan.
Domestic billiards has settled for intermittent victories in recent years, longing for a wave of talent that swept the country and tore through international competitions regularly in the early 2000s. Some stakeholders in the sport hope Biado’s win holds the key to a return to its golden age.
File/Courtesy of FIBA website
Like any foreign-born Filipino basketball player who travels to the Philippines looking for work, Standhardinger’s arrival was met with skepticism. In fact, his introduction to fans didn’t happen in Manila; it came in Taipei in the Jones Cup in July. Starting there, local hoops would never be the same again.
The Germany-born big guy immediately endeared himself to the basketball community for his effective play and gritty attitude on the court. He backed up his “I love playing for the Philippines” words when he flew from Taiwan to Lebanon and Malaysia in a span of less than two months to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas. His dedication paid off when he won gold in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
But the best was yet to come for him. He signed with Hong Kong Eastern in the ASEAN Basketball League, where he is currently posting MVP-worthy numbers, before he was chosen first overall by San Miguel Beer in the 2017 rookie draft.