Manny Pacquiao and the 10 Best Filipino Athletes

Jess Matthew BeltranCorrespondent IIJune 17, 2011

Manny Pacquiao and the 10 Best Filipino Athletes

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    A group of Australians who visited here in the Philippines went to a garbage disposal place. Small children ran over and greeted them with all smiles. One member of the group broke down and cried.

    When asked about the incident she said: “I lived my whole life in a nice home, nice clothes, and [with] a good paying job, but I wasn’t happy... Here I am in a place where basically garbage became their homes and [they] could barely afford decent slippers, and they all came out happy and smiling.”

    Filipinos are generally happy people because they always find reasons to be happy—poverty is never a reason to give up.

    Many Filipinos find inspiration in athletes who have striven to succeed despite being poor. Allow me to enumerate the top ten such Filipino athletes of all time.

10. Carlos Loyzaga

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    Basketball has always been the number-one sport in the Philippines. Everywhere you go you can see basketball goals, from sophisticated ones made of fiber glass down to makeshift hoops constructed from cardboard.

    Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga stood only 6'3" but played the center position. He stirred the Philippine national team to a bronze medal finish in the 1954 FIBA World Championship.

    It was the highest finish for any Asian team in the history of the tournament.  

9. Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco

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    Before Manny Pacquiao, boxing wasn’t a main-attraction type sport here in the Philippines.

    Onyok delivered the first jab before Pacquiao finished everything. Mansueto ended the 32-year drought from the time Anthony Villanueva won the silver medal in the 1964 Olympics by winning his own medal, and while Velasco won only the bronze medal, it was much better than nothing.

8. Pancho Villa

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    His real name being Francisco Guilledo, Villa stood only 5'1" and fought in over 100 bouts.

    He was considered the greatest flyweight of the century for becoming the first Asian world-boxing champion.

    Unfortunately, he died from complications following a tooth extraction on July 14, 1925, at the tender age of 23.

7. Eugene Torre

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    He became Asia’s first grandmaster of chess in 1974 at the age of 22 and played in the Chess Olympics 20 times, equaling the number of appearances of Hungary's Lajos Portisch.

6. Lydia De Vega

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    Lydia was Asia’s fastest woman in the 1980s.

    She won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at both the 1982 New Delhi Asiad and the 1986 Seoul Asiad.

    Unfortunately, Lydia had to look for a job elsewhere since there weren’t any decent offers for her to stay in the Philippines. She is currently Singapore’s track and field coach.

5. Francisco “Django” Bustamante

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    The world’s number-one billiard player in 1998, Bustamante had 34 local and international medals, including one at the 2001 World Pool Masters and his recent one, at the 2010 World 9-Ball Championship in Doha, Qatar.

    He holds the world record for having the most powerful break shot.

    The 47-year old Bustamante still plays professional billiard tournaments today.

4. Gabriel “Flash” Elorde

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    The name I never would forget—my favorite bread was named after him. It was called “Elorde” and came shaped in boxing gloves.  

    After Pancho Villa, Elorde was the most popular boxer in the Philippines. He was dubbed as the greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion in WBC history and defended his belt for ten bouts over a span of four years, making him the longest-reigning champion ever in his division.

    He became the only Asian to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Elorde died of lung cancer at the age of 49. His two grandsons are also professional boxers.

3. Efren Bata Reyes

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    The best billiards player of all time.

    Reyes is known as the “magician” and has won numerous titles, including five 8-ball championships, and 100 international awards.  

    Efren still plays professional billiards up to this day.

2. Manny Pacquiao

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 07:  Boxer Manny Pacquiao listens to a question at a post-fight news conference after he defeated Shane Mosley by unanimous decision to retain his WBO welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 7, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The current pound-for-pound king of boxing, Manny is the only fighter that has won eight different division belts in boxing.

    Manny is scheduled to fight his arch nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time this November.

    The fighting Filipino congressman has yet to fight his true match in Floyd Mayweather Jr.Hopefully, a match with Floyd will happen early next year.

1. Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno

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    Paeng is a six-time world bowling champion.

    He was the youngest to win a World Cup, at the age of 19. Paeng has the most Bowling World Cup wins and has won the most the number of bowling tournament titles (120). He was also the first international male bowling athlete to be enshrined in the International Bowling Hall of Fame. He was the only Filipino athlete who has been given the highest award to three Philippine presidents.

    Paeng is still an active bowler, at age 54.