As we celebrate the many triumphs in the world of Philippine sports this year, let’s also remember those who left us in 2022 but not before making their mark in the local sports scene. The Rivalry pays homage to them.
Perhaps the most iconic name that departed was “Asia’s Sprint Queen” Lydia de Vega-Mercado who lost her four-year battle with breast cancer last August at the young age of 57.
De Vega-Mercado put the nation on the international athletics map by winning two gold medals in the 1981 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Manila and went on to cop top honors seven more times in the biennial meet. She also ran away with victories in the 1982 New Delhi and 1986 Seoul editions of the Asian Games and four more golds in the Asian Athletic Championships from 1983 to 1987.
The former city councilor of Meycauayan, Bulacan is survived by her daughter and former professional volleyball player Stephanie Mercado-De Koenigswarter.
The original voice of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) television broadcast also signed off in November as Dick Ildefonso—who was the league’s premier anchorman from its inception until 1982—died at 86.
He and the late Emy Arcilla brought the action of the fledgling professional hoops league to television audiences across the archipelago for a full seven years and when Vintage Enterprises, Inc. took over in 1983, Ildefonso lent his voice to yet another budding basketball endeavor when the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) took flight in 1984.
Ildefonso will always be regarded as the gold standard of sports broadcasting and has been emulated by many of those who eventually followed in his footsteps.
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Earlier in the year, the sudden demise of “Papa B” Boyet Sison shocked the sports broadcasting community.
Sison, who failed to recover from intestinal surgery in April, was a late entry into the industry after graduating from the original batch of the Center for Sports Communication (CSC)—the same entity that produced the likes of Charlie Cuna, Magoo Marjon, Chuck Araneta and Rizza Diaz—in 2001.
He quickly found opportunities as an anchorman for the PBA’s radio coverage and eventually was a co-host on “Hardball”, the ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) longest running sports magazine show. Sison then gained acclaim as the network’s resident weather reporter donning his signature bow tie on every broadcast while always carrying that amiable character and disarming smile that blended with his booming baritone voice.
He was only 58.
On the media front, veteran broadcaster and sports journalist Florencio “Zaldy” Perez succumbed to a lingering illness in April as did 35-year People’s Journal sports editor Joe Antonio in September. Long time PBA scribe and columnist Malou Aquino was claimed by cancer in August.
Three former basketball pros met untimely ends as former three-time PBA champion Adriano “Dong” Polistico suffered a heart attack last August and was dead at 55. Polistico was a member of the 1991 Third Conference winning Alaska Aces and also the 1993 Governors Cup and the 1994 All-Filipino victors San Miguel. It was the latter title with the Beermen that had the 6’7” Davao native suit up for the national team that finished fourth in the Hiroshima Asiad later that year.
Another 6’7” cager also lost his life to cardiac arrest when former Kia reserve Eric Suguitan was found dead on Good Friday in his home in Cauayan, Isabela.
Suguitan, who saw action for the University of the East (UE), had already undergone heart surgery in 2015 and was working as a high school teacher and a pastor at the time of his passing.
Former “Tropang Trumpo” mainstay Maoi Roca died due to complications from diabetes last January. Roca was a member of the De La Salle University (DLSU) basketball varsity in the mid-90s before suiting for the Batangas Blades in the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) at the turn of the millennium. He was only 47.
Renowned basketball coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba—perhaps the most iconic figure in Cebu hoops—died in his sleep in April, at the height of his campaign as a reelectionist councilor in Cebu City at the age of 71.
Alcoseba, a product of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R), was at the helm of many champion collegiate and professional teams in the region and was among those who developed future PBA stalwarts such as Roger Yap, Junthy Valenzuela and Jimwell Torion.
Former Far Eastern University (FEU) star Jacinto “Jumpin’ Jack” Chua also died of a lingering illness at 73.
But the most iconic basketball figure that fell by the wayside has to be former Crispa reinforcement Cyrus Mann who was felled by the COVID-19 virus last October at the age of 66.
Mann joined the Redmanizers in 1976 in a move that would be a defining moment for the powerhouse ballclub and was a catalyst in capturing the Open Conference and eventually the PBA’s first ever Grand Slam.
Other sports personalities who entered the Great Beyond in 2022 were Paratriathlete Rudy Fernandez—long hailed as the “Iron Man of Asia”—due to natural causes at age 74, and underwater hockey’s Johanna Lim Uy who won two silver medals in the 2019 SEA Games who tragically died in a fire at her home. She was only 41.
The Rivalry Network prays for the eternal repose of their souls and that their families find solace in their passing knowing that the legacy they left behind made Philippine sports a little better in their time here.
Rest in peace.